No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah

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Overview

"This is the face of war as only those who have fought it can describe it."–Senator John McCain

Fallujah: Iraq’s most dangerous city unexpectedly emerged as the major battleground of the Iraqi insurgency. For twenty months, one American battalion after another tried to quell the violence, culminating in a bloody, full-scale assault. Victory came at a terrible price: 151 Americans and thousands of Iraqis were left dead.

The epic battle for Fallujah revealed the startling ...

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No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah

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Overview

"This is the face of war as only those who have fought it can describe it."–Senator John McCain

Fallujah: Iraq’s most dangerous city unexpectedly emerged as the major battleground of the Iraqi insurgency. For twenty months, one American battalion after another tried to quell the violence, culminating in a bloody, full-scale assault. Victory came at a terrible price: 151 Americans and thousands of Iraqis were left dead.

The epic battle for Fallujah revealed the startling connections between policy and combat that are a part of the new reality of war.

The Marines had planned to slip into Fallujah “as soft as fog.” But after four American contractors were brutally murdered, President Bush ordered an attack on the city–against the advice of the Marines. The assault sparked a political firestorm, and the Marines were forced to withdraw amid controversy and confusion–only to be ordered a second time to take a city that had become an inferno of hate and the lair of the archterrorist al-Zarqawi.

Based on months spent with the battalions in Fallujah and hundreds of interviews at every level–senior policymakers, negotiators, generals, and soldiers and Marines on the front lines–No True Glory is a testament to the bravery of the American soldier and a cautionary tale about the complex–and often costly–interconnected roles of policy, politics, and battle in the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
No True Glory is the best book on the U.S. military in Iraq to emerge so far.
—Tom Ricks
Booklist
A remarkably detailed, vivid firsthand account of the American military experience. West’s focus is on the frontline, putting the reader at the negotiating table with U.S. military commanders and Fallujan sheiks, imams, and rebel leaders; in the barracks; and on the street, fighting hand to hand, house to house, in some of the fiercest battles of the Fallujah campaign and the Iraq war.
LA Times Book Review
West describes the fury of the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi in a style that makes him part historian, part novelist the grunts' Homer.
Christian Science Monitor
West successfully brings the war back home in all its agonizing and illuminating detail. From the combat stories of those on the ground all the way up to the White House, West is uniquely placed to write a chronicle of the fight. The narrative truly shines.
Washington Post Book World
Exhaustively reported...West paints a picture of highly capable Marines struggling to make the best of untenable political circumstances.
Library Journal
Himself a marine in Vietnam, West was author of the multi-award-winning The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the United States Marines. Now he covers the bitter struggle to take Fallujah. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“While many other correspondents have ventured to the front lines in Iraq, few have stayed as long as West, or brought as much knowledge of military affairs to their work. The result is a book that … features amazing accounts of heroism, brutality, perseverance, and gallows humor.”—Max Boot, The Weekly Standard

"No True Glory is the gripping account of the valor of the Marines in the fiercest urban combat since Hue. Yet, the even-handed description of the vacillation regarding policy will likely please neither some of our senior officers nor the White House."—Former Secretary of Defense, James R. Schlesinger

"No True Glory is the best book on the U.S. military in Iraq to emerge so far."—Tom Ricks of The Washington Post

“The finest chronicle of the strategy behind battle and the fighting during battle that I've ever read!"—General Carl E. Mundy, former Commandant of the Marine Corps

"A remarkably detailed, vivid firsthand account of the American military experience…. West’s focus is on the “frontline,” putting the reader at the negotiating table with U.S. military commanders and Fallujan sheiks, imams, and rebel leaders; in the barracks; and on the street, fighting hand to hand, house to house, in some of the fiercest battles of the Fallujah campaign and the Iraq war."—Booklist

“West describes the fury of the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi in a style that makes him part historian, part novelist — the grunts' Homer.”—LA Times Book Review

“West successfully brings the war back home in all its agonizing and illuminating detail. From the combat stories of those on the ground all the way up to the White House, West [is] uniquely placed to write a chronicle of the fight. The narrative truly shines."—The Christian Science Monitor

“Exhaustively reported...West paints a picture of highly capable Marines struggling to make the best of untenable political circumstances.”—Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739323014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 5.44 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Bing West is the author of several books, including the award-winning The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the United States Marines and the Vietnam classic The Village. He served as a Marine in Vietnam and was assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan. He lives in Rhode Island. Visit his website at www.westwrite.com.

