Bad Boys … Whatcha Gonna Do

In yet another in the long line of Monday Morning Quarterback offerings at a bookstore near you is a book by a warrior bad boy of the Iraq war. Now-retired Army Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman paints an angry, critical, and unflattering picture of his fellow officers on the gridiron, uh, battlefield.

One of the first books to take ground commanders to task, the seemingly self-titled Warrior King: The Triumph and Betrayal of an American Commander in Iraq, Sassaman skewers his fellow officers for making a mess of things beginning early in the war. (Except Sassaman. It’s his book.) The book’s jacket has him as “one of the most prominent members of the U.S. fighting forces in Iraq.” (Who knew?) The Wall Street Journal feature noted the book underscores the continuing argument over the early decisions in Iraq and debate over the course for the future. Sassaman’s mission seems clear: Vindication and revenge. (Reviews on Amazon laud Sassaman.) His contempt is illustrated in a vignette in which he recounts that orders had come from brigade early in the war — Minimize heavily artillery to minimize civilian casualties. Sassaman: “Screw Brigade. Return fire now.” (We love an irreverent maverick, but … )

Hindsight is truly a thing of beauty.

On the “hearts-and-minds” front, Sassaman has a different take. “The simple, somewhat barbaric truth is that we had to convince the Iraqi people that they should fear us more than they feared the insurgents.” That’s one approach — if you’re talking football, a subject he is qualified to discuss.

Sassaman is more than armchair quarterback. He was a reasonably successful leader on the field before his graduation from West Point in 1985. He seems to have retained some of the star-athlete bravado. Crucial qualities? Fatal flaws? Aggressive? Dangerous? It seems Sassaman’s final undoing was an incident in which his men tossed two apparently innocent Iraqis off a bridge. He called it a prank. (Are we surprised?) The men were handcuffed by the Americans and tossed into the Tigris. One reportedly drowned. The tossers might have gone to jail. Sassaman received a letter of reprimand.

Warrior King (not to be confused with Warrior King: The Case for Impeaching George Bush) probably makes for interesting if not outright entertaining reading. Hero, heretic, narcissist — the man is probably many things. Boring is not one of them.

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