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NRB Book Club: “The Only Thing Worth Dying For (P.S.)” Now in Paperback

Posted on January 29 2011 8:00 am
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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The calls for withdrawal from Afghanistan get louder by the day; and even supporters of the war are nearly universal in their condemnation of Afghan president Hamid Karzai as a hopelessly corrupt thug– with some justification, to be sure.

But I wonder if any of the commentators have a clue that in 2001 Hamid Karzai went into the Kandahar region solo– while the Northern Alliance and Special Forces A-Teams waged war in the north– to rally tribes and towns against the Taliban. Or that Karzai put himself in such danger that Delta Force had to rescue him; and later assured victory in the south and probably headed off a civil war in Afghanistan by going back with an 11-man Special Forces team and routing the Taliban while uniting the tribes to the liberation cause.

More importantly, I wonder if Barack Obama knows it.

Eric Blehm’s The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan is the story of that Special Forces team, and it provides a necessary context for the conflict as it enters this critical time.  

Blehm does a nice job with the warrior camaraderie of the Special Forces Team in the book’s subtitle; but the central relationship in The Only Thing Worth Dying For is between Hamid Karzai and Army Captain Jason Amerine, commander of OD-574. Together, they form an almost (but not quite) Washington and Lafayette team, as Karzai rallies the populace and Amerine calls in the heavy firepower.

Unfortunately just as the conflict was all but won, some REMFs (rear echelon you-know-whats) decided to share in the glory and get themselves some combat credit, which always helps come promotion time.  They called in an air strike– at a time when the team was not even under fire– on their own position, killing several and severely injuring others, devastating the team.

In a poignant epilogue (the P.S. in the title) Blehm tells the stories of how the families got word of their loved ones’ fates, and also calls those officers out for having never even written letters of condolence to the families of the men their incompetence killed.

As I said in my review when the hardcover was released, The Only Thing Worth Dying For is one of the handful of classic books about the war in Afghanistan, along with two other books that cover the beginning of the conflict, Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton and Jawbreaker by Gary Bernsten and Ralph Pezullo; and a couple that cover individual operations, Roberts Ridge by Malcolm McPherson and of course the blockbuster, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell.

Next month, Bing West’s long-awaited history of the war in Afghanistan and assessment of the strategy, The Wrong War is coming out.  Stay tuned, it will definitely be covered here.

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