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.
Verini, who covered the battle for The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic, has written not only a deeply human account of the conflict but also a fascinating historical investigation of Mosul itself ... Verini is a skilled observer of combat ... His descriptions are sharp, as of 'the last-word metallic clangor' of heavy machine guns; and how, in an effort to appear less threatening to communities, 'soldiers had wedged bouquets of pink plastic flowers into the bullet holes in the windscreens of their Humvees' ... Toward the end of Verini is presented with the daunting question of what comes next, and questions his own complicity in the disaster that he has witnessed.
[Verini] ... has written a vivid and bare-knuckles account of the fight against ISIS. They Will Have to Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate will stand up with some of the best war reporting. He takes an unblinking look at the dirtiest kind of battle — urban combat — and the human wreckage it leaves in its wake ... Some of his observations may be too harsh for gentle readers ... Still, it's important for readers to understand what the world faces with such groups ... Verini's book is an important firsthand account of the human cost of war, the civilians caught up in this special kind of hell, and the difficulty of fighting a terrorist group in an urban environment. There will be other such fights. Hopefully, reporters of the caliber of James Verini will be on the front lines.
... includes intense battle scenes, discerning historical analysis and edifying anecdotes about technology’s role in modern warfare. These are important elements, but if They Will Have to Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate has a defining feature, it’s Verini’s vividly rendered ensemble cast. His real-life characters survived the vicious death cult. Their candidly described sorrows and predicaments give us an unusually nuanced picture of contemporary Iraq ... [Verini] is a reporter who is never in a hurry. His straightforward prose illuminates complex gray areas, reminding us that war is never as clear-cut as it seems on cable news ... he focuses on a finite period and a distinct set of people, and the results are often haunting.