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What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It

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In this modern-day successor to the Vietnam classic Everything We Had, award-winning investigative reporter Trish Wood offers a gritty, authentic, and uncensored history of the war in Iraq, as told by the American soldiers who are fighting it. Includes 8 pages of photographs and 1 map.


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In this modern-day successor to the Vietnam classic Everything We Had, award-winning investigative reporter Trish Wood offers a gritty, authentic, and uncensored history of the war in Iraq, as told by the American soldiers who are fighting it. Includes 8 pages of photographs and 1 map.

30 review for What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Oceana2602

    Roughly divided into four chapters (Winners and Losers, Bringing them America, Don't Look Away and Nor Fear the Dangers of the Day), this story lets the soldiers who fought in Iraq tell their story in their own words. The interviewees are very expertly, led by questions, but the questions themselves aren't documented. This makes it all the more valuable, in my opinion, because it emphasis that these tales aren't just some stories, but memories, life-shaping impressions, that these soldiers were k Roughly divided into four chapters (Winners and Losers, Bringing them America, Don't Look Away and Nor Fear the Dangers of the Day), this story lets the soldiers who fought in Iraq tell their story in their own words. The interviewees are very expertly, led by questions, but the questions themselves aren't documented. This makes it all the more valuable, in my opinion, because it emphasis that these tales aren't just some stories, but memories, life-shaping impressions, that these soldiers were kind enough to share with us. Trish Wood has selected all sorts of people for her interviews - there are men who joined the army because everyone in their family did, others who were on drugs and at a dead-end in their life and needed a way out. There are anti-war soldiers, and others who are convinced that there were WMDs at some point. There are people who got bored by the daily routine of raiding houses, and others who admit that they love fighting, that they cannot imagine living their lives without that daily uncertainty and adrenaline. The book never judges, not in the subtext (that would be the subtext hidden in those questions that aren't there), nor in the introductions to the book and the different chapters. It lets everyone tell their story, because every story is as valuable as the others. And that's what this book is - valuable. I honestly feel that everyone, EVERYONE, should read this book. PLEASE read this book. No matter if you are an American or a European or you live on the Northpole - please read this book. I sure as hell don't care if you are pro-war (is there such a thing?) or anti-war (what does that even mean?) - you cannot deny that this war existed, still exists, and that too many people lost their life their. I think we owe it to them to hear their story. From the many books I read on this subject, this is, without any doubt, the most important one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Anyone with a "Support Our Troops" ribbon on their vehicle should read this book. It's neither anti-war nor pro-war, and while readers may well find their own opinions about the Iraq war unchallenged, it will surely deepen their understanding of what that war means for those who have been fighting it. Here in the words of about 35 soldiers, mostly men and mostly marines, are accounts of being under fire, taking casualties, witnessing bombings, dealing with loss, anxiety, and grief, while maintai Anyone with a "Support Our Troops" ribbon on their vehicle should read this book. It's neither anti-war nor pro-war, and while readers may well find their own opinions about the Iraq war unchallenged, it will surely deepen their understanding of what that war means for those who have been fighting it. Here in the words of about 35 soldiers, mostly men and mostly marines, are accounts of being under fire, taking casualties, witnessing bombings, dealing with loss, anxiety, and grief, while maintaining a perspective that allows them to continue from day to day - staying the course. It is impossible not to be moved by some of these stories. In some soldiers the initial idealism remains tried but uncompromised. In others, there is anger and disillusionment. In still others there is the welcome intensity of fighting itself. Among even the ambivalent, there is often pride taken in jobs well done and difficult objectives achieved. A frequent theme in their stories is the varying ability to perceive the Iraqis as fellow human beings or as so utterly foreign as to be beyond empathy. The reader quickly learns that it is inappropriate to generalize about the fighting forces in Iraq. As one of them says, if you ask a hundred different soldiers why they are there, you'll get a hundred different answers. What the book speaks to is the need for Americans - regardless of their feelings about the war itself - to understand the immense toll that it takes on the mental and emotional health of individual soldiers, and that many return in great need of healing. For a further understanding of post-traumatic stress syndrome among those who have served in the military during wartime, read the books of Jonathan Shay.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Scott Meehan

