Mejía, a veteran of the Iraq conflict, became an antiwar hero when he refused to return to his unit and was court-martialed in 2004 for desertion. His memoir is a blend of compelling war narrative and dubious soapboxing. Mejía's claim to conscientious objector status, after eight years in the U.S. military, months of combat and a long campaign for a discharge, rings rather hollow. The son of prominent Nicaraguan Sandinistas, he takes a view of the insurgents' "fight for self-determination" that seems naïve ("[t]here seemed to be a unity that spread through the differences among Iraqis") and his prose is laced with clunky rhetoric about "the imperial dragon that devours its own soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike for the sake of profit." Most powerful are his firsthand experiences of prisoner abuse, senseless patrols that invite insurgent attacks, discord among his demoralized comrades and their careerist officers, and the constant brutalization of Iraqis by paranoid, trigger-happy GIs. (In one incident, an irate soldier arrests an eight-year-old rock thrower, who is then beaten by a local man desperate to appease the vengeful Americans.) Those stories add up to an indelible portrait of the dirty war in the Sunni triangle and Mejía's painful confrontation with his immoral complicity in it.
(From Publisher's Weekly)