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Wednesday, August 24th, 2005


The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq

by John F. Crawford

Haven't Been There, Haven't Done That (But We've Definitely Heard All This Before)

A review by Anna Godbersen

There are not a few books about the war in Iraq being published these days, and John Crawford's memoir The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell is not the only alternative to "war stories told by reporters and retired generals who keep extensive notebooks and journals." Crawford wants to tell a rawer Iraq story, of "riding a crest of hatred that cannot be understood by anyone who has not been there." In 2002, while on his honeymoon, Crawford learned that his Florida National Guard unit was being deployed to Iraq; they entered the country on the first day of the invasion, and remained there on duty for more than a year. In eighteen crafted, literary chapters, he gives an infantry-eye-view of the occupation, treating his readers to the extremes of heat and cold, to moments of lightness and moments of fear. Most of what he describes will not surprise regular newspaper readers; the lack of body armor provided Crawford and his fellow soldiers is shocking, but not exactly news, and the perils of being American and alone in Baghdad at night have been well documented. Crawford labors to give an unsanitized version of war, and indeed there is recreational morphine use, "fucking smoking hot" Iraqi nurses, and a good deal of behavior that seems sure to lose hearts and minds. But the real bad guys are the higher-ups, cowards and bureaucrats who build their resumes on the blood of Crawford and his friends. As Crawford sums up his predicament, "This was a war I didn't believe in, but no one ever asked my opinion."

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell is an angry, unrevelatory book with an astonishing and heart-crushing final chapter. Crawford has not written a future classic account of the war in Iraq, but if his titular claim proves false, or if he's hammering away at the novel somewhere right now, he just might yet.

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