Among Warriors in Iraq
by Mike Tucker
Guilford, Conn.: The Lyons Press, 2005. 234 pp. $16.95, paper.
Reviewed by Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
More than 500 journalists were embedded with U.S. military units as they rolled into Iraq in March 2003. Once Baghdad fell, many returned home even though the fighting was hardly over. During late 2003 and early 2004, Tucker, a former Marine infantryman, was embedded with coalition forces serving in two hotbeds of insurgency, Mosul and Fallujah.
Written as a narrative replete with dialogue, Among Warriors in Iraq has wide appeal. Tucker's military experience is evident. He knows military hardware. Instead of describing soldiers with guns as generalist reporters might, he depicts his comrades carrying M-4 5.56 assault rifles, M.203 grenade launchers, and 40mm grenades.
Despite the occasional inaccuracy (the cease-fire lines defining areas of Kurdish rule are confused with the safe-haven with roots in the 1991-92 humanitarian relief program), Tucker has an eye for detail. He describes the dress of locals and the manes of horses sharing the "dusty rubble-strewn and sewage-ripe streets of Mosul" with U.S. foot patrols searching for hidden explosives. He describes the wares of the markets, the smiles of children, women's fears, and the glares of some men as a U.S. patrol travels the back streets.
His description of Fallujah in the months prior to the April 2004 uprising and subsequent siege gives a historical snapshot of mosques blaring anti-American incitement and children abruptly stopping their interactions with U.S. soldiers. Narratives of patrols, interrogations of captured insurgents, and meetings with tribal sheikhs explain topics often missed by big-picture reporting.
But Tucker is less precise with his historical narrative because he largely accepts the revisionism of his Kurdistan Democratic Party interlocutors. "Hawlerr is the original Kurdish name for the Iraqi Kurdish city, mistakenly referred to in Arabic as Irbil," he explains. Actually, Erbil was historically a Turkmen city. Only in the last half century has the traditionally rural Kurdish population flooded into the town, changing its demographics. He, likewise, makes the mistake of calling Mosul historically a Kurdish city.
Kurdish sympathies lead Tucker to make omissions. He criticizes the U.S. military for stopping a Kurdish advance on towns around Mosul following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime but fails to mention that the reason was Kurdish looting of Arab villages. Depictions of the tensions between Kurds and U.S. general David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne in Mosul, are accurate, though. Petraeus turned a deaf-ear to Kurdish (and Iraqi Arab) concerns about his empowerment of high-level Baathists and his forgiveness of those complicit in past massacres of civilians.
Among Warriors in Iraq is not the best narrative of combat in Iraq, but by covering the period after major combat operations, it fills a gap and is worthwhile to understand the risks U.S. soldiers take and the contributions they make on a daily basis.
Related Topics: Iraq | Michael Rubin | Spring 2006 MEQ
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