October 25, 2007

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War

I'm leaving for Fallujah in early November, and part of my preparation involves reading every book I can get my hands on about what has happened in that city so far. The most compulsively readable of the lot is House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia.

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War
Click the image to order from Amazon.com

Bellavia spent the first part of his Iraq tour in Diyala Province, which is still a convulsive and dangerous place even now. The notorious city of Baqubah is its capital. It is the second city in Iraq, after Ramadi, that Al Qaeda tried to establish as the capital of its so-called “Islamic State in Iraq.”

The author opens his book with brief descriptions of the fighting in Diyala so we can appreciate, if that is the word, how bad the battle of Fallujah was by comparison when he and his fellow American soldiers and Marines took the city back from insurgents in November 2004.

We've all heard and read about how terrorists and insurgents hide behind civilians and use human shields, but it's hard to grasp what that really means without at least a little dramatization. Here is Bellavia describing one of these incidents in the town of Muqdadiyah, Diyala:
The angst-filled scenes on the street cannot compare to what we find inside these battle-scarred houses. Yesterday, my squad kicked in one door and stumbled right into a woman wearing a blood-soaked apron. She was sitting on the floor, howling with grief. She looked to be in her mid-forties and had Shia tattoos on her face. When she saw us, she stood and grasped Specialist Piotr Sucholas by the shoulders and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then she turned and laid her head on Sergeant Hall's chest, as if to touch his heart.

I stepped forward and said in broken Arabic “La tah khaf madrua? Am ree kee tabeeb. Weina mujahadeen kelp?” Do not be afraid. Injured? American doctor. Where are the mujahadeen dogs?

She bent and kissed my wedding ring. “Baby madrua. Baby madrua.” The despair in her voice was washed away by the sound of a little girl's laughter. When the giggling child came in from the kitchen and clutched her mother's leg, we immediately realized she had Down's Syndrome. I was struck by the beauty of this child. Specialist Pedro Contreras, whose heart was always the biggest in our platoon, knelt by her side and gave her a butterscotch candy. Contreras loved Iraqi kids. He had a six-year old nephew back home, and seeing these little ones made him ache for the boy.

We didn't see the injured baby at first – we still had a job to do. I moved upstairs, searching for an insurgent who had been shooting at our Bradleys. Halfway up, I discovered a smear of blood on the steps. Then I found a tuft of human hair. Another step up, I saw a tiny leg.

Baby madrua.

Ah, fuck. Fuck.

The child was dead. She was torn apart at the top of the stairs. Specialist Michael Gross had followed me partway up the stairs. I turned to him and screamed, “Get back down! I said get the fuck back down!” Gross stopped suddenly, then eased off the stairs, a wounded look on his face. I was overly harsh, but I didn't want him to see what was left of this dead child...

I'll never forget that house. The woman kissed each of us good-bye. As she touched her lips to my cheek, I pointed to my wedding ring and asked her where her husband was.

“Weina zoah jik? Shoof nee, shoof nee.” Where is your husband? Show me, show me.

She spat on the floor and cried, “Kelp.” Dog. I guessed he was the corpse on the roof. I touched my heart and tried to convey my feelings, but the language barrier was too great.
A few minutes later, Bellavia's unit joins another that has made contact with the Mahdi Army.
Newell's two-rig convoy takes fire from both sides of the highway. The volume swells as more rockets streak across the road. Suddenly, a small boy of perhaps five or six steps out into the street. Standing next to Newell's Humvee, the kid holds up first two fingers, then five fingers.

Sergeant Grady swings his machine gun around. It is obvious that the boy is signaling to the Mahdi militiamen how many American vehicles are present.

As Grady racks the bolt on his machine gun, Newell realizes what his gunner had in mind. “Don't shoot the child,” he orders.

“Sir, the kid is giving our position away,” says Grady, his voice nearly drowned out by the swelling volume of incoming fire.

