Review: To Be a Friend is Fatal by Kirk Johnson

Jen Bradbury
Mar 05 · 5 min read

To Be A Friend Is Fatal

In 2008, my husband and I began mentoring an Iraqi woman and her two sons.

They were refugees who'd been forced to flee for fear of their lives, casualties of a war the United States began.

As the year progressed and we got to know this family more, I began realizing just how much I didn't understand about the Middle East.

The news portrayed “those people” as enemies.

Yet every time I sat in this woman's living room, reaping the benefit of her extraordinary hospitality, I questioned why exactly this was.

Years later, I'm still trying to better understand the Middle East and in particular, the refugee crisis that's come as a result of our involvement there. To that end, I recently read Kirk W. Johnson's To Be a Friend is Fatal.

In this book, Kirk explores what happened to the thousands of Iraqis who worked for the US during the war we waged in Iraq as Iraq's distaste and distrust for America grew.

Now, I'm pretty anti-war to begin with but after reading this book, I question if the cost of war is ever actually worth it.

The stories this book tells are horrific. Yet, they're stories that need to be told.

To Be a Friend is Fatal tells the stories of Iraqis who were hunted and terrorized by the insurgent simply BECAUSE they worked for the United States. It tells the stories of Iraqis who were given no protection or assistance by the US, despite the fact that their peril came as a direct result of their willingness to work for the US. It tells the stories of Iraqis who, left with no other choice, fled the country as refugees, creating the region's largest refugee crisis in 60 years.

To Be a Friend is Fatal tells the stories of refugees who fled to nearby Syria and Jordan, unable to work and unable to return home, dependent on the their savings or money from relatives in order to survive. It tells of how such refugees waded through countless layers of red tape, desperately hoping for the chance to come to America as refugees.

Unfortunately, most of these Iraqis were never given that opportunity.

Our fear kept them out.

In short, To Be A Friend Is Fatal tells the story of a country – our country – who created a refugee crisis and then did very little, if anything, to help resolve it.

It's a compelling, horrifying, and guilt-inducing read.

Yet, it's also well worth reading for anyone who wants to better understand refugees or more specifically, “the human rubble of war”.