At home, the war in Iraq has been increasingly divisive. Public support for the president has eroded; voices on both sides of the aisle are calling for various forms of withdrawal. Recently, books by politicians and journalists have detailed the war’s mismanagement, but this fall, several publishers have books that relate what the combatants have to say about their experience. Inevitably, there are politics here; but war, even if unpopular, demands of its participants the same depths of courage and characters, extracts the same toll, from men and women alike.
Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraqby Kirsten Holmstedt (Stackpole, Sept.). The sacrifices that women in combat have made in Iraq are detailed here—12 stories that, though often questioning the rationale for war, leave no doubt about the value of women’s contributionand the rightness of their participation in a military effort.
Doonesbury.com’s The Sandbox: Dispatches from the Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, intro. by G.B. Trudeau (Andrews McMeel, Sept). After a Doonesbury character was wounded in Iraq, Trudeau set up a military blog on his Web site for combatants to report back home of their experiences. This riveting selection is reminiscent of the letters features in Ken Burns’s The Civil War. It brings the war home, as intended by the bloggers, and much is left to the reader to decide about this war’s value.
War on Two Fronts: An Infantry Commander’s War in Iraq and the Pentagonby Col. Christopher P. Hughes (Casemate, Oct.) Hughes was in the brigade “fragged” by a Muslim sergeant early in the war; he was also part of an early success—the liberation of Najaf. However, Hughes, who was transferred to Washington after his tour, aims to explain how and why mistakes were made, and why they are still being made—on the ground in the war rooms—as the Pentagon fights its own wars of policy with a well-armed bureaucracy.
Heroes Among Us, edited by Maj. Chuck Larson; foreword by Gen. Tommy Frank, afterword by Sen. John McCain (NAL/Caliber, Jan. 2008). Larson collects first-hand accounts from decorated “warriors” in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is not much of the political perspective here, but there are many raw, bracing tales of heroism in the line of duty from soldiers and officers who have received medals and commendations for their actions.
House to Houseby Sgt. David Bellavia (Free Press, Sept.). Bellavia led an army infantry squad into the heart of Fallujah and found himself in the middle of a fierce urban battle. This blow-by-blow account of going house to house and room to room looking for insurgents has been praised by Anthony Swofford and Nathaniel Fick, among others.