“Don't shoot the child,” Newell reiterates, his voice stern. Grady gets the message. Our colonel possess a black-and-white sense of morality. The kid, no matter what he's doing, will not be targeted. At times, our battalion commander's adherence to such niceties frustrates us, but I know in time we will thank him. Nobody wants a child on his conscience.
Diyala was a bad scene in 2004, as it is now. What Bellavia and his men experienced in Fallujah was more deadly and terrifying by at least an order of magnitude. But he warms us up with tales of violence and woe that are more typical of the restless parts of Iraq, and typical of urban warfare anywhere in the 21st century where moral Western armies fight asymmetric wars against less scrupulous and poorly trained armed combatants.

Perhaps I shouldn't say Diyala is typical. It was one of the worst parts of the country then, as it is now. Almost everywhere is less violent than Diyala, but Diyala was easy compared with Fallujah.

Iraq is a strange country. Everywhere I've been – including Baghdad – is less dangerous than it appears from far away. It isn't safe by any means. You do not want to go there on holiday. But I've seen far worse in Israel, which was packed with tourists even during last summer's war. I did hear one car bomb in Baghdad in July from three miles away. It was incredibly loud, especially considering how far away it was. But that's it for me, at least so far.

The flip side of all this is that some of the fighting in Iraq is worse than most people realize. Fallujah in November 2004 just might have been the most nightmarish place in the world. The city was emptied of civilians. American soldiers and Marines fought it out house-to-house and sometimes hand-to-hand with insurgents from Iraq and from all over the Middle East in the eerily emptied ghost town where a quarter million people once lived. Insurgents injected themselves with massive adrenaline shots that made them almost as hard to kill as zombies. The whole city was one giant booby trap. Entire buildings were packed with explosives. Several were often detonated at once.

But first, the easier fight in Diyala, for contrast:
In Diyala, on April 9, 2004, we're in full battle rattle. The high-intensity urban fighting we've practiced since basic training is now finally allowed to be unleashed upon our enemy. There is no weak-stomached four-star general to hold back on our reins. We are again the First Infantry Division of Vietnam and the beaches of Normandy. We pour through compound gates, rifles shouldered, targets falling as we trigger our weapons. Mahdi militiamen sprint from corner to corner, but we are quick and accurate with our aim. We knock them right out of their shoes. Our Brads are rolling, unleashing volley after volley from their Bushmasters into nearby buildings. Yet the militiamen refuse to give up the fight. Tracers from unseen enemy positions spiderweb overhead. They make us earn every house and every inch.

This is our war: we can't shoot at every target, we can't always tell who is a target; but we look out for one another and we don't mind doing the nation's dirty work. Air Force pilots and Army majors expert in Microsoft PowerPoint have a perfectly clean view of it. We don't get support if it makes a mess.

Bring it.

We're the infantry.

War's a bitch, wear a helmet.
Coming soon: Excerpts from House to House and the terrifying battle of Fallujah. You can buy the book from Amazon.com if you want to read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2007 06:36 PM

Comments

I am absolutely going to get this book .The first book I will have actually bought in many a year. Libraries-r-me. Thanks for reminding me to get my a** in gear and get to the store, asap. Presently working my way through 'No True Glory' so this will be a perfect follow-on.

Here I am with the Canadian Dollar now worth $1.03 USD and this will STILL cost me more than if I was in the US. The mysteries of International Supply Chains. Ah well at least some of the money will be going to a good cause.

Posted by: dougf at October 25, 2007 07:22 PM

The third passage is pretty juvenile, and sort of an example of why not to take soldiers' stories as the bottom line. The first passage is sad. The second passage is nice, sort of, and honest, sort of, but seems sort of tonally all too convenient, contrived for authorial effect, although I'm sure the event is true.

Anyway, Mike -

I hope you're reading some things that aren't written by US soldiers on Fallujah. Which is nothing against US soldiers, just .. a basic policy for learning about things from lots of different types of sources.
Maybe you'll even tell us about one of them.

Posted by: glasnost at October 25, 2007 10:00 PM

Glasnost: I hope you're reading some things that aren't written by US soldiers on Fallujah.

I'm reading everything I can get my hands on, regardless of who wrote it.

I'm excerpting this one because it's first-hand information rather than second-hand, and because it's the most entertaining to read.

I'm mid-way through No True Glory, which is also very good, but it's harder to excerpt.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2007 10:19 PM

I'm leaving for Fallujah in early November, and part of my preparation involves reading every book I can get my hands on about what has happened in that city so far.

