Code Name: Johnny Walker
Jim DeFelice co-wrote the memoir of an Iraqi Muslim who worked with the Navy SEALs to find insurgents. The book, Code Name: Johnny Walker, offers a unique perspective, showing how some Muslims will not remain silent against terrorism. Johnny became the SEALs' most trusted terp (interpreter), willing to sacrifice everything in an effort to improve his country and keep his SEAL brothers safe. The book provides insight into what it was like to be an Iraqi working with Americans and how costly it was to him and his family. American Thinker had the privilege of interviewing DeFelice and Johnny about the War in Iraq.
The late Chris Kyle told American Thinker in an earlier interview, "I would trust my life to the Iraqi interpreter who served with us, and fought side by side against the same enemy." DeFelice said that the only reason he wrote the book was because Chris insisted that Johnny's story must be told. "Chris pointed him out in a picture and told me, 'That was the only Iraqi I every trusted with a gun, especially one who was behind me.' Chris loved Johnny and thought of him as a real hero."
Surprisingly, in the beginning of the book, Mosul is shown to be a "melting pot." The hatred between Sunni and Shia did not exist. Johnny points out that he is a Sunni who married a Shia and blames the extremists for the religious intolerance that now exists. He directly commented, "Al-Qaeda created an atmosphere of tension and hatred. They used the excuse of religion to kill people."
When asked why more Iraqis and Muslims do not step up to the plate to denounce terrorism and violence, he explained, "Iraqis are afraid for their lives. You do not know who the extremists are, so you have to be careful about what is said. You never knew when the cowards would try to attack you and your family, many times blindsiding people. Look at Fallujah today, where the situation is very complicated. There is the government, the extremists, and the people are caught in between. The terrorists with guns are taking control, because most of the common people have either no or very few weapons. I understand that it is hard for many Americans living in the U.S. to understand the desperation of the situation, where all someone wants is to just be able to live safely."
Using himself as an example, Johnny points out that his brother was killed and his family was threatened numerous times. His brother was murdered because he became a driver who delivered bread to the Iraqi troops. His wife and children moved houses in Mosul several times when the situation became too dangerous. At one point the family put the story out that Johnny ran away because "[i]n our culture that was seen as cowardly, which is considered a dishonor. I also had a bounty put on my head, $50,000, which I joked with Chris was very little compared to his."
At the time of the American invasion, many Iraqis were out of work and poor. In need of a way to support his family, Johnny made a practical, not a philosophical decision to work for the Americans as a translator, first for the Army MPs and then for the SEALs. Interestingly, at the beginning of the war, Johnny describes in the book how it was a calm period in Mosul. "There may have been some animosity toward the Americans, but if so, it hadn't been expressed in violent terms. ... People were hopeful that the Americans would bring genuine and positive change." He speculated to American Thinker that had the Americans done more to end the corruption and prevent the dissatisfaction, the insurgency would not have been allowed to grow. He gave the example that in Mosul, criminals were stealing grain and wheat from the storehouse. After he informed the Americans about the black-market operation, they decided to take action, and for at least one night, the thieves realized they did not have the run of the city. He blames the problem on not having a plan after the war. "We wanted to see more action like I just described and less words. There was no foundation for the American dream: no jobs, and a lot of corruption."
The grain incident became a turning point for Johnny. "I was no longer working for the Americans, but with them. I saw that they wanted to bring justice to Iraq, and so did I." After being loaned to the SEALs for an operation, Johnny was enlisted as an "interpreter," the military term. However, his job could best be described as an investigator. He did not just translate for the SEALs, but went on missions with them, using different techniques to draw the insurgents out. He described it this way: "My country, my rules. What to one culture seems a sign of strength, to another may be a billboard of weakness. And that was often true in Iraq. My tricks of the trade included asking children for an ID, examining papers, looking at the house culture, and allowing the enemy to let their guard down. I had to be careful to determine who were the innocents and who were the bad guys. For example, one time this militia guy we were looking for gave me a Sunni name. After talking to the children and searching his house, I found he was a Shia. I delivered the 'jackpot' to the SEALs."
He came to regard himself as part of the team and the SEALs as his family. "Their toughness and their loyalty to one another made them accept each other, and they had adopted me as one of them. They were honorable, while the extremists were not. The insurgents never battled you face to face and would kill innocent people to send a message, as they had on 9/11. They killed people because of their beliefs."
Johnny Walker, the anonymous name given to him by the SEALs for his own protection, accepted their offer to help bring him and his family to America after it became too dangerous to live in Iraq. He wanted to come to America so he and his family could experience "equality, justice, and a chance to improve my living conditions. I am in the process of becoming an American citizen. My attitude, after living here for five years, is G-d bless America. I found my dream. My family and I love it here, because the worst day in America is paradise compared to Iraq."
Anyone interested in the perspective of an Iraqi who tried to change his country for the better by helping Americans should read Code Name: Johnny Walker. Readers will understand that after becoming a teammate of the SEALs, he learned to love what America stands for, as well as some favorite four-letter words. This is an insightful memoir that is extremely informative and gripping.
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.