Marine Corps University Press has just published a unique, two-volume oral history anthology. Based on selected participant interviews conducted by Marine Corps History Division, it traces the development of the insurgency and the evolution of the awakening in al-Anbar province, Iraq. The editors are all field historians who served in Iraq and conducted many of the interviews. Individually, the volumes alternatively present American and Iraqi accounts of the events that transformed al-Anbar from an epicenter of violence to a model for Iraqi-driven security and stability. Together, they provide readers with a provocative contrast of insider and outsider perspectives on the war in Iraq.
Link to Volume I The American Perspective
Volume II The Iraqi Perspective
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Major General John F. Kelly penned the anthology’s foreword. Drawing upon his experience as a senior leader during three tours in Iraq, he frames the challenges and successes of coalition operations in Anbar province, and situates shifting Iraqi allegiances. His candid assessment of the underlying causes of the Anbar insurgency, notably disbanding the Iraqi Army followed by a heavy-handed response to some acts of violence, is well informed by the close relationships fostered during his service in Iraq. These same connections support his analysis of the eventual Awakening, that al-Qaeda’s hyper-violent intimidation campaign and extreme Islamic agenda ultimately undermined its marriage of convenience with Anbari leaders. Perhaps General Kelly’s most valuable insight is to emphasize that no one commander, action or decision alone led to our eventual success in Iraq.
Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Wheeler introduces Volume I: American Perspectives, by providing a historical overview of Operation Iraqi Freedom and orienting readers toward key themes in the Awakening. The main body, compiled and edited by Chief Warrant Officer-4 Timothy McWilliams and Wheeler, includes 21 interviews. Arranged chronologically, they span three stages in the counter-insurgency campaign: onset of the insurgence in 2003-4, stabilization efforts in 2005, the evolution of the awakening in 2006-7 and its success in 2008-9.
There are accounts from senior leaders already known to Marine Corps audiences, such as Generals James N. Mattis and James T. Conway, as well as front-line leaders, like Colonel Sean B. MacFarland, USA, and Lieutenant Colonel William M. Jurney. Interviews with intelligence officers provide valuable insights into Marine Corps efforts to interpret the insurgency as it unfolded, while interviews with civilian counterparts from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development reveal the struggles and eventual successes of interagency cooperation in a counterinsurgency combat zone.
Colonel Gary W. Montgomery introduces Volume II: Iraqi Perspectives, with his own historical overview of the Awakening, informed by the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity’s 2007 “Study of the Insurgency in Anbar Province, Iraq.” The main body, edited by Montgomery and McWilliams, includes 19 interviews reflecting a wide variety of personalities. They are organized by perspective, with sections presenting views from ordinary Iraqis, religious and tribal leaders, politicians, members of the Iraqi Security Forces and former regime elements.
The Iraqi interviews feature a “who’s who” of prominent Anbaris. This includes Sheikh Ahmad al-Rishawi, brother of slain Awakening founder Sheikh Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi, and long-serving Provincial Governor Mamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani. Iraqis featured less prominent in the media, but equally influential to the transformation of al-Anbar security, include Major General Tariq al-Thiyabi, commander of the Iraqi 7th Division. Perhaps most enlightening to those seeking to understand the dynamics that led to the long and costly insurgency are the perspectives of former Ba’athist regime members such as Major General Jasim Muhammad Salih Habib, former commander of the Iraqi 38th Division.
The value of these interviews is their ability to offer first-hand perspectives on a major historical so quickly after it occurred. In light of the many accounts of the war now being published, this work serves as an important counter-balance to other, often Baghdad-centric, views. What Marines in western Iraq accomplished is too important to be forgotten or misunderstood. Al-Anbar Awakening promotes that understanding by providing both snapshots of American decision-making as well as views by Iraqi decision-makers that are rarely available to a western audience.
The books are available from the Government Printing Office using the following information:
Al Anbar: Awakening American Perspectives, Volume I And II
Stock Number 008-020-01596-2
International Price $ 77.00
Units may order the books through the publication management syster using the PCN’s below:
Al-Anbar Awakening: U.S. Marines and Counterinsurgency in Iraq 2004-2009, Volume I, American Perspectives
Edited by CWO-4 Timothy S. McWilliams and LtCol Kurtis P. Wheeler
Marine Corps University Press
Al-Anbar Awakening: From Insurgency to Counterinsurgency in Iraq, 2004-2009 Volume II, Iraqi Perspectives
Edited by Col Gary W. Montgomery and CWO-4 Timothy S. McWilliams
Marine Corps University Press