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Read an Excerpt

No True Glory


By Bing West

Random House

Bing West
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0553804022


Chapter One

1

"What kind of people loot dirt?"

Throughout most of Iraq, the latter days of April, 2003 was a time of great joy. Saddam's murderous regime had collapsed; the shooting and bombing had stopped; and people could go anywhere they pleased and say anything they wanted. In Baghdad, the American forces were greeted with smiles, waves and shouts of joy. On the eastern bank of the Euphrates near the French embassy, wealthy Sunni suburbanites--anxious to win favor--led American Marines to the estates of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and high-level generals. When the giant Stalinesque statue of Saddam, arm raised and mustache bristling, fell in Firdos Square, Americans and Iraqis alike were pulling on the ropes. April 2003 was an interlude of good cheer, reminiscent of the liberation of Paris in 1944--a moment in time when people forgot their wants and their fears and flocked to the streets to cheer the soldiers.

In Fallujah, though, the residents did not cheer when paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division drove into the city in late April. In Baghdad, looters as numerous as locusts had stripped every government building, even carting away bricks. In Fallujah, the windows and electric fixtures at the Baath headquarters at the Government Center remained intact. Most looting was confined to the industrial sector, and only the poor people who lived south of Highway 10 greeted the Americans with smiles. Across the Euphrates south of the city, the large estates of prominent Baathists and army officers stood empty but untouched, securely guarded by the curlicue Baathist symbol on the courtyard gates. Saddam's apparatchiks did not consider themselves defeated. They were in temporary hiding and Fallujah was still their bastion, untouched by the war and unbowed by the presence of a few hundred American soldiers.

At dusk on April 28, 2003--Saddam Hussein's birthday--a raucous mob of about a hundred men, women, and children pushed their way into the courtyard of the mayor's office, where the 82nd had set up headquarters. The paratroopers had no warning that an anti-American demonstration was planned and had no idea what the Iraqis were protesting or why. The mob accused the surprised American soldiers of spying on women with night-seeing binoculars and of showing pornography to children. Using translators and loudspeakers, a group of paratroopers warned away the mob. The crowd walked several blocks to another neighborhood, where they harassed another detachment of paratroopers. Several men in the crowd were firing AK-47s into the air, which the veteran paratroopers interpreted not as a threat but as bravado. They told them to move on.

The mob then walked to a schoolhouse to harass another platoon of paratroopers, who were sleeping inside. It was well after nine and dark. The crowd had a new demand: the soldiers had to leave immediately so that the children could go to school the next day. As the mob pressed up to the schoolyard wall, three Iraqis on a nearby roof started shooting their rifles.

Inside the schoolhouse a squad leader, convinced he was under fire, radioed his company commander for permission to return fire. At the same time another sergeant radioed the same request. Believing his men were under attack, the company commander gave the order, and the keyed-up paratroopers unleashed a fusillade of automatic weapons fire. In the next several minutes fifteen men, women, and children were killed and dozens were wounded. None of the paratroopers were injured.

The next day seven major Western news outlets sent reporters from Baghdad to cover the story. Most filed similar stories about a terrible tragedy caused by a sudden flare-up in the dark. Several Iraqis had fired weapons, they reported, but while the Iraqis said they had been shooting in the air, the American soldiers said they had been the targets. The reporters wrote that they did see graffiti written in English on the walls of the school where the soldiers were sleeping, disparaging the Iraqis with slogans like "I love pork" and a drawing of a camel with the words Iraqi Cab Company below it.

The press focused on the human cost of the incident, the clash of cultures, and the bitterness the casualties had caused throughout the city. The shootings, according to the news accounts, would unleash a cycle of retribution: more deaths and more revenge attacks. But they gave no explanation as to why or how Fallujans had mounted an anti-American protest on Saddam's birthday, just days after the regime had collapsed, at a time when most Iraqis were celebrating.

Six months later Jamil Karaba, a Fallujah resident, was arrested after he was overheard bragging about organizing the mob and planting gunmen among the protesters.

Called the "destruction-maker," Karaba was an alcoholic former Baathist with several prior arrests and with ties to the gangster element in town. Provoking an incident was a centuries-old guerrilla stratagem for turning the people against the soldiery. And this time, as so often in the past, it had worked.

