The Chapter on IEDs

Filkins includes many descriptions of kids running around the rubble of whatever burned-out city he is reporting from. Sometimes the kids are scouts (to signal the insurgents that Americans are approaching). Regardless, at least in Filkins’s descriptions, the soldiers always have a soccer ball or basketball handy to throw to them.

Some kids will make a slashing motion across their throats at the sight of the Americans. Otherwise will start screeching — a distraction. A few feet onward might be an IED, so the kids don’t want the Americans to notice.

At the end of Chapter 18, Filkins is in Ramadi, riding in a Humvee driven by Lance Corporal Sean Patton.

“Football! Football!” a couple of kids squeal out.

The Americans toss a ball from the turret. The Humvee makes a right turn and heads “toward an intersection with a kebab stand and a pharmacy.” Suddenly the Iraqis on the street start “moving. Walking away. The intersection” is suddenly empty.

The driver stops the Humvee. “They’re going to hit us!” he screams.

A Marine stands up through the turret, “his hands on the MK-19 grenade launcher . . . He’d left a copy of Surfing magazine on his seat.” Filkins picks up the magazine. There’s “an article about the waves in Nicaragua.”

Eventually, the Humvee moves on. But instead of leaving the scene, the driver circles. Every time he enters the intersection, the Iraqis on the street leave. Every time the Humvee makes to leave the intersection, the Iraqis return.

Corporal Patton says, for the nth time, “We’re going to get hit.” He says it every time they re-enter the intersection, his hands “gripping the steering wheel.”

The hit never comes.

This is crazy.

Stay tuned.

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