Finally, 232 Pages Into THE FOREVER WAR

We encounter the first American diplomat who speaks “perfect Arabic.”

This is pretty sad. It’s Robert Ford, the American Embassy’s chief political officer. Self looked him up. The Wikipedia page has rather skimpy information. He was a graduate of Johns Hopkins. That’s where he picked up his “perfect Arabic”? She always knew Johns Hopkins was a great school. She wonders if Stanford University offers Arabic? It has to, now, one would think.

Self is still pondering her previous post, about the Blackwater security people who were killed in Falluja, two of whose charred bodies were strung from a bridge over the Euphrates.

Whoever did it knew they were coming. But there was not the slightest trace of apprehension among the Blackwater people in that destroyed car. Either they were just masking their fear, or they had no choice, or they were really that arrogant.

Filkins describes Falluja as “a bomb factory.”

Come to think of it, self is pretty sure she’s read another book by Filkins. All she can remember is the AC/DC moment, hardly anything else. So, nothing prepared her, really for The Forever War. This is such a good book.

She has read soooo many books about Iraq. But the only other one she can remember with any clarity is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in The Emerald City — nice euphemism for the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Blackwater/ Falluja

All morning (because self is still reading Dexter Filkins), she has been trying to imagine what it would feel like to say good-bye to a friend, then to see, two hours later, on a small TV screen in a bar where one has gone to unwind, that friend’s car engulfed in smoke, all four doors flung open wide, as if someone had dragged something — a body, maybe? Not your friend, surely this is a joke — out.

The car is just sitting there, in the middle of the street, how strange.

There is no connection between the friend you spoke to that morning and the image of that banged up car. None whatsoever.

Because when you said good-bye that morning, his car was absolutely pristine. In good shape. Maybe in need of a wash, but there were no holes in the sides.

“It just happened,” someone in the bar says.

Oh, like, a few minutes ago? And you’re sitting in a bar. Staring.

That’s so-and-so’s car.

How could anyone recognize a car as belonging to a friend when it looks like that? Like a burned-out wreck of a car? Like it’s been through a demolition derby? Who drives a car like that? Why would anyone?

And besides, the TV. Your friends never appear on TV. They’re so small-time, they’re not even. Not the slightest bit news-worthy. Your friends are just people. What an invasion of privacy. Did someone get their permission to film them?


To Take a Minaret

Self knows she has read Filkins before. She just knows.

There’s a book that begins with the marines blasting an AC/DC song through loudspeakers just before they try to take Falluja. That was a Filkins book, right?

She cannot tell you how exquisite his account of the battle for Falluja is: For example, the thousands of rounds of ammunition the marines use up in their (ultimately futile) attempt to take out one sniper. One sniper. Who killed one of their own.

The sniper nonchalantly retreats from the targeted building by riding away on a bicycle, unharmed. Though the marines do manage to demolish the building. Nothing is left but the struts.

Filkins and a fellow journalist decide to go into a minaret so they can take pictures, and the marines won’t let them go unaccompanied so they send two soldiers to be point guards. And the only way to the top of the tower is through a long, winding staircase. The two marines go first. And it is so quiet until, “about three-quarters of the way up,” Filkins hears a loud shot, and then a marine is falling backwards, into his colleague. And right afterwards the marines go crazy and attack the minaret: “Young and determined, up the winding stair.”

And it is suicide. Because the stairs can only accommodate one person at a time. So crack! Crack! Crack! go the shots, and one marine after another keeps falling down the stairs.

(You know what eventually happens to that minaret, right? Yup. You know)

Only a week after the battle of Falluja begins, “nearly a quarter of Bravo” company are “wounded or dead.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Street Fight, Falluja

Twilight, Falluja.

The platoon Filkins is embedded with comes under fire.

The platoon’s lieutenant begins to panic.

Considering he’s only twenty-three, one cannot judge him too harshly.

He orders his men to go first that way, then another. They end up going back and forth between two houses. Just like that. Back and forth.

“No, this way.”

“No, here. Here!”

“What the fuck are we doing?”

Filkins tries to open his big mouth. Of course, he’s the reporter. He’s probably the oldest man present, too.

“You — keep your fucking mouth shut; you’re not part of the unit,” one of the soldiers yells.

Well, we all know Filkins survives because. This book.

Stay tuned.

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