The next day a screaming mob carried on its shoulders the mufti Sheikh Jamal--the senior imam who interpreted Islamic laws--to the mayor's office.

"All Americans leave Iraq!" he shouted, as the crowd roared in agreement.





Cities acquire caricature, if not character. New York is frenetic and brash; San Francisco is liberal and laid-back; Los Angeles is imbued with glitter and celebrity. Ask Iraqis about Fallujah, and they roll their eyes: Fallujah is strange, sullen, wild-eyed, badass, just plain mean. Fallujans don't like strangers, which includes anyone not homebred. Wear lipstick or Western-style long hair, sip a beer or listen to an American CD, and you risk the whip or a beating.

For centuries the city had traded with--and stolen from--merchants who were headed east to Baghdad. The frontier town bordering an open desert attracted outcasts and criminals. In the early twentieth century European travelers learned not to tarry in Fallujah. After Iraq won its independence in 1959, Fallujah became a source of enforcers for the ruling Sunni-dominated Baath Party. The city's tough reputation continued under Saddam.

Laid out in a square grid of wide boulevards, Fallujah comprised two thousand blocks of courtyard walls, tenements, two-story concrete houses, and squalid alleyways. Half-completed houses, garbage heaps, and wrecks of old cars cluttered every neighborhood. The six lanes of Highway 10 ran straight through the center of the two-mile-long city, from a traffic cloverleaf on the eastern end to the Brooklyn Bridge, over the Euphrates, to the west. South of Highway 10 sprawled the decaying buildings and waste pits of a decrepit industrial zone. On an aerial map the layout of straight streets and dense blocks of houses faintly resembled Manhattan, giving rise to nicknames. Next to the industrial zone was Queens, a poor section of shabby three- and four-room houses. North of Highway 10 were the spacious houses of East Manhattan and Midtown, with its established mosques. The Government Center was in Midtown, while the old souk and marketplace, called the Jolan, were next to the Euphrates to the west. Along the main street were the billboards, restaurants, repair shops, and other struggling efforts of a merchant class. It was a city of monochrome color, without architectural flair.

With forty-seven mosques in its neighborhoods and fifty more in the neighboring villages, Fallujah was called "the city of a hundred mosques." For decades the city had been the repository of the extreme Wahhabi, or Salafi, traditions flowing in from Saudi Arabia. Saddam, distrusting Fallujans' fundamentalism, had restricted their movements and used them as his cat's paw.

Although 60 percent of Iraqis were Shiites, the 20 percent who were Sunnis had held the political power for centuries. When Saddam's army was defeated and thrown out of Kuwait in 1991, the Shiites in southern Iraq, encouraged by ill-conceived American exhortations, had revolted. To crush them, Saddam incited sectarian hatred. The Shiites, he warned the Sunnis, were blasphemers who had to be killed to preserve the true Muslim religion. Imams in Fallujah and other Sunni cities led the faithful in the chant: "Our blood and souls to redeem you, O Islam." Saddam's army, led by Sunni officers, crushed the Shiite uprising.

Just before the Americans drove into Fallujah in April 2003, the mufti Jamal, the senior Sunni cleric in the city, warned the residents that the American invaders would turn Iraq over to the Shiites. The radical clerics were calling President Bush "Hulagu II," a reference to the conquest of ancient Baghdad by the Mongol leader Hulagu, assisted by a Shiite leader who betrayed the ruling caliph. The Americans, the mufti told the citizens, were modern-day Mongols--infidel invaders and occupiers.





Fallujah's pro-Coalition mayor, Taha Bedawi, could not stand up against the anger that the shooting had provoked. He asked the paratroopers to leave the city, explaining that revenge attacks were inevitable. Maintaining peace between tribes depended upon exchanging an eye for an eye, one life for another. If an insult went unavenged, the family and tribe suffered humiliation and were seen as weak, thus encouraging further attacks. While the mayor was talking, a group of men gathered outside under banners that read "US killers we'll kick you out."

The 82nd Airborne units withdrew on schedule in early May and were replaced by a company from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. In the following weeks, although the American soldiers kept a low profile, repeated firefights erupted. The regiment, assigned to patrol more than a thousand square kilometers, could devote fewer than two hundred mounted soldiers to Fallujah and its environs.

Every day on the dusty brown courtyard walls along Highway 10, more anti-American slogans were scrawled: "God bless the holy fighters of the city of mosques." "Kill the infidel Americans." "USA leave our country."

