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NO ONE TO BE IN Unreliable narratives of the war on terror. By EDWARD NAWOTKA om the Erroll Morris documentary Standard Operating Procedure. Austin literary agent James D. Hornfischer has represented a variety of military authors and written a pair of bestselling World War II naval histories, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts. His experience tells him that books about war are published in four distinct phases. The first phase is composed of books by journalists and other professionals sent to cover the war for newspapers or magazines. These are literally the first drafts of history. The second wave often comes from officers and administratorseducated eliteswho have celebrity cachet to cash in or are motivated to justify decisions questioned by first-wave journalists. The third and most enduring phase chronicles major events from the viewpoint of small groups of soldiers or sailors. These books often deal with war’s aftermath and pain, and are written by the grunts, the ground-pounders, the trigger-pullers. The fourth and final phase, Hornfischer says, is written by historians, who generally wait until military documents are declassified and filed with the National Archives before weighing in. Why do we need so many versions of the same story? Because truth in war, whether physical or moral, is contested terrain. Apply Hornfischer’s theory to the socalled war on terror and we’re already well into phase three, on the cusp of phase four, and showing signs of the emergence of a new phase entirely. Phase one included Evan Wright’s Generation Kill. Published in 2004, it chronicled the Rolling Stone embed’s time with a Marine reconnaissance unit as it made its way across Iraq during the initial invasion. Phase two included apologias such as American Soldier by Gen. Tommy Franks and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer’s My Year in Iraqbooks that tried to explain what had just gone wrong. The transition to phase three started with combat narratives by Ivy Leagueeducated officers, such as Andrew Exum’s This Man’s Army and Nathaniel Fick’s One Bullet Away. Both men make much of their educations; Exum graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Fick from Dartmouth. Exum and Fick, only just removed from the start of the war, are less conflicted about their roles than Dallas resident Brandon Friedman, whose memoir, The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War \(a book for which describes how Friedman \(another colchildhood to fight but became demoralized after twice nearly dying in friendlyfire incidents. It’s interesting to note that Fick is one of the soldiers featured in Wright’s Generation Kill, reinforcing the suggestion that later-phase war books often serve as correctives to earlier-phase titles. One phase is effectively saying to the other: You cannot be relied upon to tell the whole truth. Who, then, can be relied on to tell the truth? Take, for example, Jessica Lynch, a West Virginia native who is on record saying she joined the Army to help pay for college. After her supply unit’s capture by Iraqis in March 2003 and her subsequent rescue, Lynch became a national hero. She appeared on the cover of People and struck a $1 million deal with the publisher Knopf for a book titled I Am a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story. Despite the title, the book was actually written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg, who took half the advance. It was only with such help that OCTOBER 17, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27