"They Will Have to Die Now is the story of what happened after most Americans stopped paying attention to Iraq…It will take its place among the very best war writing of the past two decades." George Packer, author of Our Man and The Assassins’ Gate
James Verini arrived in Iraq in the summer of 2016 to write about life in the Islamic State. He stayed to cover the jihadis’ last great stand, the Battle of Mosul, not knowing it would go on for nearly a year, nor that it would become, in the words of the Pentagon, "the most significant urban combat since WWII."
They Will Have to Die Now takes the reader into the heart of the conflict against the most lethal insurgency of our time. We see unspeakable violence, improbable humanity, and occasional humor. We meet an Iraqi major fighting his way through the city with a bad leg; a general who taunts snipers; an American sergeant who removes his glass eye to unnerve his troops; a pair of Moslawi brothers who welcomed the Islamic State, believing, as so many Moslawis did, that it might improve their shattered lives. Verini also relates the rich history of Iraq, and of Mosul, one of the most beguiling cities in the Middle East.
James Verini is a Contributing Writer at the New York Times Magazine and National Geographic. He has also written for The New Yorker, The Atavist, and other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award and a George Polk Award.
They Will Have to Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate 5 out of 5based on
21 days ago
I first learned of “They Will Have to Die Now” from hearing James Verini interviewed by Ari Shapiro on NPR a month ago and found him incredibly well-spoken. Having published a novel with Mosul and Isis as its backstory, I was eager to read it, and when I did I was figuratively blown away by the story and the prose. Jonathan Franzen is right; this book is a thing of terrible beauty. I cannot imagine how harrowing, heart-rending, and puzzling it must have been for James Verini to report from those battlefronts, and how he managed to get Iraqis to talk to him or even simply tolerate his presence, but he succeeded well beyond expectation (or at least mine) to beautifully convey context, locale, character, mood, history, pathos, and all sorts of ironies. Even though most families had lost fathers and sons to Isis, many of whom were noncombatants, the nonchalance and fatalism exhibited by the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters and civilians alike as jihadis bombarded them astounded me. Verini conveys a vivd sense of place as the ancient city (one of the oldest on earth) is bashed into rubble, block by block, and how much privation its residents suffered over the ten-month campaign to eject the Islamists. Many of those who did not die fighting or by summary execution simply melted away to rise up again. Like Darth Vader, they will be back.
I wished his book had been available when I was writing my novel (Turkey Shoot), as its factuality would have grounded my story so much better and his writing style would have inspired me to make my prose more vivid. I am so grateful that he bivouacked in that chaos and lived to tell about it. Everyone who wants to understand what happened in Iraq after the US rent it apart needs to read this scrupulous and well-grounded reportage that reads like a novel. It will make you weep.
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