William Little is a lucky man. He is alive to tell this story -- even though he paid an enormous price in personal well-being and time away from his family. We are fortunate that Little, badly wounded in Iraq, has written this tidy little book. Although there's been a lot of press about the use of security contractors to supplement military resources and support business activities in a very dangerous country, this is the first book that I've read that explores what it was like for the security officers themselves.
Roadside Bombs and Democracy begins with the author's first experience as a security contractor in Kosovo. He explains that he had the necessary skills, the desire to help, and an understanding family. For a man of his age, in good health, and with a strong resume in law enforcement, the money was excellent and it seemed like a good way to make a meaningful contribution to the War on Terror. His time in Kosovo was an interesting foray into a different culture dealing with the impact of war. While not safe, it did not truly prepare Little for the chaos of Iraq -- but it did give him the opportunity to work there. Iraq was alluring because it seemed to be the very place where people like Little were needed and of course, the salary was commensurate with that need.
The author tells his story with little elaboration -- perhaps because Iraq needs no frills. Although this memoir has the feel of a journal, it is still a page turner. The red and brown cover with a picture of a burning Hummer and the title itself gives the reader some idea of what it coming, yet the casual description of daily life is both mundane and gripping. First at a Baghdad compound where the author is assigned to examine hundreds of Iraqi citizens eager to get very dangerous jobs as Iraqi police officers -- and then later as support for various police stations in Basra, Little is alert and wary -- and the reader doubts that such a wise man would be a victim through carelessness. Then, as the story develops, the readers realize that no one is safe in such a situation. We also see a growing sense of disillusionment in the author. Like many military veterans report, he'd gone to work in this environment hoping to make a difference -- and eventually the enormity of the problems begin to overwhelm and frustrate even the most patience, pragmatic, and determined. A feeling also overwhelms the readers that perhaps the author's luck has run out -- just about the time that it does.
A well-written and personal view of war from a non-traditional source that drives home the problems in Iraq -- and definitely worth a read!
Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2010)
This book is a narrative of my personal experiences working overseas as an International Police Advisor in Kosovo with the U.N. and in Iraq.