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Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death
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Terri Do not read if you haven't finished the book.
(view spoiler)

Tasha I finished this one last night. Very good and a 5 star read for me too. Wow, this was also a great psychological read on the impact that so many different stressors had on the soldiers. Tragic, just completely tragic. But what an important account of what can go wrong with bad leadership and stretched and non-existent resources.

(view spoiler)

message 35: by Terri (last edited Mar 26, 2011 10:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri That surprised me too when I read it. Yet another sad component of wars.

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Another aspect that I found sad in this book and which isn't mentioned in too many other accounts of Iraq was the problem of suicide upon return to the United States, footnote on page 299, chapter 22:

(view spoiler)

Terri Only a couple pages to go. Fantastic book. 5 stars.

Terri Boo hoo...:-(

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Mine has pic's too and in colour :)

Terri You beat me to it, Rick. I have been meaning to post an excerpt from this very same event. It referred to another point though.
I shall post it tomorrow as I haven't got my issue here to quote from.

OMG! I am so jealous! Mine does not have pictures. When I first got this book it was my problem with it. That it had no pics. I feel that pictures help give you a fuller spectrum of emotion.

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I enjoyed this account from when Blaisdell was trying to coordinate an Apache gunship strike on a house sheltering some insurgents, chapter 16, page 217-218. The gunship has just completed one run spraying bullets everywhere but just killed and injured some poor livestock:

(view spoiler)

Tasha Terri wrote: "I have to go out, so can't respond much until later today.
But I wanted to ask you guys with your different issue to mine, have pictures? I don't have pictures. :-("

Yes, mine has pictures. This is my copy:

Black Hearts One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick

Terri I have to go out, so can't respond much until later today.
But I wanted to ask you guys with your different issue to mine, have pictures? I don't have pictures. :-(

message 26: by Tasha (last edited Mar 24, 2011 03:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tasha I'm up to chapter 17 : Fenlason Arrives

In regards to all the previous posts and spoilers, every one of those stood out in my mind too. Just to add to that, I just wanted to mention the study quoted in the book by Dave Grossman from his 1996 book On Killing, regarding the changes on the battlefields from prior centuries and this one and the impacts this new combat phenomenon is having on the troops:
(view spoiler)

In a later part in the same chapter:
(view spoiler) On Killing The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave GrossmanDave Grossman

message 25: by Terri (last edited Mar 23, 2011 08:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri :-
I tried not to laugh when I read that part concerning the soldier and the JP-8 fuel. One bit of me was trying not to be amused, the other part of me was horrified by the poor guy getting covered in 3rd degree burns.

The author never said at the time whether the soldier used that fuel accidentally by perhaps grabbing the wrong fuel can, or was he just an idiot and thought the JP-8 would simply burn the human waste faster.

I also found that part in your second message very droll and amusing too. My hubby and I were both sitting in bed the other night reading our books (me Black Hearts and him Apache) and I nearly stopped to read him that Chapter 13 page 161 paragraph because it tickled my funny bone. :-)


I am really enjoying this book. Am so glad my library bought it in for me.

I like the notes through the book. For example, when a soldier is injured and there is follow up information on his recovery back home, the author puts a note at the bottom of that page outlining the particular recovery details.

Apache by Ed MacyEd Macy

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Talking about clearing Caveman and IED’s I found this section funny in a gallows humour type way, chapter 13, page 161;

(view spoiler)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I know that this wasn’t meant to be funny and a soldier was seriously injured but the description of the incident did make me burst out laughing. It concerns chapter 6, page 88, in regards to burning human waste normally using diesel but in this case the soldier trying highly flammable JP-8 fuel:

(view spoiler)

I hope that the poor soldier concerned recovered OK without any serious health issues but the scene as described by the author did make me laugh having grown up with Wile E. Coyote cartoons.

message 22: by André, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS - Music (new) - rated it 5 stars

André (AndrH) | 2697 comments Mod
Terri wrote: "André wrote: "You just can't control an entire country with limited troops and supply after having chased the bully. Not when everybody's just waiting to hit/erase the others."

I do wonder though,..."

