Lives Down: The World's Most Dangerous Job in the World's Most Dangerous Place
$26, 351 pp.
Brotherhood of Warriors: Behind Enemy Lines with a Commando
in One of the World's Most Elite Counterterrorism Units
Ecco, $25.95, 273 pp.
the rights and wrongs of this war, it would be a tragedy to fail [the Iraqi
people] now, simply because we all grew tired of trying."
Major Chris Hunter
Fans of combat memoirs and war
reporting probably have more choices now than at any time since the aftermath
of World War II in the late 1940s. For obvious reasons, most of the books are
by and about Americans.
But two new memoirs by elite
soldiers from U.S. military allies are especially revealing -- not
only because they are terrific accounts of brave men fighting the good
fight but also because each comes from a nation that has been on the frontlines
of fighting terrorists since long before 2001.
The books – British army bomb
specialist Chris Hunter's Eight Lives Down and former Israeli
commando Aaron Cohen's Brotherhood of Warriors – take similar
tough-minded attitudes about the need to resist jihadists, but the authors
could hardly have come from more different places.
Hunter, the middle-class son of a
WWII veteran who had flashbacks from watching Danger UXB on the BBC,
essentially followed in his father's footsteps. Cohen, meanwhile, was a spoiled
Hollywood rich kid who found his purpose in life after his movie producer
stepfather sent him away to military school.
While Hunter has seen action in both
Northern Ireland and Colombia, Eight Lives Down mostly recounts his time
in Basra, Iraq, where he defused IEDs and hunted down the bombmakers (some of
whom, he is sure, are supplied by Iran).
A likeable and engaging narrator,
Hunter mixes the personal and professional in the classic tradition of such
other British combat memoirs as legless WWII British fighter ace Douglas
Bader's Fight for the Sky. Hunter is passionate about his mission but
also honest about the toll his job takes on his family.
Eight Lives Down is at its best when the author recounts the horror and
savagery of an implacable enemy who thinks nothing of slaughtering the innocent
and leaving men like Hunter to clean up after them. Too often, rather than
disarming a bomb, Hunter is called to the scene of a blast to conduct a
forensic investigation while others assist the wounded and dying.
Hunter has no sympathy for the aims
or imagined grievances of the enemy, whether it's radical Shiite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr's Iranian-backed militia or Sunnis supplied by al Qaeda. His only
goal is to put them out of business.
In a similar vein, Cohen
begins Brotherhood of Warriors in the blood-soaked aftermath of one
of Israel's worst suicide bomber attacks, the 1996 Dizengoff Mall massacre in
For Cohen, it was a fitting end to a
brutal training regimen in which he became the first American-born member of
Sayeset Duvdevan, Israel's most secret and best-trained counterterrorist
special forces unit – he was immediately confronted with the evil he had
volunteered to combat before he'd even had a chance to deploy.
Later, posing as
an American journalist, Cohen would take down one of the financiers of the
Dizengoff bombing in savage hand-to-hand combat with the terrorist and his
While nearly all of Eight Lives
Down takes place during the author's tour of duty in Iraq, Brotherhood
of Warriors follows a similar track to many memoirs of special
forces-types, taking the reader through every punishing detail of the
The efforts of the Israeli trainers
to beat any doubts out of Cohen and his compatriots' minds, and the culminating
nonstop desert march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem are enough to make a Navy SEAL
Finally, the new Sayeset Duvdevan
members are sent unarmed into Palestinian-controlled territory to test
their training and to learn to blend in. Cohen is not quite diplomatic in
describing Hamas and Fatah neighborhoods as being "street gang" turf
where every eye is against him, and the pathology of violence runs deep.
The duty of operating in this
manner, running snatch-and-grab operations and frequent gun battles with
terrorists, takes a mental toll very quickly, and the operatives are rotated
out of the field after a tour that is hardly longer than their elaborate and
expensive training lasted.
While liberals whine that the war
against jihadists already has lasted longer than World War II – as though
that's a valid comparison – Cohen and Hunter argue in favor of hunkering
down for the long haul.
Hunter's job may have been disarming
IEDs, but it was his offensive operation to bring down Basra's primary
bombmakers that gave him the most satisfaction. And Cohen, now a security
expert in the private sector, argues that focusing on defensive
measures cedes the initiative to terrorists. The only way to beat
terrorists, Cohen argues, is to take the fight to them -- and kill them.
Eight Lives Down and Brotherhood of Warriors are heroic, riveting and
instructive — and, to boot, they're the perfect remedy to prevailing media and
educational propaganda for young skulls full of mush.