"A masterpiece of literary nonfiction....By focusing on this pivotal firefight, Raddatz illuminates a key moment when Iraq's sectarian strife mutated into the ferocious, unrelenting insurgency it is now." Martha Raddatz's book about a key battle in Sadr City attracts lavish acclaim in the Washington Post. Praise, too, from Kit Roane, who saw action in Baghdad as an "unembedded" journalist:
Raddatz leaves us the markers to make conclusions but never pieces them together in any form of indictment. Still it is clear that the usual mix of bad decisions by commanders in the rear and a lack of intelligence on the ground helped create the mess. Department of Defence directives against soldiers having "boots on the ground" in Iraq for longer than a year meant that the experienced soldiers leaving the part of Baghdad known as Sadr City didn't have a chance to pass along their survival techniques or intelligence information to the "Black Sunday" soldiers replacing them.
And despite every indication that Sadr City was "a volcano ready to explode," the Army pushed forward in the belief that the soldiers were on a humanitarian mission, busy with reconstruction projects and sucking up the knee-high slop of sewage that ran through this teeming Baghdad slum of 2.5 million people. This was "a babysitting mission," therefore, much of the heavy armour was left at home.