Frankly it's narcissistic for an author to call his own book "epic" in its title, but let's not judge a book by its cover. "House to House" could be a fine book. But if you really are reading every book on what has happened in Fallujah, it should surely include "Fiasco", by Thomas Ricks. It has 70+ pages that mention Fallujah.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 26, 2007 07:25 AM

Another $1 for Mike, $6 total.

Posted by: markytom at October 26, 2007 07:43 AM

Normally I like to read books written long after the event. Especially when written using first hand accounts from the participants. I may have to break this habit and read House to House. Thanks for the suggest Michael.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 26, 2007 07:57 AM

Not to get off topic, but when using italics within a sentence, how do you turn it off. Using the normal code isn't working. This is the second time it's happened to me, help please. thanks. I know return you to your regular scheduled program.;)

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 26, 2007 08:17 AM

House to House is an "epic" story, regardless of what the author claims. SSgt Bellavia holds the high ground in any discussion of Falujah because he was there. So few of us measure up to men like him. The book doesn't claim to be the whole truth of the 2nd battle for Falujah, just the perspective of one infantry man. I would also recommend We Were One for insight into the Marines in the same fight. While not written in first person, it is a narrative based on quotes from grunts during and immediately after the battle. The author was embedded during most of the fight.

Posted by: Wes Dale at October 26, 2007 08:22 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/26/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at October 26, 2007 08:27 AM

glasnost: just .. a basic policy for learning about things from lots of different types of sources. Maybe you'll even tell us about one of them.

markytom, how much will you donate for every condescending remark?

Posted by: Edgar at October 26, 2007 08:58 AM

Here I am with the Canadian Dollar now worth $1.03 USD and this will STILL cost me more than if I was in the US. The mysteries of International Supply Chains.

That's bugging you too, eh? I noticed the other day that Amazon.ca had started listing the US price on some books, but I guess that's only for the ones that have a cheaper Canadian price. In other words, not many.

I think a consumer backlash is developing.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 26, 2007 09:20 AM

Kevin,

Normal html italics code does work. The only hitch is that a "close italics" mark is automatically placed at the end of each paragraph for some reason. So if you want to put more than one paragraph in italics, you have to do it for each one manually. I didn't design that, it just is.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 26, 2007 10:36 AM

Jim Harris: Frankly it's narcissistic for an author to call his own book "epic" in its title

Your "advice" for writers is consistently terrible. Publishers write titles, not authors. In newspapers and magazines, editors write titles. Only on blogs do writers have control of the title.

I would point this out to you politely, but again and again you criticize the professionalism of me and others from a point of view of sheer ignorance. That's arrogant.

You need to back off and admit that you don't know jack about a professional writer's job.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 26, 2007 10:41 AM

So if you want to put more than one paragraph in italics, you have to do it for each one manually.

There's actually two ways to do it:

<i>First paragraph.</i>

<i>Second paragraph.</i>

OR

<i>First paragraph.</i><p><i>Second paragraph.</i>

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 26, 2007 11:22 AM

Aw crap. Make that second way to do it like this:

<i>First paragraph.<p>Second paragraph.</i>

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 26, 2007 11:23 AM

Thanks Michael and dpu. My ambitions outstretch the tech.:)

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 26, 2007 11:26 AM

Kevin, I just checked the source of the comment you wrote with the un-turnoffable italics. You tried to turn off italics with the open italics tag.

<i> -- italics on
</i> -- italics off

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 26, 2007 11:27 AM

Once again, much thanks dpu. I am proof that failure to continue use of knowledge leads to atrophy. I USE to know all that.lol

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 26, 2007 11:53 AM

Great excerpts, and I don't think patriotism and heroism is juvenile.

Heroism -- doing good for others, at great personal risk requiring great personal effort. The US guys in Iraq are mostly all heroes. Did you hear about their reception in the Atlanta airport, where the public applauded?

It's the arrogant elites who think all true heroism is juvenile that are such a sad joke -- preferring anti-war acceptance of Killing Fields rather than a messy fight against evil.

Fighting, killing, dying, and killing innocents. I'm glad they didn't kill the child who was trying to help the murderers kill the soldiers.