    This book is a compelling, vivid and somber account by 29 soldiers and marines who served our nation by fighting in Iraq. Some of the words and descriptions given by these men and women are shockingly inconceivable and unthinkable. Other stories are simply too sad for any reader not to become emotionally stirred. The following are vivid excerpts that should cause serious contemplation of the end results by national leadership before committing human beings, especially the young, to partake in su This book is a compelling, vivid and somber account by 29 soldiers and marines who served our nation by fighting in Iraq. Some of the words and descriptions given by these men and women are shockingly inconceivable and unthinkable. Other stories are simply too sad for any reader not to become emotionally stirred. The following are vivid excerpts that should cause serious contemplation of the end results by national leadership before committing human beings, especially the young, to partake in such a parody of events. “It became clear that the enemy in Iraq would frequently look more like a civilian than a combatant (Wood, Muller, 2006, pp. 4).” “I joined straight out of high school…you could see the explosions like a big thunderstorm without the clouds…I had to open fire on the bus to protect the people that we were taking care of…and everybody in the whole bus was killed (Smith, T.).” “It was so close that marines were pulling out their pistols and knives, getting ready to defend themselves…we got sent into a city with thin-skinned armored vehicles and as a result we were meat-grinded in there…we really were (LeHew, J.).” “The gunnery sergeant…ran up to us…almost incoherent and babbling, ‘Did you see what happened to us? Did you see what happened to us?’ It was friendly fire from the A-10s. We’re the best trained unit in the entire world. How did it come to the point where not only were we engaged by the enemy, which is totally acceptable, but we’re engaged by our own forces, not just once but making repeated attempts? How did it come to this madness and chaos (LeHew, J.)?” “The Colonel came up and said, ‘I just got off the phone with headquarters, and they don’t have a security or reconstruction plan to implement.’ The Iraqi people had hope…so people came back to work, and then ORHA showed up, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance…one night I said, look, here’s what we’ve done in your section…and the guy from ORHA said, ‘we want you to stop…we want you to let everyone go.’ I said, I don’t understand, we’re accomplishing things, and if you stop it, everything goes back to a minus…for godsakes, don’t do that (King, A.).” “During the Falluja battle, one sheikh told me, ‘You told five hundred thousand men who were trained to kill people to go become productive members in a society that had 70-plus percent unemployment, and I’d say they’re being pretty productive right now (King, A.).” “Our mission was at odds with itself because we can’t trust anybody, but we’re trying to trust the people (Quinones, T.).” Review by SaM

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sheehan

    Oral histories of people recently returned from serving in iraq...The media does a great disservice to the stories of actual servicepersons, mitigating their lives to managable narratives that don't really share the scope of what is going on, not even close...I'd check out the book. I think the last quote for the book is a good summary for why state-siders should bother with the book: "They [Americans] don't invest themselves in the real issues of the war. Why did we get over there? When are we go Oral histories of people recently returned from serving in iraq...The media does a great disservice to the stories of actual servicepersons, mitigating their lives to managable narratives that don't really share the scope of what is going on, not even close...I'd check out the book. I think the last quote for the book is a good summary for why state-siders should bother with the book: "They [Americans] don't invest themselves in the real issues of the war. Why did we get over there? When are we going to return? What is happening? How many soldiers have died? If I were to ask you, ballpark -- how many soldiers have died in Iraq...well, do you actually know?" ~ What about Iraqi soldiers? ~ What about non-service contractors? US? International? ~ Non-Iraqi jihadists from other nations? ~ Iraqi Interpreters, taxi drivers, etc.? The roots of this war tree are deep and will soil the region for a century, we have to as a nation of couch-bound observers begin understanding the scope of this endeavor...and how to mitigate it's damage for the future.

  5. 4 out of 5

    J.P.

