[lit-ideas] The real Iraq

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 16 May 2008 19:37:35 -0700



A lurker referred me to this book by Michael Yon


Book Description
Never underestimate the American soldier. That's the moral of former Green
Beret Michael Yon's brilliant battle-by-battle, block-by-block tale of how
America's new `greatest generation' of soldiers is turning defeat and
disaster into victory and hope in Iraq. 

The American soldier is the reason General David Petraeus's brilliant
strategy of moving our soldiers off isolated bases and out among the Iraqi
people is working. Working to find and kill terrorists, reclaim
neighborhoods, and help lead Iraq to democracy. 

Yon is no cheerleader. According to the New York Times, he has logged more
time in combat situations in Iraq than any other reporter. When failed
American leadership was driving Iraq into chaos and civil war, nobody told
the story earlier or better than Michael Yon. The top brass was so mad that
twice the U.S. military denied him access to Iraq.

So Yon has supreme credibility when he says that we are finally winning, not
primarily with our overwhelming technology, not with shock and awe
destruction, but with the even more powerful force of American values--with
the courage and leadership, strength and compassion of our soldiers.

Iraqis respect strength, says Yon. They know American soldiers are
"great-hearted warriors" who vanquish the Al Qaeda terror gangs that "raped
too many women and boys, cut off too many heads, brought drugs into too many

But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier
helping rebuild a clinic or a school or a neighborhood. They learned the
American soldier is not only the most dangerous man in the world, but the
best man too. That's what turned defeat into victory.

Here is the true, untold story of the American soldier and the courage and
values that are bringing victory for America--and Iraq. 

From the Publisher

Michael Yon changed my mind about the war in Iraq, by making me understand
it for the first time.

From the very beginning I was against the war. I thought it would be a
disaster, another Vietnam. And until I had the privilege of working on this
book with Michael I was always for immediate pull-out: why should one more
American die for a doomed effort?

Michael--who is as close to totally non-political as anyone I know--showed
me two things. First, because I judged by Vietnam, the war of my youth, I
had radically underestimated what American soldiers could do. I knew they
could blow away any regular opponent on any battlefield. But wage a
counterinsurgency against an enemy with broad support in the population? Win
the "hearts and minds," to use the Vietnam era phrase that now can be used
only ironically? That was asking too much, I thought.

I was 100 percent wrong. Today's American soldiers excel at
counterinsurgency, because they excel at the most important thing: winning
over the people by inspiring them with their own courage and compassion,
discipline and determination. Reading this book is like watching the movie
Apocalypse Now, but in an alternate universe in which the opposite always
happens. Every time our soldiers get into an incredibly tense situation with
some Iraqis who might be friends or might be enemies or murderers, some
situation in which what's needed is amazing calm and courage to keep things
from blowing up and ending in a blood bath, our guys pull it off!

Just wait until you read the Chapter "High Noon" (my favorite), the story of
the American soldiers who have to arrest a corrupt but politically popular
Iraqi police chief we had put in office in the first place because he had
been a real hero in fighting the terrorists. He had to be removed by
Americans to show the Iraqis we really did believe in the rule of law. The
whole thing could have blown up into a one-town civil war with hundreds dead
on both sides. Won't tell you how it ends, but you will be amazed and very

The other thing Michael helped me understand is the difference between
terrorists we just have to kill (often foreigners, or local criminals) and
local insurgents we should have been working with all along. For almost five
years I could not tell from watching the news--and certainly not from
listening to the Administration--who the enemy was, what they wanted or why
they were fighting. Not surprisingly it turns out that understanding the
various people we were fighting--some of whom have since become great
allies--was the key to winning the war, which we are now clearly doing.

I am convinced that everything I once thought about the war was wrong. The
truth is we are doing a great thing in Iraq, most of the Iraqi people really
do want to be a united democratic nation and already consider America their
greatest friend and ally. It would be a crime to turn tail now and abandon
them now.

I owe all that to Michael's book, which is why I believe publishing Moment
of Truth in Iraq may be the best thing I have ever done for my country. 


Here is another review of the book:


Be the first on your block to read this book!  I'm still reading about
earlier wars.


Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto


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