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 Post subject: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:07 pm 
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Hailed by its publishers as the first book on Britain's occupation of Iraq during 2003-2009, this of course is by no means the first. That accolade goes to Ministry of Defeat, published in 2009. But, as author of that book, I must be very careful if criticising what might be seen as a rival product - although it isn't. This is a very different book.

What one must realise with Fairweather's book is that it was written with the broad approval of the MoD, which gave him access to many of the characters he interviews. And therein lies its strength. It gives what appears to be a very accurate account of how a segment of the establishment - diplomatic and military - saw the occupation, and their role in it.

View full article here

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 Post subject: Re: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:30 pm 

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I have not read your book or that by Jack Fairweather. Does Fairweather's book contain accounts from privates, SNCOs and junior officers; or just from senior officers and MoD civil servants/MPs?

I have just finished reading "Band of Brothers" (about E Company of 101st Airborne Division) written by Stephen E. Ambrose who also wrote "Pegasus Bridge". One thing that Ambrose learnt that after "Pegasus Bridge" where he did not let the men of Major John Howard's D Company, Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, or the other 30 British gliderborne troops he had interviewed review his book before publication, he allowed the men of E Company to review the manuscript to correct inaccuracies and conflicting accounts. Ambrose admitted that he now wishes he allowed the "Pegasus Bridge" men to review before publication.

In the fog of war, it is difficult for men to recount everything that went on for sure. Indeed, I could not now recall my own experiences during the Falklands conflict and I did not even go down there but worked on ships prior to them sailing. I spoke to my mates from various ships within a few years of the Falklands and I remember that even on the same ships, there was some confliction but the basic recounting of events remained stable. For my own experiences of Gulf War I (where I was in the theatre of war), I kept a diary of mostly my own personal events but also of those in the wider theatre. I remember little details that would not make many books such as at night all messdecks in the front end of the ship were cleared in case of a mine hit. Or that our Captain complained that he only had so many surface to air missiles because of restrictions imposed by MoD.

This is not a criticism of your book, or that of Fairweather or those of Ambrose. But what I would choose to trust what those at the bottom of the pile, and were actually involved directly, than those of the senior officers, civil servants and politicians. I would also trust those that took the time to research properly from varying sources than those from senior officers, civil servants and politicians.


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 Post subject: Re: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:57 pm 
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From what I can see, Fairweather relies mainly on the accounts of the senior officers and the diplomats whom he has interviewed. This is very much an "establishment" book. Where he does descend to the "other ranks", the work seems to be borrowed from other accounts, such as Sgt Mills and "Sniper One".

I take entirely your points about recall, and am fully aware of how untrustworthy it is. We see this day-on-day with ordinary news reporting. I thus make it a central criticism of Fairweather that he relies on the uncorroborated narratives of his interviewees. A more unreliable bunch you could not hope to meet.

In my own book, I write that, "It is too early yet to write a fully-sourced, accurate account of the British occupation". I was, I said, offering a second draft of history, hoping that there would be many more versions to come.

Fairweather - I hoped - might build on my work ... he interviewed me extensively for his book. In the event, he seems to have gone backwards. Even some of the stuff I told him, he has got wrong.

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 Post subject: Re: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:14 am 
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Is it as good as 'Biggles Flies Undone' Richard?


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 Post subject: Re: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:36 am 
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Stephen Jenner wrote:
Is it as good as 'Biggles Flies Undone' Richard?



PDT_Armataz_02_11

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 Post subject: Re: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:46 am 
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thespecialone wrote:

I have just finished reading "Band of Brothers" (about E Company of 101st Airborne Division) written by Stephen E. Ambrose who also wrote "Pegasus Bridge". One thing that Ambrose learnt that after "Pegasus Bridge" where he did not let the men of Major John Howard's D Company, Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, or the other 30 British gliderborne troops he had interviewed review his book before publication, he allowed the men of E Company to review the manuscript to correct inaccuracies and conflicting accounts. Ambrose admitted that he now wishes he allowed the "Pegasus Bridge" men to review before publication.



One thing, incidentally, that struck me about the Band of Brothers was not how much the front-line soldiers knew of the conflict, but how little. The "Battle of the Bulge" narrative here is especially illustrative. The 101st was trucked out in the middle of the night ... E Company was dumped in a forest, they dug holes, were shelled like shit, did a few local assaults and then they were trucked out. You will thus get the detail of a tiny fragment of the war from them, but don't expect the bigger picture.

When it comes to modern wars ... of which the occupation of Iraq was a good example ... one must also remember that communications are far better. Thus, London is in the decision-making loop. Even local tactical decisions can sometimes require command approval from London, and even political input.

This drives a hole through the "I was there" meme. In telling the whole story, no one was "there". The trouble is that "there" is a multitude of locations and no one can be in several places, in different countries, at the same time.

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 Post subject: Re: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:55 am 

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You may already know, but in today's Telegraph review section (can't find online), they've reviewed 'A War of Choice' needless to say they've given it a stonkingly good review - 'excellent' is how they describe it - and 4 stars

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 Post subject: Re: A War of Choice
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:06 pm 
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TheBoilingFrog wrote:
You may already know, but in today's Telegraph review section (can't find online), they've reviewed 'A War of Choice' needless to say they've given it a stonkingly good review - 'excellent' is how they describe it - and 4 stars


Hardly surprising since he's an ex-Telegraph journo. Bit late for the Christmas market though.

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