Sure, it might have taken a while. Probably his ultra violent sons would have managed...
I just meant that the aftermath of the different fractions letting loose the tensions on whoever was available - that should not have come as a surprise.

message 21: by Terri (last edited Mar 22, 2011 04:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri Today's exhaustive comments...:-)

Chapter 12: "It is F#$king Pointless"
(view spoiler)

Chapter 13
(view spoiler)

Terri Tasha wrote: "Chapter 7 : Route Sportster

(view spoiler)"

You wait until you get to Caveman. I shall say no more. :-)

Terri André wrote: "You just can't control an entire country with limited troops and supply after having chased the bully. Not when everybody's just waiting to hit/erase the others."

I do wonder though, how long Saddam could have sustained his oppression. Would the house have fallen down without the invasion.
I do think that it may never have fallen down under Saddam. That it was the invasion that compelled the different groups/tribes/jihadists/insurgents to learn to stand up and fight.

EG...The Sunni were ill prepared for the retaliation and revenge attacks that came upon them (by the other tribes) after the fall of Saddam, but once they organised they became, questionably, the more dangerous of the tribes.

One thing the Iraq Invasion has accomplished, is to unwittingly train generations of Iraqi men (and the men from other countries like Afghanistan, Jordan, Iran etc who threw their hat into the ring) how to repel invaders and fight as a cohesive unit.
That is frightening. Frightening when they despise western cultures like they do, and frightening for civil peace in Iraq.

Tasha Chapter 7 : Route Sportster

(view spoiler)

message 17: by André, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS - Music (last edited Mar 22, 2011 03:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

André (AndrH) | 2697 comments Mod
Terri wrote: "Be warned people, I have so much to say about this book today..."

Terri, it sure makes one wonder how the government's pro-war people managed to "black this out" for the others.
The situation or better the balance held/forced upon the different tribes/peoples/religious groups by Saddam - diplomats and politicians knew about this. International magazines had written about it. It was no secret.
They also must have guessed that after the initial attack the unstable house would come falling down. You just can't control an entire country with limited troops and supply after having chased the bully. Not when everybody's just waiting to hit/erase the others.

message 16: by Terri (last edited Mar 21, 2011 07:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri I never wanted to believe that the war was over oil. I wanted to believe it was because of Saddam's dictatorship and his chemical warfare on the Kurds.
I believe/believed that if he had the WMDs to racially cleanse the Kurds why wouldn't he have WMDs stored away to potentially use against western civilisations.
But I don't know anymore....I just don't know.
They say there were no WMDs. Despite the evidence of their use against the Kurds, despite the Iraqi scientists and laboratories that once worked with them within Iraq borders.
So, if the war wasn't truly over WMDs, what else could it possibly be about. No other reasons looks very good for the super powers that orchestrated the invasion.

message 15: by Tasha (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tasha Terri, your thoughts on the invasion and the differences of the Iraqis living under Saddam and under the Coalition all make sense to me. I have the same thoughts. I never supported the war from the get-go ( for other reasons) but after reading about the state of Iraq and it's people now, I can't say that I support it still...but for other, more practical and learned (aware) reasons.

*******Spoiler only if not read thru the first few chapters*******
I agree, too, with your thoughts on Kunk vs. kauzlarich. Although K was flawed, I have always thought he tried and truly meant well. Kunk on the other hand, doesn't seem to give a s#%* about anyone but himself. It is amazing that he got as far as he did, rank wise, at least in my opinion (civilian). Having a psych eval sounds like a good idea.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel David FinkelDavid Finkel

Terri Another couple comparisons that I want to make between The Good Soldiers and Black Hearts:

I am not depressed. :-) The Good Soldiers really knocked me around. I was depressed from about halfway onwards and it felt like I was being belted around the head all the time.

Black Hearts has not gotten me depressed. There are soldiers dying and dying gruesomely, but the author somehow distances the reader from it enough to not have you drooling in the chair from a lobotomy style depression. Like I was with The Good Soldiers.

Which style of writing would better help me to understand how a soldier could commit a war crime? The Good Soldiers hands down, so far. Finkel had a way with his words that really made you feel the psychological traumas. Those men were totally whipped and ready to crack.
These guys in Black Hearts, aren't quite there yet, but I suspect it is coming.

