Good Soldiers
by Finkel, David

1 April 6, 2007
2 April 14, 2007
3 May 7, 2007
4 June 30, 2007
5 July 12, 2007
6 July 23, 2007
7 September 22, 2007
8 October 28, 2007
9 December 11, 2007
10 January 25, 2008
11 February 27, 2008
12 March 29, 2008
13 April 10, 2008
Appendix: The 2-16 Roster of Soldiers305(12)
A Note on Sources and Methods317(2)

Relates the author's experiences as an embedded reporter with Battalion 2-16, telling the story of the surge from the perspective of someone who observed the battalion soldiers on a daily basis for a period of eight months.

David Finkel is a senior writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security and the national enterprise editor at The Washington Post. He is the recipient of the MacArther "Genius" Fellowship. Finkel won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series of stories about U.S.-funded democracy efforts in Yemen. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Finkel chronicles the work of the Second Battalion, Sixteenth Infantry Regiment, during a 14-month tour in Iraq. The only real enthusiast for the war was commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kautzlarich, but the rest of the battalion mostly approached the tour in the classic spirit of doing a job. A dirty job it was, too, as more sophisticated roadside bombs grew capable of destroying an armored Hummer and most of the men inside it. (The battalion lost 15 killed and many more maimed for life.) Most of the men ended by describing the war, the Iraqis, and the country in strings of four-letter words, but they had made a real effort to hold down civilian casualties while keeping the insurgents on the defensive, at which they may have achieved some modest success in 2007 and 2008. A memorable portrait of soldiers good enough to do their duty in a bad and ugly war, this is a superior addition to the Iraq War literature. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Did the much-vaunted surge of American troops in Iraq work? Yes, said George W. Bush. A soldierly response differed: "I've had enough of this bullshit."So details Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post writer Finkel in this excellent study of soldiers under fire. In January 2007, Bush ordered a surge that involved flooding the Baghdad and other key locations with soldiers to quell anti-American partisan activity. In the field were troops who had seen time in Iraq before, had gone home and been sent back. Some were from a battalion stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., and they had the good fortune to be commanded by a smart West Pointer who had earned his Ranger parachute and had served in the first Gulf War and Afghanistan. His troops affectionately dubbed Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, "the Lost Kauz." The sobriquet proved fitting, as Finkel chronicles, and though Kauzlarich did his best to prevent harm from befalling his charges, he could not stop the IEDs, suicide attacks and stray shots that inevitably followed their movements. The author writes with the you-are-there immediacy of Richard Tregaskis's Guadalcanal Diary (1943), taking the reader into the field, where, against a $100 explosive device, a "$150,000 Humvee might as well have been constructed of lace." Finkel also depicts the gruesome aftermath of such explosions: "All four limbs burned away, bony stumps visible. Superior portion of cranium burned away," reads a battalion doctor's death report. "No further exam possible due to degree of charring." Aspects of the surge, the author writes, were merely rhetorical. Others were unquestionably successful, particularly the reduction in the number of attacks on Americans-successes to be chalked up to the bravery of the men and women under fire, and in no way, Finkel says, to anything happening in Washington. Says Kauz of one action that serves as an epigram to the entire enterprise, "It's fucked up. But you did the right thing."A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear.Agent: Melanie Jackson/Melanie Jackson Agency Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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