Friday, October 23, 2009
The Human Face of War
The war in Afghanistan and Iraq rages on. The President and his staff are trying to figure out where do we go from here. They and we know that we have been fighting in that part of the world longer than World War II. But to get a taste of what this war is all about you might turn to David Finkel’s, The Good Soldiers. Finkel a correspondent spent eight months in Iraq with a battalion of soldiers from Ft. Riley, Kansas.
President Bush announced on January 10, 2007 that he was sending 21,000 more troops in Iraq to deal with the violence and hopefully establish a spot of democracy in that part of the world. He called this new effort the surge.
2-16 was part of those 21,000 sent to Iraq. Their leader was a 40-year-old Lieutenant Colonel who was sure his troops could make a difference. His goals were worthy: to stamp out the violence, to win the war. He dreamed of helping to provide a safe place for the Iraqi people that they might begin to live their lives in peace and well-being.
So the writer Finkel takes us with him on this journey. If you want to know what this war feels like, tastes like, looks like read this book. After you put the volume down you may not think of that war ever the same again.
He calls his book, The Good Soldiers. And good they were. In their fifteen months in Iraq 14 of them were killed, another 75 were wounded—many of those broken for the rest of their lives. The average age of those soldiers was 19 years.
He tells as Hummer blew up and men lost limbs and lives of the slow disenchantment that seeped into most of these soldiers’ souls. Their leader said, “I think it’s difficult for them, and difficult for me, to hear about these strides we’re making, these improvements we’re making, when we know—when I know—for a fact, that this place hasn’t changed a damn bit since we set foot here in February.” His men were tired of waiting to be blown up, tired of being mortared every day, tired of being told by those in Washington they were winning when they knew they weren’t.
Finkel writes in telling terms: “Eleven dead now. Another forty-four injured. Gunshots, Burns, Shrapnel. Missing hands, arms, legs, an eye. Ruptured eardrums, a mangled groin, gouged-out muscles, severed nerves. One guy took it in the stomach as he waited to use a pay phone…and a rocket landed nearby. Rockets, mortars, RPG’s, sniper fire, EFP’s.” The Lieutenant said all this as he prepared to telephone the war’s newest widow who lived with two tiny daughters in a house in Kansas. When it was done he said, “That’s probably the saddest woman I’ve talked to yet.”
This book won the Pulitzer Prize and as you read it you will understand why.