War on Saddam

By Scott Parrino 07 Nov 2003 0

Introduction

The war on Iraq has been very profitable for not only Raytheon but also book publishers, with over 200 books listed on various booksites on the internet. The books range from detailed histories of Iraq and Saddam, military accounts of how they did what they did, reporters first hand accounts of the challenges they faced and general accounts of both wars.

War on Saddam falls in the latter category of a general account of the war. When I purchased this book the main thing that drew me to it was one name, John Keegan, or should I say Sir John Keegan. Sir John was knighted a couple of years ago and is one of Britain's most distinguished military historians. He was a lecturer in military history at Sandhurst and has written a large volume of work on military history and philosophy. Sir John works as the Defence Editor for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and under his guidance this book was produced.

The book is divided into four sections: an introduction, the narrative, the media war and the end papers. Some of the more noteworthy items described in the book are outlined below.

The Mystery

Sir John has written the introduction which in 8 short columns clearly gives the reader the history of the region prior to the wars, what led to the first war in 1991 and then what subsequently happened to the country. He covers the leadup to the start of the war in 2003 without taking sides or making judgments, just commenting that it took a somewhat "irrational and bewildering form". Sir John comments that with the forces available to Iraq and the terrain the Allies would have to pass over, most modern military strategists would take some basic defensive steps: minefields, sabotage of key points and demolition of key bridges. None of this occurred and the way the Iraqis conducted the rest of war will remain a mystery to him.

In his closing paragraph he says, "The defeat of Saddam has achieved a respite, an important respite, in the contest between the Western Way and its Muslim alternative. It has not, however, secured a decisive success.

The very completeness of Western victory in Iraq ensures the continuation of the conflict."

Eve of Battle

Lt Colonel Tim Collins of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment made a stirring eve of battle address to his men. This address was published nationally and it stirred a nation. The address begins, "We go to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them. There are some alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly." The address is reproduced in full in the book.

The intelligence war was one of the keys to Western success and this is covered thoroughly, without being overwhelmed by complicated detail.  The point is made succinctly in this example: "In the 1991 Gulf War it took six hours to get intelligence to front-line commanders. In 2003, thanks to the Internet, it was a matter of minutes." 

The coverage of the war is done in a no-nonsense style the reader would expect in a quality broadsheet. The war is covered in chronological order with just the facts and what the reporters have seen on the ground. There is no attempt to be pro- or anti-war in the writing. Human tragedies and friendly fire incidents are covered fairly.

The main column is taken from journalists on the ground at the time and rewritten in a logical sequence of events. Actual dispatches from reporters with the forces or in Baghdad are inserted as sidebars throughout the book.

The book cover.

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