A friend recently gave me a copy of October 2009 Journal of Military History, which includes a review of Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War. This anecdote caught my eye — as it could hardly fail to do:
Titled “Blonde,” [one] vignette tells how soldiers in Iraq “came up with a great way to search villages” (pp. 134-35). While looking for weapons in villages around Mosul, they put a blonde female soldier on top of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and notified the Iraqis by loudspeaker that the American woman was for sale. As Filkins tells it, the male Iraqis began to bid excitedly — “offering their goats, trucks, all their money” — to purchase the blonde American woman. While the Iraqis were distracted by the auction, other American soldiers conducted searches of all the homes in the village, and uncovered and seized “a huge pile of guns.” Their mission accomplished, the Americans then cancelled the auction, telling he Iraqi men that their bids were too low for the sale to be consummated. The Army captain who told Filkins about this novel search method concludes wistfully that the idea was “brilliant,” but it was stopped by his superiors once they heard about it.
A great story, free from the slightest taint of credibility. In order to believe it, you need to have a very low estimation of Iraqi intelligence. For all that the locals may be unfamiliar with American culture, when has an invading army ever sold off its women to the defeated people? JMH reviewer Fred Borch cautions readers “that the truth of facts and events related in The Forever War is difficult to verify.” I haven’t read the book, so perhaps this incident is impeccably sourced, or suitably hedged. But it sounds like a good tall tale, one that someday a gullible neocon will recite as fact. I can just about imagine VD Hanson firing up his laptop already…
Addendum: Here an excerpt from the book’s own account.