Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family by Martha Raddatz

The Long Road Home by ABC news correspondent Martha Raddatz is not a book for sensitive readers. It is a graphic, profane, and yet respectful account of what was expected to be another routine day of peacekeeping in Sadr City, Iraq.

On April 4, 2004, as the U.S. 1st Cavalry prepared to start its year of patrols, Mahdi militia attacked a lightly armored patrol that had been escorting a fleet of trucks carry human fecal matter. Totally surprised, the soldiers found themselves blocked from returning to base. After their transports were disabled, they dashed down an alley and broke into a home to await their rescue. Several squads that then tried quickly to rescue the soldiers found more streets filled with debris to impede their efforts. They were attacked by well-armed militia shooting from rooftops, windows, and alley ways. By the time the incident was over, eight American soldiers and countless Iraqi militia and citizens were dead.

I listened to Long Road Home on audiobook, dramatically read by Joyce Bean. I doubt that the print reading experience is quite as startling. The first disc sets the story up, including the accounts of families back at Fort Hood in Texas. The next five discs tell the battle story, and the final two discs tell of the mop up, of medical treatments, and about the procedures for the informing of family members of the casualties.

In the hardcover book, there are pictures that are missing, of course, from the audiobook. Some are rather sad to see after hearing the story.

In telling this story, Raddatz spares no feelings and offers no opinions. She lets the reader decide the merits of the U.S. occupation. The closest she comes to analysis is the final statement: "Moqtada Al-Sadr continues to be a significant problem for U.S. forces in Iraq, as he gains both political and military power through his armed militia."

Raddatz, Martha. The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family. G. Putnam's Sons, 2007. ISBN 9780399153822

audiobook, 8 compact discs: Tantor, p2007. ISBN 9781400104468

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