Another comparison with TGS.
I really felt for the Iraqs in The Good Soldiers, but in Black Hearts I am on the other side of the fence.
I am more disgusted with the Iraqis for not having the brains to concentrate their efforts on the American soldiers. Instead they blow up and kill their own people as well. Driving exploding cars into hospitals??? That is so stupid. As the saying goes. That is cutting your nose off to spite your face.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel David FinkelDavid Finkel

message 13: by Terri (last edited Mar 21, 2011 05:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri Be warned people, I have so much to say about this book today...........I have decided to split it into three different posts to keep the topics and my ramblings together.

Aussie Rick touched on the Iraqi's under Saddam vs Iraqi's after Saddam.

It was actually when I was reading that section (the same one that you spoilered, Aussie Rick) that I started to wonder about something.
I hope I can word this right and get my thoughts out of my head and into my post.

Amazing isn't it, that Iraq is/was in such a state of disarray after Saddam and got worse over time.
Shia, Shi'ite, Sunni, jihadist from outside Iraq, civilians taking up arms, radical religious clerics assuming control of suburbs and zones within the nation.
And it wasn't as if all this wasn't there before the Coalition invasion. These sects and undesirables were there under Saddam and yet, somehow Saddam controlled and instilled enough fear on the people of Iraq, no matter the tribe.

The people lived in fear of him.
But you put a modern U.S army into Iraq and they can't control areas of Iraq at all. The violence against them and against the civilians, and different tribes, is rife.

If the tribes, the jihadists and insurgents had risen up against Saddam like they did against the Coalition, then Iraq would have imploded under Saddam and the Bathists.
It could have destroyed itself.
But it didn't. Saddam may have been a cruel and ruthless dictator, but was he that bad for Iraq when you consider what a Coalition invasion has done to the country. All the deaths, the destruction of their homes, the wiping out of their farm animals, ancient architecture, their jobs, their farmlands, their water supplies and sewerage etc...
I am not convinced that the invasion was the best for Iraq. In the early days I was...because of what Saddam was doing to the Kurds and the torture etc..but now I am not so sure.

On the other hand. In the scenario of Iraqis rising up against Saddam and the country imploding with violence...
Why would the power nations want Iraq to destroy itself? A country like Iraq that supplies the world with oil, can't be allowed to combust.

This book has certainly triggered some thoughts and cogitation in me that I have never had before.

message 12: by Terri (last edited Mar 21, 2011 04:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri *fist bump* you're welcome, Tasha. :-)
I am so glad that I was able to entice you into this genre. Having another woman (and a good mate also) reading about war with me makes me not feel like a freak as much (modern warfare books being generally accepted as an interest of men only).

Now, Black Hearts.

I am liking this book much better than I liked The Good Soldiers - by the we all know that I loved TGS until about halfway through and then it petered out for me.
not really a spoiler if you have read the first few chapters of this book. This is why I am not going to hide them in a spoiler link.
But comments below do concern Kunk and you might not want to read them if you haven't started the book yet.
***********look away now if you don't want to know about him************

Isn't it strange how differently these two books make you feel?
The Good Soldiers had a commander in Colonel Kauzlarich who was denegrated it seems by his men to some extent, eg The Lost Kauz, but compared to Kunk? Kauz was an angel.
Kauzlarich had a vested interest in the resurrection of a safe Iraqi community and it's required infrastructure.
Kunk, has a vested interest's really hard to tell at this stage. Has he only a vested interest in Kunk? And in his resume and his rank advancement?
He doesn't seem to give a scratch about the men or winning their respect. He is, as Tasha put it, a nut! I can't believe a man like this can slip through the system and be leading a battalion.

I think that in the military, executive officers and their performance as a guardian of men's psychological and physical welfare, should be scrutinised bi-annually by a psychologist.
Even a private contractor might be engaged to do this work at regular intervals.
A private contractor has nothing to fear when evaluating a man of such rank. It is not as though the private contractor can be demoted for saying the wrong thing about the wrong officer.

Wouldn't a psychologist sense the dangerous unpredictability of men like Funk?

The manner in which he relates to others and treats others is not good - to say the least.
He is quite a screwball.

I cheated and peeked at the back of the book where it has notes on some of the men profiled in this story. I only looked at Kunk. I couldn't believe what I read.
I don't want to read those notes because they give too much away about the story, but I was just too curious about Kunk.