The JTF decided to make Fallujah the "most occupied city in Iraq," replacing the two hundred soldiers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with fifteen hundred soldiers from the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division.

The Fallujah campaign of the 3rd ID had two prongs--the carrot and the stick. The "stick," or force, focused on raids. The 2nd Brigade mounted raids at night on houses that had been identified by informers or by the OGA--Other Government Agency, aka the CIA. During the daytime the 3rd ID conducted large-scale sweeps to search for weapons and arms dealers, locking down whole sections of the city for several hours at a time.

The armored presence of the 3rd ID was intimidating. During the daylight hours things were usually calm, although Iraqi police often turned their backs on the Americans and children were as likely to throw rocks as to laugh and ask for candy. The men rarely smiled. Yet the children were friendly south of Highway 10. The brigade's executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Eric Wesley, and New York Times reporter Michael Gordon felt safe enough to walk into the old Jolan quarter and talk with Iraqis in the crowded souk. The Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran ate lunch at the Haji Hussein, a popular kebab restaurant.

The raids were getting results, but whenever the wrong house was searched, the entry tactic--smashing down a door in the middle of the night--frightened a family and created more hostile Fallujans. LtCol Wesley called the raid successes "linear," like picking apples in a vast orchard one by one.

The brigade would have preferred to have "exponential" success, which involved the "carrot": winning over Fallujan hearts and minds by infusing jobs, repairing infrastructure, and building relationships with the mayor, the sheikhs, and the clerics. The Americans would provide the city's leaders with money and contracts. They in turn would reach out to the unemployed and disaffected, reducing the appeal of the insurgents and attracting recruits for the local security forces. If the Americans could show that they wanted to help improve the living conditions and would leave intact the city leadership and traditions, the theory went, then most youths would not support the insurgents.

Bargaining went on with the mayor, the sheikhs, and the city elders. The brigade called this a "relational approach"; you do something for me, and I do something for you.

"Let's be reasonable about this," LtCol Wesley told the city elders. "You have a stake in a better future, and we as American soldiers are here only to help you. We have no designs upon this city."

Whenever the nighttime attacks decreased, the curfew was lifted. Amnesty and cash rewards were offered for weapons, albeit with scant results. The humvee replaced the tank and armored personnel carrier as the routine patrol vehicle, reducing noise and damage to the streets. As long as progress seemed to be made, the brigade would show the velvet glove rather than the iron fist.

Sorting out who among the tens of thousands of males was a committed enemy, though, and gauging the depth of the population's hostility proved vexing. The soldiers spent days with bulldozers and rakes constructing a first-class soccer field downtown. When they finished and returned to base, a mob gathered at the soccer field, ripped down the goalie nets, scraped the dirt from the field, and heaped garbage on the site.

"What kind of people loot dirt?" a soldier asked.

Inside the city were enemies determined to prevent ordinary families from ever seeing that infidel invaders had improved their lives.

In July a massive internal explosion blew out the walls and demolished the roof of the Al Hassan Mosque, killing the imam and several other Iraqis. As a disaster crew removed the bodies, a crowd gathered to blame the Americans. "There is no God but Allah, America is the enemy of God," they chanted, as others screamed that an invisible aircraft had dropped a bomb.

The situation threatened to escalate into a citywide riot. Ra'ad Hussein Abed, a city official who spoke good English and hoped eventually to be appointed mayor by the city elders, approached LtCol Wesley. He arranged a meeting with Sheikh Ghazi, one of the wealthiest and most powerful traders in the city, to try to defuse the tension.

Continues...


Excerpted from No True Glory by Bing West
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

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(24)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2006

    Made Me cry

    I recently got a copy of this book. My son was in the Marines. He was in that fight in Fallujah, He was wounded on April 26 2004. He lost his arm and had other injuries. He is blessed to be alive. He won't say he is lucky he says God brought him home. I am so glad someone wrote this book It was a living hell for my son but I am so happy he got to come home.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2006

    The Real Deal

    Hard, cold, honest and heartwrenching narrative about the war in Iraq and, in particular, the fighting that took place in the city of Fallujah, and the United States Marines who fought and died there. If your basic understanding of the war comes to you via the morning newspaper or the six o'clock evening news, reading No True Glory will bring you a much needed dose of reality. It is a terrible tale of the honor, courage, sacrific and brotherhood of U.S. Marines that can only be told by another Marine. Bing West does this admirably, with style, grace, and clarity. It is beautifully and accurately written by one who knows his way around a battlefield. Buy it. Read it. And go thank a Marine for what he or she has done for you lately.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013

