I confess to taking considerable guilty pleasure from this one. To begin with, I have believed from the start that instead of going on about how the II confess to taking considerable guilty pleasure from this one. To begin with, I have believed from the start that instead of going on about how the Iraqis were shooting at them, the US and British troops should have got the hell right out of Iraq. They had no business there in the first place. On the other hand, I loves me a good story about the brotherhood of arms, and this book is a dandy example of just that type of story.
Let's start with Sgt Dan Mills. (I love the way he uses his rank on the dust jacket; being a soldier is a major part of his identity, having signed on as a boy soldier at age 16) He deployed to Iraq with the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment at the age of 36 and was in command of the sniper platoon at Al Amarah, Iraq. From the moment their boots hit the ground, they were under attack by Iraqi citizens. I won't call them insurgents; how can you be an insurgent against a foreign force in your own country? Writers of other sniper accounts speak of Iraqis in disdainful terms, calling them "evil" or "savages" or worse. Mills avoids that trap. While he and his mates are quite aggressive in countering attacks, he seems to have a grudging respect for his lightly armed opponents. He sees both sides of the conflict and, while he doesn't praise the Iraqis, he doesn't denigrate them either. The praise he saves for his mates, and he is lavish with it.
This was one of the refreshing parts of the book; there was little "I" in it. Where other writers boast of their accomplishments, Mills is more of a "we" type of fellow. If he is lavish in his praise, he is also brutally honest in his criticism. If an officer or subordinate has messed up, Mills names them and lists their offending behavior for all readers to see.
One of the best action writers I've had the pleasure of reading in a long while, Mills holds your interest not only during the firefights but also when telling you about camp routine or describing military equipment. He spares you much of the history of his regiment and his own life story, telling you just enough to acquaint you with both but not so much that your mind wanders off. He relates all manner of detail about the platoon: the rivalries, the practical jokes, even the sexual deviancy where applicable. Some passages of this book will probably have you laughing out loud. Some parts will make you glad you're not a sniper, like the time Mills' number two had to catch his steaming number two in plastic film while Mills shat and shot at the same time.
This is a solid book, fully equipped with diagrams and photographs to guide the reader through the action. An interpreter might have been handy to get me through some of the Brit terms, but you should have little trouble with most of them. You know: rummaging through the boot and walking about with a head torch and all that. Then you get gems like this from P.240:
Put it this way, Danny, threatening the Imam Ali Mosque is like waving a giant blood-red flag with bells on it in front of a seriously histrionic bull with a persecution complex.
Seriously, if you like military non-fiction, give this a read. It's Mills' tribute to his brothers-in-arms and well worth the time.
Canada has always been a destination of choice for men and women wanting to escape military service, especially for citizens of the USA. I used to won Canada has always been a destination of choice for men and women wanting to escape military service, especially for citizens of the USA. I used to wonder why in hell we didn't send them back, especially during the 'nam era. Nowadays, looking back from the high hill of my advanced age I regard everything more in shades of grey, and I can see that all of those tens of thousands of people on both sides of the Vietnam conflict needn't have died. I am in sympathy with those who evaded being unwillingly drafted to fight in a conflict that was unnecessary and unjust.
None of the foregoing means that I support anyone dodging their obligation to defend their country in time of attack; that's cowardice and those found guilty are deserving of some serious punishment. But what if the conflict you are dodging is one in which your country is an unjust aggressor? If you are truly morally opposed to the war, and if your country is not endangered by your departure, are you wrong in taking off at the high port?
Joshua Key booked it to Canada after initially serving part of a tour of duty in Iraq. After making it across the border he applied for refugee status and related his story to author Lawrence Hill, resulting in the publication of this book. Mr Key does not pretend to be a nice guy: he readily admits to theft, assault, and all manner of juvenile idiocy. He is definitely not the type of fellow you want your daughter bringing home to meet the parents. I could identify with his background: rural, little education, joined the Army because it was his only shot at a decent career. Being a naïf, he joins the Army that doesn't get sent out of CONUS (wink,wink) and sure enough, next thing you know he's in Iraq.