    Neither pro- or anti-war, this book is an incredible collection of narratives from soldiers who served in Iraq. Some are gung-ho about the experience; others wonder what we're doing over there and are filled with anger over what they see as the Bush administration's ignorance of what is actually happening on the ground and their failure to provide adequate protection for the troops--so many stories of soldiers holding a weapon in one hand and a makeshift steel plate in another trying to provide Neither pro- or anti-war, this book is an incredible collection of narratives from soldiers who served in Iraq. Some are gung-ho about the experience; others wonder what we're doing over there and are filled with anger over what they see as the Bush administration's ignorance of what is actually happening on the ground and their failure to provide adequate protection for the troops--so many stories of soldiers holding a weapon in one hand and a makeshift steel plate in another trying to provide some coverage while patrolling in one of their flimsy humvees. Regardless of whether you are for or against what is going on over there, this is a must-read. It does a great job of showing the humanity of our soldiers and gives foreshadowing at the disturbing after-effects and stress of serving in such a brutal war.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Talyah

    This book is a real eye-opener! Everyone should read it! I think it would teach the kids in High School a lot more than some of the required reading they have now. Everyone should know what these guys went through and the sacrifices they made for this country. (Not trying to get political) And especially those who think they get paid too much...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Real understanding of what's going on with the soldiers who are fighting for our freedom. Scary the crap these men are subject to. I am very proud of our troupes, and even more so after this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kaleria

    I will have to read this again, because there is a lot to take in. It is a remarkable work, and I appreciated that the chapters were not prefaced by any form of summary or description from the author. The words of each individual were left to stand on their own.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    I appreciated the insight into the experience at the soldiers' level - some brutal reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Flatley

    A must read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ginny Erisman

    Outstanding book, should be read by everyone!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Emil

    The Iraq War is a very controversial and very misunderstood conflict. If you ask servicemen and civilians, the answer to the cause of sending in the troops to Iraq vary. Answers differ from the al-Qaeda link, the elimination of an oppressive regime to the protection of oil interests. This is a compilation of stories of what the Iraq War was really like in a soldier's point of view. They tell their stories of why the joined the military to dealing with a developing situation on the ground. Iraq i The Iraq War is a very controversial and very misunderstood conflict. If you ask servicemen and civilians, the answer to the cause of sending in the troops to Iraq vary. Answers differ from the al-Qaeda link, the elimination of an oppressive regime to the protection of oil interests. This is a compilation of stories of what the Iraq War was really like in a soldier's point of view. They tell their stories of why the joined the military to dealing with a developing situation on the ground. Iraq is a new form of warfare where there are no more frontlines because the enemy will attack you on all sides. The lines are now classified to zones. Fighting an unseen enemy is not easy for the serviceman and have negative effects on them such as PTSD and unprovoked hostility. Never mind what the politicians say, going to Iraq started from a noble cause to a downward spiral of butchered lives. I hope that the Middle East have order restored.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Austin Ashcraft

    This book was an autobiography of solders in the Iraq war. As such it doesn’t really have a story line, unless you count history as the plot. Trish Wood is in reality only the compiler of many oral histories. The vast majority of the book is what appear to be transcribed interviews with veterans of the Iraq war. The conflict in this book is obviously based on the war, with American troops fighting against insurgents in Iraq, and there is plenty of conflict. To be honest that made the book in the This book was an autobiography of solders in the Iraq war. As such it doesn’t really have a story line, unless you count history as the plot. Trish Wood is in reality only the compiler of many oral histories. The vast majority of the book is what appear to be transcribed interviews with veterans of the Iraq war. The conflict in this book is obviously based on the war, with American troops fighting against insurgents in Iraq, and there is plenty of conflict. To be honest that made the book in the words of New York Times review “Chilling”. It wasn’t censored, or made easy to read. In some cases it was graphic, not for the sake of violence, or to capture your attention but simply to tell the truth of those solders experiences. That is what in my opinion makes the book chilling, the fact that it is horrifying often in telling the honest and unexaggerated truth.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Selina Kyle