    Awsome

    This book is good because it is base on a true story. My dad is in the army. He got deployed in febuary to afghganastan. He is the best dad i ever had. He is a true hero. My dad is strong and works really hard. He buys me and my brother toys,food,books,board games,and all that good stuff. My dads father use to be in the united states marine corps. We call him big daddy. My dad keeps us really safe. He gives us shelter and all the other good stuff that keeps us alive. My dad is always there for me. He is always there for me when i need him. We do lots of fun stuff. Me,my mom,my brother,and my dad goes geocashing. Me and my brother call it treasure hunting. I miss you dad love you and i hope days go past fast because i really want to go back to geocashing and i am helping my mom out. My back hurts from lifting heavy stuff. I hope you face time us. My nook goes to my dad email so if say anything bad about me think again. My dad will get over here real quick and beat you up from afghaganastan. Love you dad. Love tyler caffrey

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2005

    A heartbreaking look back...

    This story, though not as extremeley complex in its description of events as let's say 'ChickenHawk' or 'Black Hawk Down' ever was, but the tales of the men who died were heartwrenching. Despite the brief detail, it was just so sad to realize that men and women alike die everyday for people they never know. I highly recommend that you read this book. It is guaranteed to enlighten you on the horrors of the Iraqi War. It certainly did for me.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    Pulls no punches

    As a former Marine I read this book with great interest. No added bravado or BS. Just Marines doing the job. It also shows how stupid civilian leadership can be. Marines are not political pawns. We are for one thing. To close with and destroy the enemy. Nothing else.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2012

    Been there

    This book gives readers a very good idea of what it was like. The city of Kharma was still home to insurgents in 2007, and the city of Fallujah wa vastly different when visited in 2005 and 2007. It helps the public understand the sacrifice tha we paid for our duty to country, but more importantly, for each other.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Fallujah

    In No True Glory, Bing West shows us what the soldiers and Marines went through in the battles for Fallujah and how the triumphed. No True Glory is a well researched and a touching story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2009

    Very good read!

    I found this book to be very captivating. The author definitely did his research. I would highly recommend this book for a first hand account of the Fallujah fight.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2006

    Reality

    A gripping account of what a real dog fight our soldiers were in and I was amazed at their devotion to duty and each other. It was probably the best account I've read of what an up close and personal urban battle is like.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2005

    Good History Book

    As a former marine and someone with a degree in Military History, I found 'No True Glory' to be a very well written book. The author truly covers the incidents at Fallujah, from Washington to the local sheiks, very well. As history books go, this one rates very highly in my mind. The book contains some great info on what was going on in Fallujah between the local leaders and the Marine commanders, months before the battle took place. I found it really comforting to know that there are so many Iraqis that want to help us out in removing the terrorists. The only reason why I cannot give this book 5 stars is that the real battle of Fallujah takes place during the last 50 pages of the book. While these last 50 pages are worth the wait, I was hoping for a little more. Stories in the last 50 pages, like ¿the House from Hell¿, read like the scenes from 'BlackHawk Down' and it is very hard to put the book down. I just wished that there was more of that in the book. So, just as a quick review...Awesome history book that details the whole picture of what went on from Washington to the dirt alleys in Fallujah but could have had more marines' remembrances.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Enlightening and moving book.

    This was a frontline account of the battle for Fallujah. I had a friend there during this time and he mentioned this book, so I read it. I'm pleased to say that I understand better the conflict that occurred there. It was very frustrating to read how over and over again the Marines were practically sacrificed for the sake of politics. There was dialogue from the soldiers, descriptions of their battles, and a glimpse into their lives as they waited for orders to take Fallujah or to fall back. I feel more educated having read this book, and of course, feel immense pride in our armed forces.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2006

    Good Analysis of Iraq War

    This book examines in detail the battles of Fallujah, and, to a lesser extent, Ramadi. It pulls no punches in criticizing the confused lines of command and communication.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2005

    when politics interferes with war

    An excellent account of the battle from the gorund up. You truly develop an idea of what the grunts on the ground are going through and how our policy-makers could learn from listing to them. Alot of bloodshed could probably have been avoided by listening to men like Gen Mattis. Its a shame we can't have political leaders like him.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2011

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