Soon, his unit is detailed to search houses of Iraqi citizens. The searches were invariably unopposed by the occupants but they blow the doors open anyway and storm in:
Inside the houses, we knocked over wardrobes, kicked in doors, ripped through mattresses, and threw bookshelves to the floor. We busted locks, threw over refrigerators, and broke lanterns and lamps. Radios and televisions were thrown around and smashed.
In the first raid, the second, the third, and the fourth, I wondered why we never managed to find anything. We tore hell out of those places, blasting apart doors, ripping up mattresses, breaking locks off furniture, and ripping drawers from dressers. With all of our ransacking, we never found anything other than the ordinary goods that ordinary people keep in their houses. (p.72,73)
The troops take the logical step from B&E to theft on Page 74:
I stole whatever I wanted in the initial raids, but I stopped doing that after my first few weeks in Iraq. The more uneasy I felt about what we were doing there, the less I wanted to make matters worse. Others in my platoon looted to their hearts' content. One fellow collected gold jewelry and mailed it home to his wife. Another lugged a television straight out of an Iraqi house. Others took ornate knives, and I saw one soldier make off with a beautiful rug. Who was going to stop us? We were the army of the United States of America, and we would do whatever we pleased.
As his tour progresses, Key notices that the citizens are becoming less friendly, and that they take fire from unseen shooters more frequently. His unit is unsuccessful in coming to grips with the shooters, so their frustration is vented on the populace. The result is predictable. Key eventually comes to the conclusion:
It struck me then that we, the American soldiers, were the terrorists. We were terrorizing Iraqis. Intimidating them. Beating them. Destroying their homes. Probably raping them. The ones we didn't kill had all the reasons in the world to become terrorists themselves. Given what we were doing to them, who could blame them for wanting to kill us, and all Americans? A sick realization lodged like a cancer in my gut. It grew and festered, and troubled me more with every passing day. We, the Americans, had become the terrorists in Iraq. (P138/139)
I know some milbloggers scoff at Key's claims and have branded him a liar. The point out his apparent lack of familiarity with military rank and weaponry to support their suspicions, and it's true that he makes a few mistakes from time to time. For example, on page 20 he mentions shooting a four inch bullet from a "Remington seven-millimeter rifle" into the neck of a deer. This is the second mention of the four inch bullet in the book, so it's likely not a misprint. Now the cartridge designed to be chambered in a 7mm Rem Mag is usually something under four inches in its entirety, and the actual projectile would be roughly 1/4 of that length, so I can see someone calling bullshit on that. He also claims not to have read anything about the Geneva Convention before disembarking in Iraq, but I have a hard time believing that soldiers of any modern industrialized nation have not been schooled in the Geneva convention...but I think of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and I wonder.....?
I believe most of what I read in this book, because Key names people and mentions specific incidents, and I have heard too many similar accounts not to know that soldiers went apeshit in Iraq. Key himself is not the quickest of cats and has confessed to too many acts of idiocy for me to list here. Suffice it to say that I am completely convinced that he is thick enough not to know the difference between four inches and one inch and that it is easily within his capacity to confuse USMC ranks with US Army ranks. The book is reasonably well-written, obviously not by Key, and I will leave it to the reader to decide if his actions were justified. Welcome to Canada, eh?...more
When I first clapped eyes on Jesse Ventura back in the early eighties I believe he was clad in purple tights accessorized with a pink feather boa andWhen I first clapped eyes on Jesse Ventura back in the early eighties I believe he was clad in purple tights accessorized with a pink feather boa and a huge set of shades. You would never have convinced me that the man would ever write something that I would read; I just couldn't imagine ever taking the man seriously. Since then, Ventura has seen a number of unlikely career changes, eventually landing the position of Governor of the state of Minnesota. Probably no one was more surprised at this turn of events than Mr Ventura, who proceeded to serve his term honestly and as capably as one could when one found oneself in over one's head. If memory serves, he did not seek a second term. Let's face it: those suited for politics are schooled for many years in the ways of subterfuge, back-biting and deception, and our man Jesse was too blunt and honest to thrive in that environment.
