Pulling Back in Iraq: Reflections

President Obama lays out plans to withdraw combat units from Iraq at month’s end. We get a boots-on-the-ground perspective on the sweep of the war.

In this June 29, 2010 photo, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Richard "Ross" Coffman, left, talks to a village sheik in al-Bailona, Ninevah province. (AP)

When President Obama took office, there were 144,000 troops in Iraq. By the end of August, there will be 50,000 left.

Yesterday, the President said combat missions are ending. As the U.S. pulls back – and eventually out – of Iraq, we’re reflecting on the meaning of that toil, sacrifice, service and bloodshed. What it means for regular Iraqis, and for the armed forces who gave much, and lost comrades.

Today, we hear two in-depth war accounts, from a soldier-author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.


From Baghdad, we’re joined by Anthony Shadid, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times. His latest book is “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War.”  

David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for the Washington Post. His book “The Good Soldiers,” chronicling a battalion that was part of the U.S. “surge” in Iraq, is now out in paperback. You can read an excerpt. You can watch some video, narrated by him, about his time in Iraq.

Matt Gallagher, former Army captain who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2009. His memoir of his days in Iraq is “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.” You can read an excerpt.


It’s worth listening back to our show this year on “The Hurt Locker,” where we spoke with real-life bomb squad members, and our segment with NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling on troops coping with brain injuries.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Nov 25, 2015
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning Iowa writer Marilynne Robinson, arrives to the State Library of Iowa in the Ola Babcock Miller Building, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On the day before Thanksgiving, we talk with Marilynne Robinson – one of America’s greatest authors, thinkers, moralists — about fear and hope in a hard, frightening time.

Nov 25, 2015
A BBQ pork shoulder special with sweet potato hash and over easy eggs at Foster's Market in Durham, N.C. (Courtesy Foster's Market)

Bring your appetite! We’re gathering around the radio table with three chefs and new Thanksgiving recipes.

Nov 24, 2015
An archival image of a McKinley - Hobart Presidential Campaign Poster from 1896. (Public Domain / WikiCommons)

Republican political strategist Karl Rove is thinking about the McKinley 1896 campaign and the GOP field right now. Karl Rove is with us.

Nov 24, 2015
This photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 shows fuel tanks  hit during the attack of Russian warplanes in Syria. Russian warplanes on Monday attacked oil extraction, transport and refinement facilities in areas controlled by Islamic State militants. (AP Photo/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

ISIS, Inc. The terrorist organization is raking in billions –from oil, grain, antiquities, and taxes. We look at how to break the ISIS bank. Plus, Turkey downs a Russian plane. We’ll have the latest.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »
Roger Cohen And Barry Posen On ISIS
Monday, Nov 23, 2015

A brief, but illustrative exchange between Barry Posen and Roger Cohen during our conversation on ISIS today.

More »