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The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq Hardcover – January 17, 2007
The Amazon Book Review
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*Starred Review* In 2002, Key, a good ol' Oklahoma boy with a wife and two children (but no money), enlisted in the U.S. Army so he could learn a trade and provide for his family. He was assured that he would be sent to a "non-deployable" military base: he would never see combat. Instead, he was sent to Iraq to hunt for terrorists, a mission that involved beating civilians, kidnapping innocents, and destroying homes and families (all of which he relates in precise, damning detail). Stateside, on a two-week furlough, Key decided he couldn't go back to Iraq, couldn't participate in what he decided were mindless atrocities being committed in the name of world peace. Thus, he did what so many Vietnam protestors did: he took his family to Canada, where he now lives, a wanted man in his own country. This memoir, which can fairly and accurately be called a searing indictment of America's "war on terror," is vividly written ("Hayes slammed her in the face with the stock of his M-16"), but as difficult as it sometimes can be to read, we respect Key's courage to tell the story without sugarcoating. The book is timely, important, and haunting. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"The case of Joshua Key . . . is unique. He is the first U.S. soldier who actually served in Iraq to claim sanctuary from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, based on his 'personal experience with atrocities' in Iraq. . . . Combatant Key will be able to raise the question of the war's legality as a defense." -- Michael Roberts
"The American Army is having a lot of trouble attracting new recruits, in part because of the war in Iraq--its horrors, the lies, and the sixteen hundred Gls who are dead. Joshua Key enlisted. But after eight months in Ramadi and Fallujah, taking advantage of home leave, he deserted. . . . He left behind the hardship of war, the blood, the lies. Like thousands of others."
"If anybody invaded America and did to us what we did to the Iraqi people, I'd be right up there with the rebels and insurgents, trying to blow up the occupiers. I would hole up in my hometown in Oklahoma and rig mines in trees (they kill more people when they go off overhead) and set them to explode when tanks passed below. I'd lob all the mortars and rocket-propelled grenades that I could get my hands on. No doubt about it, if somebody ripped apart my home and my family in the United States, I'd be a force to be reckoned with, and I'd keep giving the occupiers hell until I was dead and gone, twice over." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Like so many other young men and women, Joshua Key was afire with patriotism during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, believing that Saddam Hussein was a threat to America. His motivation for joining the Army, however, was a pressing need for steady employment. Married with two children and a third on the way, Key had no interest in going to Iraq. His recruiter assured him that he would never be sent overseas, and would be assigned to a non-combat unit within the continental U.S. The recruiter even went so far as to put this provision in Key's contract.
Key, who scored 49 out of 99 on the Army's aptitude test, was told by his recruiter not to mention an existing medical condition, prior arrests and number of children. With his application thus fabricated, Key became a soldier.
Shortly after completing basic training, however - where he was encouraged during bayonet practice with cries of "kill the sand n*ggers" - Key discovered that he would indeed be sent to Iraq, despite the terms of his contract. After being punished for objecting to the violation of his contract, Key was shipped out to Iraq.
The story of Key's experience in Iraq is, unfortunately, typical of those of other soldiers. Key tells of food, water and armor shortages; of fruitless raids, wherein soldiers destroyed homes, arrested men and stole everything they could get their hands on. Worst of all, he tells of the abuse and murder of civilians, including children, admitting that he, too, took part in these criminal acts.
The images presented by Key of the rape of an entire family of women as officers looked on, and of soldiers playing football with the decapitated heads of murdered Iraqis are haunting. But more than an account of wartime atrocities, Key's tale is an indictment of those in command who turn a blind eye to the crimes of those in their charge and punish those who dare to speak up about the "poverty draft" that lures the most desperate of young people into serving as cannon fodder.
Up to this point, Key's story is characteristic of the accounts of many soldiers serving in Iraq. Key's tale takes an uncharacteristic turn, however, when he is granted a two-week vacation to return to the U.S. and visit his family.
Stricken with nightmares and flashbacks and tormented by his conscience, Key knew he could not return to Iraq. Seeking the advice of an Army lawyer, Key was told "get back to Iraq or you go to jail." With no viable alternative, Key packed up his family and went into hiding. Eventually, they made it to Canada where Key awaits a decision by the Canadian courts as to whether he will be granted refugee status.
Although Key's story is in many ways typical of the war stories of soldiers in wars from World War I to Vietnam, his is also the unusual story of a young man willing to act according to his conscience, no matter the consequences.
But Key couldn't resist lying, and his lie about having participated in "cow tipping" which is impossible and only an urban legend, gives him away. It also seems odd that (1) he is the only one never to have behaved excessively and (2) his failure ever to give any specifics or name names in the atrocities he claims to have witnessed.
The war was stupid and wasteful. But we don't need that to be said by a liar.