Bush and Rumsfeld, in failing to publicize such events, failed to tell important parts of the truth. The MSM, in failing to publicize the truth, is implicitly supporting the killers.

Thanks again, Michael, for your honesty and near heroism; at least bravery.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 26, 2007 02:00 PM

I'm reading this right now too. Amidst the drama there are some very funny moments. Like when Sgt. Bell orders two grunts out of their shelter in the middle of a hellacious firefight to retrieve a titanium breakaway ladder from their tank. When the two return, drenched in sweat, having risked their lives like few of us can imagine the author barks, "What's wrong with you fuckwads?? I said the BREAKAWAY ladder! Get back out there!" They look at him wide eyed and panting for a beat before he throws them each a smoke saying, "Just joking, take a load off!" Or when another officer is giving orders standing in a pool of flame which jumps, unbeknownst to him, up his right leg. "You're on fire sir," one of the NCO's calmly says.

It is compulsively readable though. In four weeks I've made it halfway through The New Lion of Damascus, about Bashar al-Assad. About 120 pages. I've burned through as many pages of House to House in three days.

Patrick was the first to mention it here, I believe. The bits about the doped up insurgents being blown apart (literally) and still laughing maniacally are chilling to say the least.

-Scott

Posted by: Scott Moshen at October 26, 2007 02:59 PM

markytom, how much will you donate for every condescending remark?

I don't think Warren Buffet would be able to fund that.

Posted by: markytom at October 26, 2007 03:58 PM

Normal html italics code does work. The only hitch is that a "close italics" mark is automatically placed at the end of each paragraph for some reason.
-MJT

That's deliberate, and is an improvement from The Way Things Used To Work™. It prevents 'oopsies' from turning the entire rest of the comment thread into italics. Not that I ever did such a thing back in ye olde days. [whistles innocently]

-----

Patrick was the first to mention it here, I believe. The bits about the doped up insurgents being blown apart (literally) and still laughing maniacally are chilling to say the least.
-SM

Sure. According to their beliefs, they just got their ticket to paradise punched- death in combat against an infidel is automatic admission, I hear.

Thank goodness upper-and-painkiller cocktails don't do anything to improve your aim.... I hear there is some consideration of shifting to a larger-caliber rifle on account of this. 5.56 is accurate enough, but when dealing with feel-no-pain types, what incapacitates is usually either losing consciousness due to blood loss or a central nervous system hit.

Posted by: rosignol at October 26, 2007 04:45 PM

Good luck MJT, stay safe.

I know it is outside of your purpose of going back, but would appreciate it if you could ask the troops what they would like to see in "Care" packages.

Regards

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 26, 2007 04:46 PM

rosignol: It prevents 'oopsies' from turning the entire rest of the comment thread into italics.

Oh. Right. Very well, then. I won't try to fix it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 26, 2007 05:00 PM

MJT,

Any info from your Kurdish friends on the situation in North Iraq? Looks like its warming up quite a bit there....

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 26, 2007 05:34 PM

rosignol,

I've had arguments over at Baen's Bar with mil-scifi over the effectiveness of the 5.56×45mm round. There are a lot of good arguments for it and it is a lot easier to qualify with than the 7.62×51mm round, but if it is not keeping our troops alive in the fight they are facing, we need to change it out. Whether that need will be met is another story, but it irritates the hell out of me when people look at the difficulties in meeting the need and address the problem by denying it.

As an aside, last weekend I re-qualified with the M240, M9, M-16, and Mossberg 500. We were able to do things right and had the time and ammunition to make sure that everybody got qualified. I regret that we did not have enough ammunition to satisfy my personal preferences for shooting the M240, I could quite easily spend a whole day working with just that marvelous weapon. I have some quibbles with the Navy's current qualification courses, especially hip shooting the shotgun, but they are the best I've seen yet.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 26, 2007 07:06 PM


Good luck MJT, stay safe.

I know it is outside of your purpose of going back, but would appreciate it if you could ask the troops what they would like to see in "Care" packages.

