The Good Soldiers
Brunswick, VIC: Scribe Publications, 2009
Paperback 304pp RRP $24.99
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, June 2023
David Finkel spent eight months embedded with 2-16 Battalion, nicknamed the Rangers during the period April 2007 to April 2008. The battalion was part of George W Bush’s 2007 ‘surge’ in Iraq.
The optimistic Rangers departed the United States determined they were ‘going to make a difference’ where others had failed. With an area of operations in one of Baghdad’s most notorious neighbourhood, their naivety does not take long to evaporate – with the impact of the loss of their fellow soldiers and the ever-hardening and callous attitude of those residents they were trying to protect taking its toll.
Finkel has the trust of the Battalion. They know he’ll report what he sees. There are graphic descriptions of how soldiers died and extremely detailed reports of the injuries they suffered. One member was left with only one limb - half an arm. Finkel could not believe this soldier’s stoicism and visited him in an Army hospital in the US just before the soldier lost his fight for life.
The stress on the Rangers continued to build with the nightmares and other manifestations of tortured minds being described as if they came from a counsellor’s notes. Finkel proudly claims that any event he did not witness was described on the basis of interviews with the participants. There has been no glorification of war or the motives of the soldiers. This is war as it is, and the varying degrees that individuals coped is there to be read.
This is a riveting, albeit shocking account of the Iraqi war. It is something that all politicians should read before they next commit their country’s young men to combat.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.