    Unlike Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War or Redeployment this book reads more like a series of brief reports on the missions these men and women served. It gives an entirely different perspective on life at war: how our soldiers are trained to process the things they go through, and how they are trained to communicate, and how that holds up when they are released back home. If you read this one (and I recommend that you do), I also suggest picking up the more poetic essay collectio Unlike Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War or Redeployment this book reads more like a series of brief reports on the missions these men and women served. It gives an entirely different perspective on life at war: how our soldiers are trained to process the things they go through, and how they are trained to communicate, and how that holds up when they are released back home. If you read this one (and I recommend that you do), I also suggest picking up the more poetic essay collections listed above for comparison.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    My guess is that most Americans don't understand what troops really go through during war times. This book is a gritty history of the Iraq war written by men and women who have bravely served there. I had to read it in doses, as I found myself wondering if my own son will experience some of these things when he is deployed soon, and that was a little bit hard to take. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but it is for anyone wanting to know what American have and are experiencing in Iraq. Gra My guess is that most Americans don't understand what troops really go through during war times. This book is a gritty history of the Iraq war written by men and women who have bravely served there. I had to read it in doses, as I found myself wondering if my own son will experience some of these things when he is deployed soon, and that was a little bit hard to take. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but it is for anyone wanting to know what American have and are experiencing in Iraq. Graphic in description and language, What Was Asked of Us, is a book that will stay with you, giving you, perhaps, a greater appreciation for the troops and their families who are making sacrifices to keep America free, and war off of our own shores.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    This book is a compilation of stories told by various servicemen and servicewomen who served in Iraq. If you want some idea what this war was really about, how unprepared we were to fight it, how terribly and thoughtlessly our government treated our troops, how many lives were destroyed, broken or damaged to no good end, read this book. It's an oral compilation, not a dissertation, but it is all from the gut and from the heart. The writing is often raw and graphic. It's short glimpses into event This book is a compilation of stories told by various servicemen and servicewomen who served in Iraq. If you want some idea what this war was really about, how unprepared we were to fight it, how terribly and thoughtlessly our government treated our troops, how many lives were destroyed, broken or damaged to no good end, read this book. It's an oral compilation, not a dissertation, but it is all from the gut and from the heart. The writing is often raw and graphic. It's short glimpses into events of the past. The book does not have a political agenda, but when you are done reading, you will be asking yourself, "Why." It's my personal belief that the United States, as a country, sent our people off to fight, so the least we can do is read what happened to them in their own words.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marky

    This book is a collection of personal accounts from young soldiers in Iraq. It truly depicts the horrors of war from a first person perspective. One of the people described their experience and talked about how one of the captains got shot in the face. When they arrived to him, his entire face was bloody, and soldiers tryed asking him where he got hit. But he couldn't respond. Soldiers described their experiences as very confusing and overwhelming, yet it was very energetic and full of adrenali This book is a collection of personal accounts from young soldiers in Iraq. It truly depicts the horrors of war from a first person perspective. One of the people described their experience and talked about how one of the captains got shot in the face. When they arrived to him, his entire face was bloody, and soldiers tryed asking him where he got hit. But he couldn't respond. Soldiers described their experiences as very confusing and overwhelming, yet it was very energetic and full of adrenaline. Bullets were flying everywhere. Loud noises of war were coming from all directions.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    This is an important compilation of firsthand war accounts. Unfortunately, after reading "Generation Kill" and "Horse Soldiers," these raw interviews made for rough reading. They come across as unedited transcripts--not necessarily bad in itself--but many of the interviewees aren't exactly good storytellers or quick wits. God bless these men and women for their military service, but I think, to do them proper service, good storytelling and literary mastery are more in order. Sometimes hyper-real This is an important compilation of firsthand war accounts. Unfortunately, after reading "Generation Kill" and "Horse Soldiers," these raw interviews made for rough reading. They come across as unedited transcripts--not necessarily bad in itself--but many of the interviewees aren't exactly good storytellers or quick wits. God bless these men and women for their military service, but I think, to do them proper service, good storytelling and literary mastery are more in order. Sometimes hyper-realism gets in the way of reality.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    Wow. Such an impactful read. I appreciated reading the firsthand accounts of some who had been on the frontlines in Iraq from 2003-2006. It is so heartbreaking learning some of the things many have been through - what they've seen and experienced there, some tough decisions that were made, the loss and grief, and psychological effects they deal with...I could go on. Quite a thought-provoking read. Cautionary note that due to the subject matter the language is graphic - may not be suitable for som Wow. Such an impactful read. I appreciated reading the firsthand accounts of some who had been on the frontlines in Iraq from 2003-2006. It is so heartbreaking learning some of the things many have been through - what they've seen and experienced there, some tough decisions that were made, the loss and grief, and psychological effects they deal with...I could go on. Quite a thought-provoking read. Cautionary note that due to the subject matter the language is graphic - may not be suitable for some readers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jonah

