Hearts and Mines: With the Marines in Al Anbar-A Story of Psychological Warfare in Iraq by Russell Snyder
Here is the firsthand account of a member of one of the United States Army's three-man Tactical Psychological Operations Teams, groups of men tasked with winning the hearts and minds of Iraq's civilian population through leaflets, loudspeakers, conversation, and bribery. Transcribed from and inspired by Russell Snyder's personal wartime journal, it is a story of introspection, relating how the feelings of eagerness and uncertainty in a young man unfamiliar with war were replaced with the dread knowledge that, buried within his soul, beneath a facade of goodwill and morality, lurked the capacity to kill his fellow men. There are scenes of battle retold within the pages of Hearts and Mines, descriptions of the feelings of seeing once-familiar human bodies destroyed beyond recognition. Some days are described as being full of hope and appreciation for the beauty of the world, others with despair for the omnipresent cruelty and destruction which has a habit of consuming men when they feel unaccountable for their actions. It captures the sensory experience of living in a singular environment full of strange plants and animals, friends true and false, and determined enemies, encapsulating the existential fear of mortar and rocket attacks, as well as the ridiculousness of military bureaucracy, such as was demonstrated by a sergeant major's decision to punish graffiti artists by removing the doors of all the camp's toilets.