Saturday, September 19, 2009

Recent Reading: Reporter Rick Atkinson's Iraq Invasion Chronicle

Most readers won't recognize Rick Atkinson's name, but they are likely to know the subject of his recent book, an army officer named Gen. David Petraeus.

Gen. Petraeus is one of the principal figures in Atkinson's book, In the Company of Soldiers, an "instant history" of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Atkinson, a Washington Post reporter, was one of hundreds of embedded reporters who went to war.

Unlike the other journalists, Atkinson was embedded with the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus. As a "fly on the wall" in Petraeus's command, Atkinson provides a close-up portrait of this tough-minded and highly competitive officer, man who went on to become the top U.S. military official in Iraq.

Atkinson, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his World War II history, An Army at Dawn, provides a top-down view of the invasion, giving readers sense of how modern warfare is conducted from the staff level.

That's interesting, of course, though Atkinson's position keeps him well away from the front lines. That means he loses much of the emotional intensity of combat, details that can be found in many other Iraq war books.

Nevertheless, Atkinson is a strong reporter and his observations of Petraeus and his staff appear to be accurate and thoughtful. On that basis alone, In the Company of Soldiers is worth reading.

1 comment:

Tulsan said...

Genius at work!

From TPM today:

In an infamous moment at the Values Voter Summit over the weekend, captured on video by Dave Weigel, Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) chief of staff Michael Schwartz made the case against pornography. "All pornography is homosexual pornography," said Schwartz, quoting an ex-gay friend of his, "because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards."

Schwartz then explained the side benefit of this finding -- that if boys know pornography will make them gay, they'll never touch it, taking advantage of what Schwartz sees as a natural homophobia. "And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he's going to want to get a copy of Playboy?" he said. "I'm pretty sure he'll lose interest. That's the last thing he wants!"