Academic journal article Military Review

Drowning in the Desert: A Jag's Search for Justice in Iraq

Academic journal article Military Review

Drowning in the Desert: A Jag's Search for Justice in Iraq

Article excerpt

DROWNING IN THE DESERT: A JAG's Search for Justice in Iraq, Vivian H. Gembarra with Deborah A. Gembara, Zenith Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2008, 320 pages, $26.95.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Those interested in the life of an army lawyer in combat will enjoy this personal narrative. Captain Vivian Gembarra goes to Iraq as the attorney for the 3d Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division in 2003. Her tale reveals a decent Soldier carrying considerable intellectual and human burdens. Gembarra's main difficulty lay in trying to get gung-ho infantry commanders to pay due attention to both the rules of war and of civility.

The book centers around a drowning incident presented by 1-8 Infantry Battalion commanded by the princely Nathan Sassaman. Sassaman's Soldiers pushed two Iraqi citizens off of a bridge and killed at least one other civilian in the adolescent style nurtured by Sassaman himself. The search for justice invoked by the title is unrealized when a particular military tendency to close ranks holds sway over the more important but difficult notion of abstract justice.

The case sits at the nexus of important issues--the laws of war, battle tension, the death of a beloved comrade, fighting spirit, respect for civilians, and a general's exercise of military command. Gembarra sets out the main threads in a sensitive and compelling fashion that, perhaps, tends too much toward John Grisham and not enough toward, say, John Marshall. …

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