Regards

Phone Cards (AT&T International Only)
Disposable Cameras
Travel Size Wet Wipes
Disposable Razors
Beef Jerky
Granola Bars
Sunflower Seeds
Nuts/Snack Items
DVDs/CDs (please no war movies)
Crossword Puzzles
Sleeping Masks
Foam Ear Plugs
Personal Christmas Cards and Letters
Small Holiday Decorations

Posted by: Kenneth at October 26, 2007 07:38 PM

Patrick was the first to mention it here, I believe. The bits about the doped up insurgents being blown apart (literally) and still laughing maniacally are chilling to say the least.

From what I've read, drugs are as much (or more) of an insurgent-recruitment tool than religion.

I think Ratatosk mentioned that this is a tradition among the terrorist/assassins of the Middle East. They're not just dreaming of 72 virgins, they're tripping. No wonder they can't shoot straight.

I wonder why the media only focuses on the religious angle, but mostly ignores the drug use?

Posted by: mary at October 26, 2007 08:19 PM

I wonder why the media only focuses on the religious angle, but mostly ignores the drug use?

Doesn't fit the narrative, which is more important than the facts.

Kind of like the Jena 6 story, the Duke lacrosse story, the Beauchamp reports, the fake but accurate reporting by Danny Rather, etc., etc., etc., etc.

As a former reporter, I weep for the profession. However, Totten, Yon, Roggio and other independents provide some hope for the future of journalism. We just need more of them.

Posted by: Dogwood at October 26, 2007 08:36 PM

I've had arguments over at Baen's Bar with mil-scifi over the effectiveness of the 5.56×45mm round.

It's effective enough on non-doped-up people who have the usual reaction to being shot (falling down, taking cover, trying not to get shot again, etc). It's not so good at causing immediate incapacitation (barring a central nervous system hit) on people who aren't concerned about self-preservation, especially when fired out of those short-barreled M4s the special forces guys like. Maybe we just need to order rounds with faster-burning powder for those guys....

Of course, this is one of the eternal debates... military calibers are compromises between a huge number of considerations, ranging from logistics to what the average troop can shoot accurately to inflicting enough harm on the target to matter to how much it will cost to change from the current rifle. It's easy to come up with a caliber that is superior to the current caliber in some categories (and inferior in others), people have been doing it for as long as there have been firearms.

My take is that materials technology has advanced sufficiently in the last 40 years that it's worth applying the lessons learned to developing something new, but it's going to take some time to figure out exactly what to change to.

Posted by: rosignol at October 26, 2007 10:47 PM

Frankly it's narcissistic for an author to call his own book "epic" in its title, but let's not judge a book by its cover.

Why not? It's a great cover. Take a look at that photo. I looks downright iconic.

Posted by: Carlos at October 26, 2007 10:57 PM

The revelation that the insurgents "shooting up" has a familiar ring to it. Back when the US took possession of the Philippines we also had to deal with the Moros. They used to tie off body parts at the joints to lessen blood loss when shot during an attack. They also, as I recall, used some type of drug to "psyche" themselves up and become fearless. At the time the Army's issued sidearm was a .38 caliber.(officers were constantly having to use their sidearms compared to today) Many began sending letters to home asking for the old Colt .45 Peacemaker. It was after the Moros were finally defeated that the Army then put out a contract for a new sidearm. Browning developed the .45 for Colt.
I have heard that Barrett, of the .50 cal rifle fame, is developing a new caliber rifle for the Army, the 6.9mm.(hold back the snickers please) I could be wrong on the developer but I do believe the caliber to be right. I don't know if the Army has asked for this development or if the maker did so independently. I did hear that it uses many of the same components of the M-16 do training time will be much less. If anyone else has heard this please correct anything I misunderstood.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 27, 2007 12:32 AM

Forgot. The Moros were Muslim too. hmmmm
Funny how history can repeat itself.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 27, 2007 12:34 AM

Thanks Kenneth.

Dogwood; I agree. Peggy Noonan's most recent article http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119343919419073320.html has some good points. Paraphrasing one of her comments about "...everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts". (Not sure if subscription is required)

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 27, 2007 04:24 AM

Michael, wish you the best in Fallujah. Be safe and we very much appreciate your important work. 10% of the population has the courage to go see things for themselves. I would never do that. We very much respect and admire you.

This book is everything you said it was and so much more. I believe it to be amongst the finest of the first person accounts, maybe since Rumor of War.

