"They Will Have to Die Now is the story of what happened after most Americans stopped paying attention to Iraq…It will take its place among the very best war writing of the past two decades." —George Packer, author of Our Man and The Assassins’ Gate
James Verini arrived in Iraq in the summer of 2016 to write about life in the Islamic State. He stayed to cover the jihadis’ last great stand, the Battle of Mosul, not knowing it would go on for nearly a year, nor that it would become, in the words of the Pentagon, "the most significant urban combat since WWII."
They Will Have to Die Now takes the reader into the heart of the conflict against the most lethal insurgency of our time. We see unspeakable violence, improbable humanity, and occasional humor. We meet an Iraqi major fighting his way through the city with a bad leg; a general who taunts snipers; an American sergeant who removes his glass eye to unnerve his troops; a pair of Moslawi brothers who welcomed the Islamic State, believing, as so many Moslawis did, that it might improve their shattered lives. Verini also relates the rich history of Iraq, and of Mosul, one of the most beguiling cities in the Middle East.
Journalist Verini debuts with a vivid chronicle of the 2016 battle to recapture Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, from the Islamic State. Noting that "in wartime, truth is inseparable from rumor, and in Iraq, history is always cut with conspiracy," Verini sketches the millennia of global conflicts that have shaped Mosul, from its founding as the Assyrian capital of Nineveh to its conquests by, among others, Alexander the Great, Sulamein the Magnificent, and U.S. Army general David Petraeus. For Mosul's citizens, Verini says, international fears of a terrorist caliphate obscured a raft of more quotidian concerns, including the Islamic State's "galling" ban on smoking. Reporting from the front lines, Verini documents how an unlikely coalition of Iranian-aligned militias, American special forces, Iraqi army units, and Kurdish Peshmerga collaborated to free the city after two and a half years of ISIS dominion. Shia militiamen, Verini writes, "looked as though they'd been kitted out at some urban unisex martial athleisure boutique," while his fellow foreign correspondents' "shallowly shocking coverage existed somewhere on the same spectrum as the Caliphate's own blood-porn." Readers interested in war journalism and Iraq's future prospects will be drawn to Verini's sardonic humor and sharp eye for detail.