In writing (or co-authoring) this book, Mr Ventura has taken on a bit too much. In the course of just over 200 pages he attempts to cover every government cover-up from the Lincoln assassination to JFK to the future war against American dissent. It's not that I doubt what he says; the topic is just too broad for such a slim volume. I believe that he is correct when he claims that the American public has been snowed by their own government right from the start - I just don't believe that he has proven it in his book. There are minor inaccuracies: for instance, he credits Smedley Butler with winning the Congressional Medal of Honor three times, but I can only find mention of his winning it twice in other sources. A small point, but one must look after the small points.
I think that this is a reasonably readable book written by an honest man. It is a warning to American patriots and should be read as a start to deeper research into ways to make the government answer to the people.
I didn't do this book any favours by taking so long to read it. I had never read anything by Lawrence Durrell before and this book may elevate him toI didn't do this book any favours by taking so long to read it. I had never read anything by Lawrence Durrell before and this book may elevate him to the ranks of my favourite authors. Oddly enough, I found myself lost in Durrell's poetic style to the extent that the plot and characters came to be of secondary importance...I almost didn't care what happened to them. This book has been analyzed extensively by better writers than I; I'll leave off with saying I want to read more of this fellow's work....more
I think that this could have been a better book if the author had credited some of his sources with footnotes or endnotes. Too often the words "some bI think that this could have been a better book if the author had credited some of his sources with footnotes or endnotes. Too often the words "some believe" or "some experts believe" were followed by an assertion that was not referenced in any way. Poor proof reading resulted in more typos and incomplete sentences than I am comfortable with, and the condescending tone of the book causes me to think that it was basically written for the high school crowd.
On the plus side, the book is an introduction to the scrolls at a very basic entry level, and therefore not over the head of someone who, like me, would be reading about the scrolls for the very first time. Some very nice photos were employed to drive the main teaching points home. In short, a decent entry-level read that could have been easily improved with a little effort....more
This is an alarming and depressing book. McKelvey documents abuses and outrages committed in the name of the American people upon occupants of sundryThis is an alarming and depressing book. McKelvey documents abuses and outrages committed in the name of the American people upon occupants of sundry detention facilities, with emphasis on Abu Ghraib. McKelvey is a journalist and writes like one, touching on main points without delving too deeply into any individual case. One thing is established: many people, a large number of them completely innocent of any wrongdoing, were tortured, humiliated, raped, starved, and sometimes killed by Americans while in American custody. The writer also points out that the only persons receiving any punishment for excesses were at the bottom of the command structure, but that will be no surprise.
What might surprise the average reader is that some torture, such as stress positions, forced exercise, and sleep deprivation, is officially approved. This is the same type of abuse that Americans complained of receiving at the hands of the Japanese in WWII. If it was wrong then, why is it OK now?
If anything positive can be taken from this, it would be the fact that investigative writers like McKelvey are free to investigate such abuses and report on them in an open and public manner. It leads me to hope that the USA won't plunge into total fascism....more
This book was like a breath of fresh air to someone who was just a little tired of the egotistical preening prevalent in some of the books written byThis book was like a breath of fresh air to someone who was just a little tired of the egotistical preening prevalent in some of the books written by civilian contractors or elite soldiery in Iraq. Mr Campbell's book is intelligent and insightful, and I got the feeling he was totally honest throughout. Here is an officer who presents his men in their best light, lamenting injuries to his own men but never stooping to vilify the civilian populace of the country his Marines have, essentially, invaded. He does not mince words in discussing equipment shortages and command shortcomings, and is utterly merciless with himself when discussing what he perceives were errors he may have made in the heat of action.
