Views & Reviews Review of the Week

In the line of fire

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2967 (Published 23 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2967
  1. Jonathan Kaplan, war zone surgeon and writer, based in London
  1. zipstick3{at}yahoo.com

    When governments send their citizens, with unclear objectives, into the line of fire, a high price is paid in blood and ethics, finds Jonathan Kaplan

    Though not specifically medical, this book is entirely about pathology. It is the true account of the morbidity and mortality—physical, moral, and psychological—suffered by a battalion of US soldiers, sent in 2007 to occupy an insurgent neighbourhood of eastern Baghdad as part of President George W Bush’s “surge” strategy, intended to reduce sectarian violence and bring about the “reconciliation necessary for Baghdad to be secure and this country to survive and thrive as a democracy.”

    The central figure in The Good Soldiers—the reference point around which this story turns—is the soldiers’ commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, tasked with leading his combat troops in a pacification operation. The account begins with an elegiac wistfulness, sadness in the retrospective knowledge of lost ideals and lives: “His soldiers weren’t yet calling him the Lost Kauz behind his back, not when this began. The soldiers of his who would be injured were still perfectly healthy, and the soldiers of his who would die were still perfectly …

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