    This is a good book. It's a series of oral reports from 28 people from the American armed forces who went to Iraq, plus one surgeon with the army operating in Germany on soldiers coming in injured from Iraq. A few of the people have two chapters and there's a glossary in the back for the military terminology. I saw this in the library a while ago and felt like, I should read this book, but I don't want to. But I checked it out last week and even though it's emotionally difficult and had my eyes This is a good book. It's a series of oral reports from 28 people from the American armed forces who went to Iraq, plus one surgeon with the army operating in Germany on soldiers coming in injured from Iraq. A few of the people have two chapters and there's a glossary in the back for the military terminology. I saw this in the library a while ago and felt like, I should read this book, but I don't want to. But I checked it out last week and even though it's emotionally difficult and had my eyes watering at times, it's not so bad.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Possibly the only thing I've read about Iraq that isn't done from a political perspective - ie: no one has an agenda; they're there to tell honest stories. People interviewed include mid-level agents involved in reconstruction, mortuary affairs officers, doctors, marines, chaplains, and soldiers stationed at Abu Graib. The stories read very quickly, and are very worthwhile.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Found this book profound and moving - the fact that these are brief oral histories of soldiers who returned gave me some comfort, but their inside view of the Iraq war should be required reading for all citizens who pay taxes and vote. And it made me even more touched by these young soldiers lives.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    a gruesome and hard-hitting look at the Iraq War, written by the veterans in short essay format. not all of them are anti-war, in fact many are pro-war and some are overtly racist. but regardless the book provides a pretty thoroughly convincing argument for why the war is far more horrific than most of us know or are willing to know.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This is a powerful, sobering look at the reality of what it's like to be a soldier on the ground in Iraq. Each brief chapter is essentially a monologue by a veteran about his or her experiences. There is a brief introduction to the different sections, but no editorializing about the individual accounts. The good, the bad, the ugly. . . It's all here.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chelsey Langland

    I read a lot of WWII history but this is new. The book was written in 2006, so it is obviously a bit dated, but really absorbing. The author transcribed interviews with soldiers and Marines who served a variety of roles - from a sniper to the director of Mortuary Affairs at one of the bases. It was a really good look inside what happened.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly B

    Amazing book, heartbreaking. Everyone should read this book if they care at all about what's going on for the soldiers in Iraq. If they don't care what's going on, they should still read it. I read this for my thesis and became really attached to it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This book is told from the soldier's point of view. They described their experiences in Iraq which at times was very difficult to read. It does show what these young men and women went through and how very couragous they are.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Wentworth

    This is an amazing collection of stories from the men and women who have served and are still serving our country. The author personally interviewed each of the service men and coaxed from them both heart-wrenching and heart-warming tales from the front lines in Iraq.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Merrikay

    READ THIS BOOK if you want to understand what we ask of our young people when it comes to war. This is a balanced look and has perspectives from soldiers who support the war in Iraq and those who don't. It will prepare you to be helpful to returning vets.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    It was refreshing to read something about Iraq that wasn't all about the politics. The soldiers' stories were sometimes very raw, other times bordering on sentimental. An amazing mix of perspectives and experiences. Couldn't put it down until the last word was read.

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