The Oregonian said it was "21st century Red Badge of Courage." That's pretty epic for my taste.

Also, Jim Harris... one of the most absurd things I read was your comparison to Fiasco by Tom Ricks. You do realize that Tom Ricks has not only endorsed Bellavia's book as the best of his generation but also blurbed raves on the back of the book.

Here is an NPR interview with Ricks here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15307306

Fiasco is still a great read, but everyone pretty much has said the same thing about this young kid's story.

I vote with Michael. You really don't have a clue.

Posted by: Matt at October 27, 2007 12:06 PM

Matt: Also, Jim Harris... one of the most absurd things I read was your comparison to Fiasco by Tom Ricks. You do realize that Tom Ricks has not only endorsed Bellavia's book as the best of his generation but also blurbed raves on the back of the book.

Ha ha, yes, I had forgotten about that.

Really, though, the most absurd thing he has said yet is that I should just stay home and not go to Fallujah at all. I would have to be galactically stupid to take career advice from Jim Harris.

Last night my wife, who is a liberal Democrat just like he is, asked me what the hell is up with that guy. I don't know. There's no explaining some people.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 27, 2007 12:17 PM

rosignol,

There is this tradeoff between good-enough and better inherent in all decisions. We could readily have been fielding effective binary gas projectile weapons today, the technology was available twenty-five years ago. (The propellant is two clean burning chemicals injected into the firing chamber behind the projectile. Think of it as a piston engine with the bullet as the piston.) The advantages of this system are just not enough to make the move to it compelling.

For reference, the Barret folks were clever enough to trim off an RCH to make the round discussed above 6.8mm. The 6.8 SPC is available through several firearms manufacturers, including RRA. Personally, I like the Barret .416 "Screw the California State Legislature" round better, even if it isn't for general use.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 27, 2007 12:32 PM

I have heard that Barrett, of the .50 cal rifle fame, is developing a new caliber rifle for the Army, the 6.9mm.(hold back the snickers please)

Correction, 6.8

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 27, 2007 12:39 PM

Michael, does your liberal wife think Iraq, and normal Iraqis, would be better off if the US followed Dem Majority Leader Pelosi's ideas of immediate withdrawal, or setting a timetable?

I know I haven't in the past, but I've always thought (well, since not bombing Fallujah the first time) that only the Iraqis would win. It's looking more like they are deciding to win, and support democracy, and their form of capitalism, too. I'd be very interested in any differences in opinion you might have with your wife or any close liberal friends. And especially what kind of future they want for Iraq.

I think by this time next year, most folks will be thinking that "we've mostly won" in Iraq. Turkey, the Kurds, and especially Iran will all be much bigger stories. (So hurry to Fallujah before it becomes ... old news).

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 27, 2007 02:46 PM

Patrick:
.....were clever enough to trim off an RCH...

RCH? Haven't heard that term. Please bring me up-to-date.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 27, 2007 03:10 PM

Tom: Michael, does your liberal wife think Iraq, and normal Iraqis, would be better off if the US followed Dem Majority Leader Pelosi's ideas of immediate withdrawal, or setting a timetable?

She's conflicted about the whole thing, as she has been from the beginning. She's much more in line with Clinton than Pelosi. Definitely not the anti-war activist type. I have never once heard her say the US should bug out of Iraq, but she isn't exactly enthused about the enterprise either. Can't say I blame her at this point, honestly.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 27, 2007 03:58 PM

Kevin Schurig,

RCH is a military measurement term, inappropriate for defining here. It is on the order of 0.1mm, though.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 27, 2007 03:59 PM

Tom: I'd be very interested in any differences in opinion you might have with your wife or any close liberal friends.

Lots of my friends are staunchly against the whole thing and have been from the beginning, but it has never been a source of friction for us and I doubt it ever will be. Most of my friends have been my friends for a very long time, since we were kids.

The only person in my life who gives me a hard time about it (sometimes) is my father's live-in girlfriend. She's a 1960s Boomer type leftist, and he's a Republican. They are not allowed to talk politics in the house, which is a good idea because she gets emotionally bent out of shape about it almost instantly. (My father is completely mellow about politics and is baffled by people who aren't.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 27, 2007 04:03 PM

Patrick:

Thanks. Got off my butt, so to speak, checked it out. I agree 100%, not the place to go into detail.lol

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 27, 2007 06:36 PM

House to House is the real deal. Those who don't know, critique ..