The book is not all soul-searching: the action is riveting, and Campbell makes you actually give a damn about his men. He is a soldier philosopher and no doubt would have been a great officer to have served with. The book will keep your interest and the ending will leave you misty-eyed. I have one minor complaint regarding this publication; I think it would have benefitted from a few photos to give the reader a visual on some of the main players and battleground. It is a minor grievance though as the writing is very descriptive and certainly stands on its own quite nicely....more
I was all excited when I purchased this book, expecting a Carlos Hathcock type tale of derring-do. What a letdown - I was sick of Mr Kyle by page 5.
ToI was all excited when I purchased this book, expecting a Carlos Hathcock type tale of derring-do. What a letdown - I was sick of Mr Kyle by page 5.
To begin with, I'm not sure who to credit for this bit of writing; I suspect that Kyle contributed little but the anecdotal accounts and his name to the effort, as two other names are listed with his on the cover. Interestingly, his wife is not given any co-author status although she provides significant input throughout the book.
Now all feelings about the propriety of this very controversial armed incursion into Iraq aside, one thing that turned me off about Kyle was his total lack of regard for his opponent. They're all "evil" or "blinded by evil" throughout this book. What makes them evil is never satisfactorily explained; perhaps Mr Bush's "axis of evil" speech had something to do with it. Anyway, lightly armed Iraqis who oppose heavily armed and armoured coalition troops on Iraqi soil are "evil" and "terrorists". He states several times that he is getting payback. Payback for what, exactly? He also repeatedly claims to be defending his country, although I know of no attempt on the USA by Iraq.
I fully understand that he doesn't decide to send the troops over, and that he has a job to do, but please, Mr Kyle...just a little more regard for the human beings you're killing? Maybe a little remorse for the retarded kid you pounded because he didn't understand you? Hello...he's retarded....and he speaks another lanuage...what the hell did you expect?? People like Mr Kyle are a large part of the reason that the citizens of the USA are held in such disdain by many foreigners. His pomposity and vainglory ooze off of every page.
And the violence! I'm not talking about warfare here...I'm talking recreational violence. Bar fights. Destruction of property. Beating a fellow up because the victim's girlfriend was in an argument with another SEAL. Maybe he figured the other SEAL couldn't handle her? I cannot believe this chap didn't end up in jail. In one chapter he gleefully tells about beating a celebrity because he thought the celebrity (a former governor) was disrespecting a SEAL wake or some such BS. He neglects to mention that the celebrity is now in his 60's. Look it up on Youtube - you can see the "hero" chortling about it on a radio interview.
If this book is worth reading at all, it's only to see the decline in the American military. Apparently the officers have no control. Hazing is rampant. Citizens are beaten with apparent impunity. Childish behaviour like mooning neighbours and chasing Iraqis with radio-controlled vehicles are considered legitimate pastimes. I could go on and on...suffice it to say I won't buy any more books with this fellow's name on them. But if his wife wants to write a book about how she survived living with a self-centred vainglorious manchild, I'm buying it...her contributions were the only parts of the book that made any sense....more
The modern military member will probably be doing a lot of head-shaking while reading this autobiography. This is definitely not your typical war storThe modern military member will probably be doing a lot of head-shaking while reading this autobiography. This is definitely not your typical war story as it is written by the only woman to enlist in the Foreign Legion. In this capacity, Ms Travers was not actually involved in combat except dodging the odd shell and, through blind luck, she managed to drive her General/lover through the encircling German armour at Bir Hakeim. For much of her time in Africa Travers lived in relative luxury as the General's paramour, a situation that would call for courts-martial all round in this day and age. Stiil, full points to Travers for honesty as she didn't try to gloss over her involvement in this and several other affairs of the heart. Full points to her for answering the Legion's call for troops (you cannot say her country's call as France was ruled by the Vichy regime at this time), and for turning out a war story that manages to be interesting in spite of the mushy stuff....more
I'm not particularly impressed with this one, although I moved heaven and earth to get a copy. It turns out that the frequent spelling mistakes and thI'm not particularly impressed with this one, although I moved heaven and earth to get a copy. It turns out that the frequent spelling mistakes and the sometimes hilarious typos ("I was balling my eyes out, holding Carter" p. 234 does not refer to anything sexual) were the most interesting part of the book, insofar as holding your attention is concerned.
