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 to...moreI 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.(less)
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 b...moreI 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.(less)
This is an alarming and depressing book. McKelvey documents abuses and outrages committed in the name of the American people upon occupants of sundry...moreThis 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.(less)
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 by...moreThis 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.(less)
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.
To...moreI 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.(less)
The modern military member will probably be doing a lot of head-shaking while reading this autobiography. This is definitely not your typical war stor...moreThe 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.(less)
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 th...moreI'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".(less)
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 t...moreIf 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.(less)