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Book Review: Code Name: Johnny Walker

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right side bar

9780062267559_p0_v3_s260x420Code Name: Johnny Walker is an informative personal journey of an Iraqi translator who worked with the Navy SEALs.  Co-authored by Jim DeFelice it reads more like a fictional thriller than a memoir.  Walker’s story is amazing and gives a unique perspective on the Iraqi War. 

Johnny Walker, a Mosul born, pro-American Muslim’s story is an invaluable insider’s perspective of Iraq.  The book traces how Mosul transformed from a ‘melting pot’ of religious tolerance to a refuge for extremists and terrorists.  Although the military describes his job as an interpreter his duties can be best described as an investigator.  He explained to, “my country, my rules…What to one culture seems a sign of strength, to another may be a billboard of weakness.  And that was often true in Iraq. My tricks of the trade included asking children for an ID, examining papers, looking at the house culture, and allowing the enemy to let their guard down. I had to be careful to determine who were the innocents and who were the bad guys.  For example, one time this militia guy we were looking for gave me a Sunni name.  After talking to the children and searching his house I found he was a Shia.”

Although he first took the job for the money and to feed his family the book traces how he came to consider himself part of the SEAL team and his teammates as family.  He worked side by side with them to bring the bad guys to justice even though his family lived in constant jeopardy.  He stated, “The SEALs toughness and their loyalty to one another made them accept each other, and they had adopted me as one of them.  They were honorable while the extremists were not.  The insurgents never battled you face to face and would kill innocent people to send a message as they had on 9/11.  They killed people because of their beliefs. It became more than a job.  They are part of my family. I would do anything to find the bad guys and save my team’s life.”

The book also goes into great detail on how the SEALs never deserted their “terp” and how they helped him to come to America, where he is currently in the process of becoming an American citizen.  He feels he found the American dream and no longer has to worry about his and his family’s safety.  He still works with the SEALs as a cultural advisor.

This book as in American Sniper explores why the insurgency took hold in Iraq.  He agrees with the comment by the late Chris Kyle, “Iraq is like an early 1776 America.  We helped to set them up now they have to get it right.”  Johnny regards Iraq as a child that is trying to see their place in the world.  He is hoping, “Over a period of time Iraq will be healthy.  There is a saying that G-d will never change you until you start changing yourself.  Iraqis need to speak out and insist on change.  We need to take charge of our own destiny.”

Code Name: Johnny Walker is an insightful book filled with details on SEAL operations and the price ordinary Iraqis had to pay.  Throughout the book the author gives a vivid sense of his perspective and desires.  This amazing story is very riveting and illuminating.