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« Book Review - Apocalypse Burning by Mel Odom | Main| The May issue of the LotusUserGroup.org Developer Tips newsletter is now out... »

Book Review - Chasing Ghosts : A Soldier's Fight for America from Baghdad to Washington by Paul Rieckhoff

Category Book Reviews
Like many Americans, I've been less-than-pleased with how the Iraqi war has played out.  The reasons for going into action were likely fabricated, and now we find ourselves trapped in a morass with no easy way out.  After reading Chasing Ghosts : A Soldier's Fight for America from Baghdad to Washington by Paul Rieckhoff, I'm more convinced than ever that our political leadership has completely failed both Iraq *and* America.

Rieckhoff was a National Guardsman who signed up knowing that he'd likely see action in the Middle East.  He was committed to the cause and was ready to help the Iraqi people realize their freedom under a democracy.  What happened was far different.  He and 38 other ill-trained soldiers were put in charge of protecting a hot zone that included a hospital where they had set up base.  Grossly understaffed with faulty equipment, they ended up doing the best they could with what they had, risking their lives on a daily basis.  The leadership in command there seemed to be completely out of touch with the reality of the war in the streets, and the politicians at home were presenting a view of the Iraqi situation that was diametrically opposite of what the troops were facing.  After having their tours extended numerous times with little warning, he finally made it home after nearly a year of service in the heart of Baghdad.  His view and outlook on life upon his return had totally changed, and he decided that he had to be a voice to speak out for the servicemen and women who were on the front lines of a war that was only getting worse.  He offered his services to both presidential candidates during the 2004 election, but no one wanted to confront those issues head on.  His ongoing mission is to raise the public awareness of the *real* Iraqi conflict, and to help support those who have returned from those horrid conditions with little fanfare and nearly no aid.

It's likely that you'll view this book through your own preconceptions and political beliefs, and make some general assumptions about the validity of his position.  Conservatives (where I would fall in the spectrum) might label him a traitor and liar, while liberals might hold him up as the complete reality of Iraq.  The truth, as in all areas of life, falls somewhere between those two extremes.  As for me, I find it nearly impossible to dismiss his account as fabricated or exaggerated.  There are too many other voices, too many other high-ranking officials, who have come out and made the same claims as Rieckhoff.  Not having served in the military, I can't bring any insight to bear on his story.  But it rings true to this reader.  We find ourselves in another Vietnam, fighting an enemy that looks like those we're trying to protect, being run by politicians and leaders who seemingly don't want to win.  And at this stage, there are no easy answers to allow ourselves to exit the war...

If you're already against the war in Iraq, this book will only solidify your opposition.  But if you're on the fence or a staunch supporter, I would challenge you to read this book from someone who's been there and done that.  Your view of the "superior force of the US military" will not emerge unscathed...

Comments

Gravatar Image1 - He tells a compelling story, to be sure...

Gravatar Image2 - The author was interviewed on NPR today too...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5382507

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