The Widow’s Network by Nick McDonell might be an eye-opening book for readers that believe armed conflicts are between two monolithic elements, that there is a good side and a bad side. Using a small core of named individuals that worked with female spy Sabrine, McDonell delivers a well-sourced account of the conflict in Iraq. There are shifting alliances, people who worked openly for more than one side, and some documented facts with flexible dates to serve bureaucratic purposes.
I cannot find the fact of shifting loyalties surprising. It seems logical to me that allegiance to tribal and family loyalties would always win out over loyalty to more broad-based entities engaged in a struggle with doubtful outcomes. This was true in Vietnam where US troops were directed not to give rides to our South Vietnam comrades, as 20% were followers of the enemy.
In this short Amazon Original presentation, Investigative Reporter Nick McDonell visits Tikrit in 2016. While visiting a family who described to him the loss of nine children, McDonell met Sabrine, a lady who would give him several follow up interviews in which she would describe her work for intelligence agencies fighting ISIS. Sabrine was able to get a lot of information from her husband, an ISIS fighter she was forced to marry.
Sabrine had a tough life even before experiencing war. At the age of twenty, it seemed she was forced to marry. Within a year she had a child and a divorce. She furthered her image of a strongly opinionated person when she left her father to live with a sister. Possibly from her own experience at court with her divorce, she became a “court junkie.” Through a lawyer she found inspiring, she was introduced to Wahida, who made her a member of her personal clique although not a member of the special forces group Wahida traveled with. Wahida, Sabrine and others formed a group for the exchange of communications that would support the US and Iraqi airstrikes on ISIS facilities.
I found this account very balanced. It would be easy for a male reporter to fall in lust with his female source. McDonell recounts that Sabrine did attempt a relationship with his interpreter, although not with him. McDonell also does not shy away from the negatives in Sabrine’s past. Again, I am empathetic. How can we know how we will act when surrounded by combat and death not only daily but for an extended period? US combat soldiers serve tours of duty and many see terrible things during their tours. Sabrine and her colleagues live in the war zone and see terrible things all their lives.
McDonell brings up ethical questions. How do the dates on documents dealing with factual airstrikes and reports of damage change from time to time?
And McDonell gets into the philosophical questions. If I can kill two very bad ISIS folks but sixty civilians die with them, is it a fair trade?
There is a lot of thought-provoking thought in this short presentation. It is worth much more than the *Free* I paid for it. I give this four Amazon stars for the strength of its bibliography.