The Snake Eaters by Owen West
An Unlikely Band of Brothers and the Battle for the Soul of Iraq

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 1 Critic Review

Every deploying adviser, and every American interested in how we are fighting our wars, should read Owen West's gripping and important book, "The Snake Eaters."
-WSJ online


WHEN A DOZEN UNPREPARED AMERICAN ARMY RESERVISTS ARE DROPPED OFF on an isolated Iraqi outpost with orders to be its military advisors, they have no idea that what they will really be doing is fighting. With no training to fall back on, this group—including a guitarist, a DEA agent, a plumber, and a postal worker—must somehow mentor the “Snake Eaters,” an Iraqi battalion locked in a deadly struggle over an insurgent-infested town along the Euphrates River. They are plunged into complex counterinsurgent warfare side by side with their Iraqi charges, soon discovering that at such close quarters moral standards are inevitably blurred. The battle becomes so personal that the combatants know each other’s names, faces, and especially the families caught in the middle.

Owen West, a third-generation U.S. Marine, tells the gripping, boots-on-the-ground story of the remarkable American and Iraqi troops who for two years fought the insurgency street by street and house by house in the poisonous city of Khalidiya, Iraq. The American advisors were a ramshackle group of Army reservists, Marines, and National Guardsmen with little support or understanding from the higher ranks. The Iraqi battalion they were assigned was from the very first both amateurish and hostile. In a town where the people they were trying to protect were indistinguishable from the enemy they were trying to kill—and few locals ever told the truth—it seemed like a mission doomed to failure.

But with courage, infinite patience, and a sense of duty few outsiders understood, the young American and Iraqi soldiers on patrol learned to work with each other and with the townspeople, winning their trust and revealing war as a series of human acts. From Major Mohammed, the Snake Eater who garners the most respect from the Americans precisely because he likes them the least, to the bighearted Staff Sergeant Blakley, a medic stalked by a sniper, the heroic soldiers in these pages are as complex as their war.

By the end of the mission, the Snake Eaters was the first Iraqi battalion granted independent battle space, the insurgency was wiped off the streets of Khalidiya, and peace was restored. A rare success story to emerge from the war, West’s exceptional book is as instructive as it is impossible to put down.

Owen West is donating his net proceeds from The Snake Eaters to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and to the families of fallen advisors and fallen Iraqi “Snake Eaters.”

About Owen West

See more books from this Author
Owen West is a former Marine major who served two combat tours in Iraq. He is the author of two novels, including Sharkman Six, which won the Boyd literary award for best military novel, and his work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Playboy, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications.
Published May 1, 2012 by Free Press. 354 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Snake Eaters
All: 1 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 0

WSJ online

Reviewed by Max Boot on May 31 2012

Every deploying adviser, and every American interested in how we are fighting our wars, should read Owen West's gripping and important book, "The Snake Eaters."

Read Full Review of The Snake Eaters: An Unlikely... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Reader Rating for The Snake Eaters

An aggregated and normalized score based on 49 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review