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Book Review


by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & Taking The Hill & r & by Patrick Murphy & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's odd to get a memoir from somebody still in his 30s -- how much is there to talk about? -- but Patrick Murphy has packed a lot into his 35 years. A paratrooper/lawyer who deployed to Iraq just after the invasion, he was elected to Congress in 2006. It's a Mr. Murphy Goes to Washington story.

You'll find his section on growing up Catholic in Philly to be run-of-the-mill, and the part about being in Congress is a bit preachy; the real reason to read this book is for his tales of Baghdad. It's a personal journey -- one that mimics the American public's. Murphy trusted his hero Colin Powell to follow his own doctrine, but once in-country, he saw only betrayal in the decisions coming from Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer -- especially the disastrous call to disband the Iraqi Army.

Murphy reports firsthand on the cover-your-ass bureaucracy, while his unit -- the legendary 82nd Airborne -- was out doing the democracy-building everybody else talked about. "Too many soldiers and civilians in the Green Zone... just didn't get it," he writes. "They seemed to live in a different country, isolated from the reality of Iraq."

In December 2003, when Murphy was about to head back home, the futility of Iraq became apparent. His replacement informed him that it was getting too dangerous and that his unit would not be leaving the base routinely as Murphy's had done. Leaving their FOB to engage Iraqis, arrange reparations and make friends was the mission, as Murphy saw it. "How can you help a country if you're afraid to set foot in it?" he wonders.

For him, the answer was to come home and stick up for the troops. Starting with $300, he entered the race for Congress as an anti-war, Iraq-veteran Democrat and won with a 0.6 percent margin.

Murphy learned a lesson in the desert, he says, that should inform his tenure in Congress: "We were in Iraq to serve our country, but we survived Iraq by serving one another."

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