Frank Antenori with Hans Halberstadt, Roughneck Nine-One: The Extraordinary Story of a Special Forces A-Team at War, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2007
Rising above the politicization of the Iraq war is a task best left to the men who fought it. Well publicized memoirs by the commanding Generals, the Secretary of Defense, and the Commander-in-Chief only fueled the partisan debate. Green Beret Frank Antenori’s gripping account of the Battle of Debecka Pass is a vital primary source detailing the misunderstood conflict. An unusual blend of tactical storytelling and technical detail, Roughneck Nine-One is a rare look into the world of America’s “quiet professionals.”
Antenori expresses the unprecedented nature of his battle history. Typically, Special Forces battles are classified affairs, kept from public scrutiny until years later. Embedded reporters from CNN and the New York Times present at Debecka prevented the combat from being classified. Antenori and co-author Halberstadt are able to relay the events with brutal frankness and commendable accuracy. The frustrations of military logistics are explained to build anticipation for the inevitable battle. Glimpses into American military planning are rare, and Antenori’s insights are particularly telling- the warrior struggling with red tape to acquire the necessary tools.
Roughneck Nine-One is essential reading because it dispels many commonly held myths about the Iraq war. First, most importantly, the myth about weapons of mass destruction. Mainstream media perpetuates the narrative of Bush lying about WMD to start the war- Antenori establishes that if true, this was a most elaborate lie. Special Forces units were assigned specific missions targeting known WMD sites. Strategic complications delayed US entry into Iraq giving Saddam Hussein time to destroy or hide the incriminating evidence; Debecka was fought on such a mission. Secondly, that Saddam had no ties to terrorism. The Green Berets regularly engaged foreign fighters using the Iranian border as shelter- Antenori has no politically axe to grind, he tells a story the way he experienced it.
Frank Antenori opens an important window to a misunderstood conflict. Partisan bickering over the justification for the war has clouded a proper historical picture of it. Stories like Roughneck Nine-One are invaluable to scholars looking to accurately record America’s involvement in Iraq.