The Book

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Bastards & Brothers tells the dramatic story of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (3/2) — aka the “Betio Bastards” — fighting in the wild west of Anbar Province, Iraq in 2005. 

In the spring and blazing summer of that year, 3/2 took on the gathering forces of Al-Qaida in Iraq (the precursor of ISIS), hunted and engaged arch-terrorist Abu-Musab al Zarqawi, withstood fanatical suicide bombers and defeated the enemy in several major operations and hundreds of firefights. 

At the same time, they also forged an unlikely partnership with former insurgents among a local Iraqi tribe. In the middle of a deadly battlezone, and despite prevailing guidance, young Marines found a way to talk with tribal leaders who joined forces in the struggle against Zarqawi and AQI. This tentative alliance was the first time an Iraqi tribe openly sided with the Marines and the coalition, ultimately sparking the historic Anbar Awakening in 2006 which in turn paved the way for the success of the surge in 2007.   

This is an untold story, overlooked by other writers and publishers, that covers a true pivot-point in the Iraq War.  It is the product of deep research, including over 200 author interviews with veterans from 3/2 and others who were there, ranking from the most junior “boot” Marines to the battalion and regimental commanders.  While these first-hand accounts are the beating heart of the text, the author has expertly folded in operational and strategic context, making this a unique book in its genre.  

Bastards & Brothers has already gained praise from high-profile reviewers: 

Bing West, bestselling author, Vietnam vet and former Marine says, “Iraq veteran and former CIA officer Ajax Trueblood has written a finely-researched account of the complex, grueling nature of the post-Saddam insurgency… Clearly demonstrates that Marine efforts to win over Sunni tribes succeeded many months before the “surge” in 2007… Does a great service to the grunts who persisted and turned the tide of the war. 

H.R. McMaster, Lieutenant General (retired) and former National Security Advisor, says the book “should be required reading for NCOs, junior officers and senior leaders…Brings readers into the command post and into the streets for house-to-house fighting… Describes in compelling detail tactical level actions and tough decisions with strategic consequences.

Owen West, award-winning author of The Snake Eaters: Counterinsurgency Advisors in Combat, describes it as “Top notch history that is simultaneously hard to put down. A rare combination… Bastards & Brothers is critical to understanding the Marine victory in Anbar, Iraq’s toughest province.” 

3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines and the fight for Al-Qaim, Iraq