Tag Archives: iraq

“American Sniper” by Chris Kyle

sniper

Summary:  “Being a SEAL is tough, but that’s ok because we are tough mutha-f—ers.  It’s not a bad job though – it’s pretty fun to kill Iraqi savages, but it’s sad when our guys go down.” (not an actual quote from the book)

Savages?

“They hate us and want to kill us simply because we aren’t Muslim!”  (this IS an actual quote from the book.)

Uh, buddy, did you forget that you are invading their country?  You talk about a deep sense of patriotism that compels you to fight for your country; what would you do if a foreign army invaded west Texas?

Ok, got that out of my system.  All due respect to Kyle (RIP) and the military, but he just didn’t seem be able to see the situation from the other side at all.  I guess that’s probably best for the guys in the field.  Of course, back home it is easy to practice Calvinist neo-Cubism and see both sides at the same time.  Someone is a terrorist or freedom fighter depending on your perspective.

Pretty interesting read though!  (er, “listen” I guess.  Thanks commute!)  Lest you still think I am anti-military, let me share with you this George Orwell quote I was reminded of: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  As one such peaceable bed-sleeper, let me say, “Thanks guys.”  Really.

(Side note: towards the end he talks about doing a combat sim for Navy health research – sounds like the NHRC sim thing I interviewed for about 4 years ago.)

“Duty” by Robert M. Gates

gates-duty

Been listening to this on CD for several weeks now.  Quite a lot packed in here.  Mostly about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Gates was brought into for salvage duty.  Often frustrated with dealing with a two-million strong military bureaucracy, he nonetheless worked to improve the lot of the troops in the field by providing MRAPs and improving healthcare, while at the same time re-focusing the leadership on getting the job done.

He expressed great respect for both Bush and Obama, who both made independent, courageous decisions often against the wishes of their advisers.  It’s easy to lob criticism against the president, whoever he might be; but considering the immediacy of problems requiring a decision, the risks involved, the uncertainty of information, and the variety of viewpoints surrounding them, they do all right.  It’s almost a wonder that we are still here as a nation.

In the book’s closing remarks, Gates echoes lessons that hopefully our leadership has learned and will remember:  our military is strong (necessarily since we have many enemies) but do not let that cause us to be too quick to wage war.  And remember that exit strategies are important, up front!

Finally this was somewhere in the book … never heard it before but it rings true.  “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” (attributed to George Orwell)   Thanks, guys.

“The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins

I think anyone who has listened to the news over the last few years knows that the situation in Iraq is pretty bad.  This collection of experiences living and working in Iraq by a New York Times journalist confirms that statement.  Dexter Filkins has been there more or less from the start of the invasion and was in Afghanistan before that.

One anecdote from the book that stood out to me was a woman who described pre- and post-invasion Iraq with a diagram.  Before the invasion, you could draw a dot on a page and then a large circle around the dot — the dot is Saddam, and the circle is where you don’t want to be.  Stay out of the circle (out of Saddam’s way) and you don’t get hurt.  After the invasion, the page is virtually covered with dots, each with a small circle around it.  Most of the page is covered by some circle, meaning that most Iraqis are in danger from the myriad of terrorist groups fighting for their various causes.

When Saddam was first toppled, Filkins says, there was much rejoicing from many people throughout society.  Several reveled in their new freedom and eagerly set about working for democracy and progress…sadly, these were the people first targeted and assassinated or driven out by the insurgents.  Filkins indicates that there are now few such visionaries remaining in Iraq.

The chapter on suicide bombers was interesting.  They aren’t always willing martyrs.   Most are misled by their religious leaders and fed false ideas.

According to Filkins, a lot of Iraqis take American money with one hand and then (literally or figuratively) shoot at or bomb Americans with the other.

Kind of a grim country.  It seems like America isn’t doing a whole lot of good being in Iraq, and when we do leave it seems destined for more violence (civil war?) as the Iraqis straighten things out for themselves.  Hopefully they can and Iraq can become a nice place in the future.