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Warrior King: The Triumph and Betrayal of an American Commander in Iraq Hardcover – May 27, 2008
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“A valuable insider's look at the many-layered ramifications of the American-Iraqi tragedy of errors.” ―Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
NATHAN SASSAMAN graduated from West Point in 1985. He was captain and quarterback of the Army football team, rushed for more than a thousand yards in a single season (1984), and led the Cadets to their first postseason bowl victory over Michigan State. In August 2003, when his patrol came under attack, Sassaman braved machine-gun and RPG fire to drag one of his wounded soldiers from his vehicle. Then he chased down the insurgents, killing or capturing all of them, earning himself a Bronze Star for valor in Iraq. He commanded the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. He lives in Colorado.
JOE LAYDEN is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist whose work has been honored by the New York Newspaper Publishers Association and the national Associated Press Sports Editors. He lives in upstate New York.
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Lt. Col. Sassaman did not have the benefit of leading his battalion during the Sunni Awakening. There weren't reliable Sunni allies, and the local Sunni population didn't think the U.S. was going to last in Iraq. Occupation was too costly over the long run. In such an environment, force protection was an incredible challenge.
When mortar rounds came into base camps, Sassaman ordered counter battery fire. The insurgents responded by using less mortar fire and probed for a weak spot somewhere else. This is how Sassaman had set the tone of rebellion against his commanding officer, who did not approve counter battery because it risked grievous "collateral damage" (killing and wounding innocent Iraqi citizens). Sassaman continued to put the lives of his men before the mission as time went on and his battalion was sent from one hot spot to another. Of course, at that time the U.S. was in between war strategies, and the mission was often confused. It seems logical that a dedicated, sacrificing officer would put the safety of his men first.
It's easy for people that weren't fighting in Iraq to condemn Sassaman's approach to counterinsurgency. He was determined to earn the respect of the insurgents rather than their contempt. Despite being in the most dangerous areas for prolonged periods and being part of the real action, his battalion suffered relatively light casualties. But he wasn't making his commanding officer look good. He went with his heart, the men under his command, rather than with his career.
Too much time at the front and too much stress took a toll on the men sent to Iraq. Many survivors, especially those having been in infantry positions, will psychologically live the war the rest of their lives. Who is to say whether Sassaman deserved to have his career cut short when the nation put him in such a situation? In other words, why should we put Sassaman on the spot? Our country made him responsible for the lives of so many teenagers and men of twenty years in a hellish situation.
Warrior King tells all of us that dedication and sacrifice will not always be rewarded. There will always be politically astute individuals, members of the power structure, who will set the rules and come out on top. Hard working, upwardly mobile people like Sassaman can be sacrificed without compunction. Some of those sacrificed after giving everything will find a little relief in writing a memoir. Nothing wrong with that.
This is an intersting look at army politics and realistic look at lets App Now. When you go to war the best laid plans fall apart. I think his fustraion and sutuation colored his whole view of the army and the whole operation. I am writing this review from an LSA mentioned in the book and it is true if you don't go out side of the wire it is like being back in the states but you just can't go home. There are those who are doing a tought job dealing with insurgents.
It is sad that a really good book and a very intersting looks and a compelling story but the swipes at national policy and judging the whole war from one perspective feeds into the groupthink of trashing the war. But it is an intersting look at how Sassaman sees the promotion proscess for sienior ranks and it is not pretty and I am not privy to that level of politics. It is sad that one of the most successful leaders of the war is forced out because of the events in this book.
For non-military readers, it is still a good read but take into other perspectives. We did get a handle on the situation and we did not loose. The army learned from mistakes.
The confrontational issue(s) with the BDE commander were candid and raw. The first line in the text reading, one could easily project the eventual fracture of relationships and LTC S's career disintegration.
This is a story about dedication to the warrior ethos..to fight and win. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the conflict; because of the nature of the components to the insurgency; and because the mission was nearly an impossible one...conflicts between the moment, the military command structure and the mission all came into conflict-sometimes concurrently.
As I was walking on the 5th of June this year at the American cemetery at Normandy, France among many of those who served during the "longest day", a was able to speak with a former British soldier who mentioned Iraq...in doing so, he said, in part: " World War II was the last soldier's war..to fight and win." Perhaps this aging warrior of days gone by was correct.
But, to LTC S and to all the unit members of the battalion..thank you for making Balad/LSA Anaconda alittle safer for those of us who passed through a year or so later (although, from time to time one did fly in..)
A book worth reading to understand the awesome responsibility in terms of "life and death" issues a commander faces each an everyday attempting "mission accomplishment" and to bring them all back to their families whole.