I am up to Chapter 11: Casica and Nelson. And my impression of Kunk is only getting worse.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel David FinkelDavid Finkel

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 35738 comments Mod
Glad to see you guys are up and running: good jobs Terri and Aussie Rick.

Tasha I'm just up to chapter 4 and getting through the scene setting and background info. Like Terri, I'm reacting to the Forward and wondering where this story will take me. Aussie Rick, I read that part too that you mention and agree, this author has a clear way of explaining these aspects of the war and the Iraqi people.

I am getting a more solid foundation for understanding this war and it's history and repercussions from reading this book. I never really followed the war and really didn't have a serious interest in it until my good friend introduced me to it (you know who you are ;).. ) and now I'm trying to learn all I can about it. I think I'll learn a great deal about it through this one.

By the way (view spoiler)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) One thing that I have liked about this book so far was the simple explanation by this author of why so many Iraqi's, once ecstatic that Saddam had been toppled, turned against their liberators. Chapter 3, pages 47-48.

(view spoiler)

Terri So, I know that in the U.S it is not quite the 21st yet, but here in Australia it is. :-) Which means I get to post early.

(view spoiler)

Terri Good news. :-)

Tasha I'm waiting for my copy from the library but should have it in time to start with you guys.

message 5: by Terri (last edited Mar 14, 2011 11:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri I'll try not to look at The Guardian review until I have finished the book.

I have the Commonwealth edition.
Black Hearts One platoon's descent into madness in Iraq's triangle of death by Jim Frederick

Well, I assumed it was the Commonwealth edition. Since you have the other cover, maybe there are two covers in Australia. Maybe the black cover is a Commonwealth edition also.

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Great information there Terri, I have a copy of the US edition which I will be reading as part of the buddy read. Here is a review from the Guardian (UK) which I will hide as a spoiler as it gives you a lot of information about the book:

Guardian Review:
(view spoiler)

Terri Some information about the book and author

There seem to be two editions circulating.


The British and Australian edition is this one with description as follows;

Black Hearts One platoon's descent into madness in Iraq's triangle of death by Jim FrederickJim Frederick

Quite possibly the defining book about the Iraq War, a masterpiece of reportage that reads like a thriller. Iraq's "Triangle of Death", 2005: A platoon of young soldiers from a US regiment known as the "Black Heart Brigade" is deployed in a veritable meat grinder of counter-insurgency just south of Baghdad. Almost immediately, the attacks begin: every day another roadside bomb, another colleague blown to pieces. As the daily violence chips away, and chips away at their sanity, the 35 young men of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company descend into a tailspin of poor discipline, substance abuse, and brutality - with tragic results. With severe compassion, remarkably balanced judgement and the magnetic pace of a thriller, Black Hearts is a timeless true story about men in combat and the fragility of character in the savage crucible of warfare


The U.S edition has this cover and the following description;

Black Hearts One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death by Jim FrederickJim Frederick

This is the story of a small group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s fabled 502nd Infantry Regiment—a unit known as “the Black Heart Brigade.” Deployed in late 2005 to Iraq’s so-called Triangle of Death, a veritable meat grinder just south of Baghdad, the Black Hearts found themselves in arguably the country’s most dangerous location at its most dangerous time.

Hit by near-daily mortars, gunfire, and roadside bomb attacks, suffering from a particularly heavy death toll, and enduring a chronic breakdown in leadership, members of one Black Heart platoon—1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion—descended, over their year-long tour of duty, into a tailspin of poor discipline, substance abuse, and brutality.

Four 1st Platoon soldiers would perpetrate one of the most heinous war crimes U.S. forces have committed during the Iraq War—the rape of a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl and the cold-blooded execution of her and her family. Three other 1st Platoon soldiers would be overrun at a remote outpost—one killed immediately and two taken from the scene, their mutilated corpses found days later booby-trapped with explosives.

