Wednesday, October 12, 2005

His War: CBFTW Tells It Like It Was (Fuck Yeah!)

First of all, if you haven't yet, go out and buy a copy of Colby Buzzell's book My War - Killing Time In Iraq. Most of my blog friends are familiar with Colby's writing already through his blog. In fact I remember when I first started blogging I would see all these "did you read what cbftw wrote?" comments or if there were an attack in and around Mosul, "cb hasn't posted in a while, I hope he's OK."

At the time of course, we were headed into an election. The battle lines were drawn in blogland. And just as Bush said, you were either with us, or you were with the evildoers. The evildoers being whatever side was opposed to yours. So we fought it out on blondies, or lefties, or ~jen's~ sites or right here in the dirtysouth. We all went to the rowhouse for respite. But we all went to cb's spot to find out what really was going on in Iraq.

Of course we all wanted him on our side. After all, he was a warrior. And he was there. And so began this trend of how support for the war meant support for the troops. And if you didn't support the war, you didn't support the troops. Which of course is total bullshit. Which makes My War all the more remarkable. Buzzell exposes the lie, expressed by some, that dissent in a time of war is not called for or acceptable. But to say that this is an anti-war book would not be entirely accurate. There certainly are anti-war sentiments expressed, but Buzzell states early on that he supported the war and that he actually wanted to go to Iraq. He recounts a conversation with a high school friend, who opposed the war, and how the two sat and talked about it. They disagreed, but as Buzzell says in the book, "that's ok, he was a friend."

Some of the funniest parts of the book happen when Buzzell first joins up. He describes a particular drill sergeant in Fort Benning who would belt out "He lied!" when some hapless recruit would ask a question that began "But my recruiter told me...." Or adventures with alligators while training down in Louisiana. Of course the fun and games stop when he gets to Iraq.

You can feel Buzzell's exhiliration as they cross the border into Iraq from Kuwait. He's on the ultimate road trip, as he puts it - "...Kerouac and Cassady don't have shit on this nigga!" Once they reach their destination, Forward Operating Base Marez around the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Buzzell gives you a feel for the day to day life of a grunt in a war zone. He gives you accounts of several fire fights he's involved in with harrowing detail. This is where some of the most poignant and honest writing comes from in the book. He talks about the dichotomy of fighting black clad insurgents and then seeing a small child and his mother walking down the road, the mother carrying a shovel with what appears to be a dead dog in the scoop. You get a feel for the civilian toll, for the hardship. And the effect this has on him.

Another reason I was so looking forward to this book was I wanted to see the origin of his blog. By now, cbftw had achieved an almost mythical status in blogland. So this book is kind of like the origins issue of a comic book. Ultimitely it was his blog that got him in hot water with the brass, which brings about some additional humor. At one point while on leave back in the states Buzzell disregards a direct order and post something on his site. "What are they gonna do, send me to Iraq?" he wonders ruefully. But overall you get the sense that his loyalty lies with the guys in his unit, the Stryker Brigade. He quotes lots of war movies including Black Hawk Down - When the bullets start whizzing past your head, politics goes out the window. After a while it's just about the man next to you.

I'm going to close with a short passage from the book. In this passage CB talks about having to divert some fleeing refugees to another checkpoint:

I didn't want this situation to escalate and get out of control, so I slung my weapon back around and pointed my M4 at the crowd and charged my weapon, which is the universal language for "Turn the fuck around and get the fuck out of here and go to the fucking checkpoint over by the street!" And I motioned with my rifle to go to the checkpoint. They all understood what that meant, and without any protest they all slowly turned around and walked away.

I got no pleasure whatsoever doing this. I felt like the biggest fucking asshole on the planet, and in fact I felt like a Nazi, and for the first time ever, I felt like I was the bad guy.

No CB, you're not a bad guy, just a human being.


Blogger exfbonnie said...

hey I like this review. Sorry I didnt see it earlier, but I havent been on here as much as I usually am anyway. very good review...

9:04 AM  
Blogger exfbonnie said...

you should post this on would be a good review to see up there

9:05 AM  

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