To start out with, I don't believe this book was objectively written. I got the impression that Lynndie England might be the only famous (or infamous) person of Mr Winkler's acquaintance, and he decided to capitalize on that acquaintanceship by writing her story. He jumps back and forth during the introductory stages of the book with quotes from one relative hard on the heels of a quote from another relative or friend; it was like he was at an England family reunion taking note of accolades given by a group of Lynndie fans. I guess what I'm getting at is that if there was anything odious in Lynndie England's nature, we wouldn't hear that from Mr Winkler.
The book touches, too lightly, on the crimes and excesses committed by American soldiers on the inmates of the American detention facility at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. The soldiers, most of whom were Military Police reservists, were operating under the apparent instructions of Military Intelligence and "Other Government" Agencies, as well as civilian contractors. England herself was not a Military Policewoman; apparently she attended the jail on her time off to socialize and pose for photos with naked Iraqis. Now these Iraqis are not all "insurgents" (how can you be an insurgent when in your own country and opposing an invader?). None had apparently been charged with anything. Some of them weren't even suspects, having been rounded up in "sweeps", yet they were denied basic human comforts and necessities, insulted, degraded, tortured, and sometimes killed by their keepers.
What I did get from this book is the feeling that the US Army unit at Abu Ghraib was out of control: who puts reservists in charge of anything? Everyone knows that's a recipe for disaster all by itself! Why were civilian agencies giving instructions to military personnel to soften up suspects for interrogation? Why were the senior NCOs not charging enlisted personnel for their excesses? Where were the officers? Why was a Corporal in charge of any goddam thing, never mind a range of prisoners? Why is the US Army hiring recruits who were "special needs" students? The questions are endless, but there is only one answer: "We didn't know any better. We had no orders." There is a quick and easy retort to this: everyone knows that torture is unlawful, and one of the first things taught to a soldier in basic is that they are not obliged to obey any order which is manifestly unlawful.
England herself does not get any sympathy, at least from this reader. She threw over a perfectly viable marriage in order to cavort with Cpl Graner, her military superior and, eventually, her co-accused. At no time does she ever really get around to realizing that this guy is no good for her. Personally, I think it should have dawned early in the relationship when the guy showed her dad the photos of their sexual antics. She has a tendency never to accept responsibility for anything, always producing excuses: she was a special needs student, she didn't know it was wrong, Graner told her to do it, she had no instruction...you get the picture. And the whining is enough to make you hurl. I can't imagine where she got the sand to complain that her trial was inconveniencing her because she couldn't visit her folks and get on with her life, and if she was convicted of a felony she couldn't hunt turkeys. Very little remorse is forthcoming regarding the detainees who suffered mistreatment at Abu Ghraib.
That being said, England and the other co-accused are scapegoats in the end. A situation like Abu Ghraib can only occur when the upper echelon are neglecting the obligation to ensure that regulations are enforced, but people such as these are hard to nail down; in the end the common soldiery will have to bear the brunt of criticism. Predictably, the only corrective action taken resulted in a number of lower-ranking military members being tried before courts martial. Turds roll downhill and no one was lower in the valley than England and her buddies in the reserve MP unit. They ended up in disgrace while the officers who should have been in control were unscathed by judicial censure. The poet summed it up when he said "Men crown the knave and scourge the tool that did his will"....more
If you want some spine-tingling action, go and buy another book. This was a disappointing read. The few actual shooting incidents the author and his tIf you want some spine-tingling action, go and buy another book. This was a disappointing read. The few actual shooting incidents the author and his team were involved in are glossed over and hardly touched on, probably because there was no return fire. One suspects that they were the most feared combat escort unit in Baghdad because of their propensity to fire on vehicles occupied by unarmed drivers whose only offence was inattention....more