Black Hearts is an unflinching account of the epic, tragic deployment of 1st Platoon. Drawing on hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with Black Heart soldiers and first-hand reporting from the Triangle of Death, Black Hearts is a timeless story about men in combat and the fragility of character in the savage crucible of warfare. But it is also a timely warning of new dangers emerging in the way American soldiers are led on the battlefields of the twenty-first century


The author, Jim Frederick has a website where you can learn more about this book and the author

This is his bio from his website;

Jim Frederick is the managing editor of and an executive editor at TIME magazine and author of Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death. Between August 2006 and January 2008, he was a senior editor at TIME in London, responsible for helping to coordinate coverage of Europe, Africa and the Middle East for both the weekly newsmagazine and the website. Prior to that assignment, he was TIME’s Tokyo Bureau Chief for four years, where he reported on and wrote about Japanese culture, society, government, economics, and international politics.

A veteran of covering the U.S. military and the military justice system, Frederick has made two reporting trips to Iraq for TIME and wrote extensively about the case of U.S. Army Sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins, who crossed the De-Militarized Zone into communist North Korea in 1965 and only returned to the West in 2004, where he faced a U.S. Army court martial. Until the current Iraq-and Afghanistan-related trials, this was the highest-profile court martial of the post-Vietnam era. Frederick is the co-author, with Jenkins, of The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial and 40-Year Imprisonment in North Korea, which was published by the University of California Press in March 2008 and released in paperback in March 2009.

Prior to joining TIME, Frederick was a senior editor with Money magazine in New York. In his five and a half years at Money, Frederick wrote or edited stories on virtually every subject Money covers, from banking, stocks and mutual funds, to travel, retirement and savings. He wrote or edited long-form business profiles and economic analysis, including an examination of Microsoft's (then) $40 billion cash hoard and as well as an assessment of the financial impact of 9/11 on the US economy.

Frederick has freelanced widely for publications ranging from Real Simple to the New York Times Magazine. He has been a frequent public speaker and panelist at the World Economic Forum and similar organizations' events and he has appeared often on radio and TV, including CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, 60 Minutes and NPR.

A native of Libertyville, Illinois, he earned an MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University and he graduated cum laude with a BA in English literature from Columbia University. He currently lives in New York City.

message 2: by Terri (last edited Mar 14, 2011 10:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri Hi everyone.
Started another Buddy Read a little earlier than usual.

The last couple times, we started the Buddy Read at the beginning of the month, but due to everyone's squeezed reading schedules and those pesky library return dates, we have had to put this one up early.

I would like to reiterate what Bentley has already said. EVERYONE IS WELCOME, just let us know you are here.

You are not obligated to be hugely involved in discussions if you don't want, just post what and when you feel comfortable.

And if you come to the discussion after we have finished reading it, please feel free to post your comments as we will always come back to the thread to discuss the book.

The rules

Well, there are only really two rules.

First rule of Buddy Read,
Respect other people's opinions, no matter how controversial you think they may be.

Second rule of Buddy Read,
Always, always Chapter/page mark and spoiler alert your posts if you are discussing parts of the book.

To do these spoilers, follows these easy steps;

Step 1. enclose the word spoiler in forward and back arrows; < >

Step 2. write your spoiler comments in

Step 3. enclose the word /spoiler in arrows as above, BUT NOTE the forward slash in front of the word. You must put that forward slash in.

Your spoiler should appear like this;
(view spoiler)

And please mark your spoiler clearly like this;

State a Chapter and page if you can.
EG: Chapter 24, page 154

Or say Up to Chapter *___ (*insert chapter number) if your comment is more broad and not from a single chapter.

Examples of spoiler;
Chapter 24 pg 367
(view spoiler)

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 07, 2017 11:39PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 35738 comments Mod
This is a buddy read set up by request.

Black Hearts One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick by Jim Frederick

Start Date will be March, 2011 (or some time during that week) and ending on April 17, 2011. We always start on Mondays so this will work out well.

Remember this is a spoiler thread and anything can be discussed in any order unless you determine how you will read this book and your timeline for discussion of different chapters. We allow each buddy read leader to set things up at their own pace.

Remember, if you cite any other book except for the discussion book for which this thread is named you must do full citations of both the book and the authors.

Good luck and have fun.


Black Hearts One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death by Jim FrederickJim Frederick

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Books mentioned in this topic

Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death (other topics)
Black Hearts (other topics)
The Good Soldiers (other topics)
Apache. Ed Macy (other topics)
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Jim Frederick (other topics)
David Finkel (other topics)
Ed Macy (other topics)
Dave Grossman (other topics)