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Posted on Feb 28, 2008 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicles of the Iraq War – Book Review

By Zachary Bathon

cover.jpgBook Review – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicles of the Iraq War by Ashley Gilbertson

With Operation Iraqi Freedom heading into its fifth year, hundreds of books documenting many aspects of the war have began to hit the market. Many of these are memoirs written by the commanders and soldiers who have served on the front lines. But for everyone one of those it seems there is an equal number of books written by reporters and photographers who spent time covering the war for their respective news organizations.

 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicles of the Iraq War from University of Chicago Press is a collection photographs from Australian-born photographer Ashley Gilbertson who covered the war from the spring of 2003 through the country’s first national elections in January 2005.


Readers who have followed the war closely may recognize several of these photographs as they have appeared on the pages of some of the world’s largest and most popular newspapers and magazines over the last few years.

Containing an introduction by New York Times journalist Dexter Filkins, WTF sets out to document the wide range of human experience associated with conflict.

Having spent some time in Iraq as a Marine combat correspondent and photographer myself, I would say that these are some of the best photographs I have seen coming out of the region. While some of his captions make the Americans appear as as bullies — insensitive to a culture they know little about — I feel he truly captures the day-to-day emotions of all those living this war. You feel the happiness, the horror, the beauty and the fear in his photographs. We see the death, the destruction and even the lighter side of the war.

The book begins in Kurdistan and is accompanied by a brief introduction –as is each section of the book — that chronicles his day-to-day struggles of reporting from a war zone and introduces several of the subjects of his photographs.

He follows this up with coverage of the occupation of Baghdad and the birth of the insurgency leading up to the Battle of Fallujah and ending with the elections.

We see photographs of cheering Iraqis and feel the optimism that was present in the first few weeks of the war. On the other side, we see the chaos that soon followed the fall of Saddam’s regime. We then see images that capture the suspicion and mistrust felt on both sides as the insurgency begin to take shape and the awesome power of the U.S. military during the war’s bloodiest battle.

ACG Images Editor Zachary Bathon stands beside one of the combat photographs he took while a Marine sergeant and combat correspondent and photographer in Iraq that is currently on display in the Global War on Terrorism Gallery at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA.

To me, it is the photographs from Fallujah that truly make the book worth picking up. Gilbertson covered the battle while embedded with a company of Marines from the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Many of these photos had the look and feel of some of history’s greatest war photographers – the likes of Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith and David Douglas Duncan come to mind. The raw emotion captured at Fallujah gives true insight into the hearts and minds of today’s young warriors.

Few books on Iraq out there today cover such a wide range of the war. Many are focused on specific events such as the invasion or on subjects that range anywhere from weapons to love-letters. This book would make a great addition to the bookshelf of any wartime photographs collector or Iraq war enthusiast.