The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq by Joshua Key and Lawrence Hill (for sale on Amazon.com)

I’ll write a longer response to this book later but I did want a quick review of one of the most amazing books I’ve read in some time.

The book tells the story of Joshua Key, a guy from a small town in Oklahoma who joined the Army out of a desire to get his wife and three young kids out of poverty. He ends up being sent to Iraq (of course after being lied to by his recruiter) where he sees horrible attrocities. He comes back on 2 week leave and ends up going AWOL and living underground for about a year in Philaelphia (he, his wife, their kids and a friend of his wife) bounces around between living in their car and staying in cheap hotels. Finally the Key family makes their way to Canada where they get help from Jeffry House and the War Resisters campaign.

I love the book because it tells the story of the experience of a poor white kid who is suckered into the Army (poor white kids and people of color are the two main groups in the Army today) and how this fairly uneducated Oklahoma man comes to see that the war in Iraq is immoral and that he could no longer participate in it.

The book’s style is sparse. It tells the story and tells it well in a simple way. I will warn you that there are graphic, graphic scenes in the book, telling both about the utter brutality of army training (the worst part was the horrid cadences that the soldiers had to fight, or the way their sergeants referred to Iraqis as “sand n******s” on a regular basis) but also the horrors of the war itself, and how that many soldiers snapped in Iraq and began to commit unspeakable attrocities. (the straw that broke Joshua’s desire to fight was seeing his fellow soldier play soccer with the head of a dead Iraqi civilian)

I hope to God that this book is read by many people in Oklahoma. Josh is one of us and he was abused by our nation’s Army. Our country claims to have such high values, such respect for the troops but it is all B***S***. Don’t believe a word of it. Our nation treats the troops like crap and has institutionalized the practice of brutality and dehumanization. I know that there are good well-meaning people in the military, but I also believe that the military itself is wicked to the core and we must confront this reality. No human being should be made to go through what Josh went through or what so many other soldiers are made to go through. No cause is worth this.