Posted by: JJ at October 27, 2007 08:00 PM

"House to House" -page 267, Holy shit!!!

Posted by: Scott Moshen at October 28, 2007 11:36 AM

Michael:

Be sure to talk to or read the accounts of soldiers who fought in the first battle for Fallujah that occurred six months before the action in "House to House." Some friends of my sister were there and it is difficult to exaggerate just how bitter they are about the decision to halt the fighting and turn the town over to the local Iraqi "police" when the insurgents were nearly defeated. That decision devalued the deaths of their friends. Moreover, as they all predicted, even more American lives had to be sacrificed just a few months later to regain the hard-won ground that the politicians had so easily given up.

By the way, will you have any opportunity to visit nearby Tikrit as well? I am curious to know what folks in Saddam's home town now think about their local "hero" and Americans following his execution and the Anbar Awakening. It might provide a few interesting articles.

As always, please take care.

Posted by: Cordell at October 28, 2007 12:26 PM

RCH is a military measurement term, inappropriate for defining here. It is on the order of 0.1mm, though.

I can guess what the CH stands for, but the "R" is eluding me. Is it "regulation"?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 28, 2007 03:55 PM

Aha, "red". Thank you, Urban Dictionary.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 28, 2007 03:57 PM

You guys got me curious, so I googled it.
Not the Royal Children's Hospital.
I've heard the saying before, but not the Red part.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 28, 2007 05:23 PM

About the Red: I've read that if you take ANY human hair and crush it and examine the pigment core under a microscope, it's always and only red. The different appearances are the result of thickness, density, surface diffraction effects, etc. So -- the only true humans are the red-heads, the rest of us are just sub-varieties. ;)

Posted by: Brian H at October 28, 2007 07:12 PM

...she isn't exactly enthused about the enterprise either. Can't say I blame her at this point, honestly.

Who IS enthused at this point? Nobody that I know of. Slightly less discouraged maybe. But definitely not enthused. What we're looking for is steadfastness though, not enthusiasm.

Posted by: Carlos at October 28, 2007 09:26 PM

[i]she isn't exactly enthused about the enterprise either. Can't say I blame her at this point, honestly.[/i]

I was in boot camp in 96 and I had this Drill Sergeant, (then) SFC Nelson. Hell of a guy. He was a Ranger first, then became a Combat Diver with Special Forces, had a Masters Degeree, and made E-7 in 9 years. Every Sunday he would give us an informal class on the constitution; he always said we better know the document we swore to uphold and defend. However this didn't mean he was chummy to hang out with. Every time we'd screw something up, he'd PT us to death, like a good drill sergeant should. I remember one time though, while he was rhetorically asking us what the hell we were thinking, someone said, "Drill Sergeant we worked relaly hard, Drill Sergeant."

He instantly shot back, "Working hard doesn't mean shit if you don't work smart!" and exited the room with us at front-leaning rest. That's what I think of when I think of Iraq. A bunch of well meaning individuals who worked super hard, without a whole lot of thinking going on. Certainly I don't mean the soldiers on the ground, but a few too many people in command decisions.

Posted by: Astroninja at October 29, 2007 01:59 AM

I saw David Bellavia on C-SPAN (sorry NPR, the propaganda net still leaks). He was definitely compelling. He had so much to say, that in trying to get it out he wasn't that organzied, and you could tell there was more. He was remarkably restrained about John Murtha, and he gave some insight into how the media had used statements by retired military generals to portray them as though they had political views that they really didn't have, based on his knowlege of the men.

Thanks for sharing this. It says a lot about your character that you would celebrate the success of another writer.

Posted by: Turner at October 29, 2007 04:57 AM

Very interesting. I speak Arabic and used to work for the DoD but got out before 9/11. I think they need to offer some basic Arabic classes to these guys.

There is no "p" in Arabic, so the word for dog is transliterated as "kelb" or "kalb" depending on where you are from.

I dont agree with a lot of your politics or the conclusions you draw from your experiences, but you certainly give an insight that we almost never see.

Thanks.

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