I Miss Iraq - I Miss My Gun - I Miss My War

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I Miss Iraq - I Miss My Gun - I Miss My War

Great article, really shows how addictive war, power, and guns can become to people. A good read.

Much more on the link

I've spent hours taking in the world through a rifle scope, watching life unfold. Women hanging laundry on a rooftop. Men haggling over a hindquarter of lamb in the market. Children walking to school. I've watched this and hoped that someday I would see that my presence had made their lives better, a redemption of sorts.

But I also peered through the scope waiting for someone to do something wrong, so I could shoot him. When you pick up a weapon with the intent of killing, you step onto a very strange and serious playing field. Every morning someone wakes wanting to kill you. When you walk down the street, they are waiting, and you want to kill them, too. That's not bloodthirsty; that's just the trade you've learned. And as an American soldier, you have a very impressive toolbox. You can fire your rifle or lob a grenade, and if that's not enough, call in the tanks, or helicopters, or jets.

The insurgents have their skill sets, too, turning mornings at the market into chaos, crowds into scattered flesh, Humvees into charred scrap. You're all part of the terrible magic show, both powerful and helpless


For those who know, this is the open secret: War is exciting. Sometimes I was in awe of this, and sometimes I felt low and mean for loving it, but I loved it still. Even in its quiet moments, war is brighter, louder, brasher, more fun, more tragic, more wasteful. More. More of everything. And even then I knew I would someday miss it, this life so strange. Today the war has distilled to moments and feelings, and somewhere in these memories is the reason for the wistfulness.

On one mission we slip away from our trucks and into the night. I lead the patrol through the darkness, along canals and fields and into the town, down narrow, hard-packed dirt streets. Everyone has gone to bed, or is at least inside. We peer through gates and over walls into courtyards and into homes. In a few rooms TVs flicker.

A woman washes dishes in a tub. Dogs bark several streets away. No one knows we are in the street, creeping. We stop at intersections, peek around corners, training guns on parked cars, balconies, and storefronts. All empty.

We move on. From a small shop up ahead, we hear men's voices and laughter. Maybe they used to sit outside at night, but now they are indoors, where it's safe. Safer. The sheet-metal door opens and a man steps out, cigarette and lighter in hand. He still wears a smile, takes in the cool night air, and then nearly falls backward through the doorway in a panic. I'm a few feet from him now and his eyes are wide. I mutter a greeting and we walk on, back into the darkness.

Another night we're lost in a dust storm. I'm in the passenger seat, trying to guide my driver and the three trucks behind us through this brown maelstrom. The headlights show nothing but swirling dirt.

We've driven these roads for months, we know them well, but we see nothing. So we drive slow, trying to stay out of canals and people's kitchens. We curse and we laugh. This is bizarre but a great deal of fun.

Another night my platoon sergeant's truck is swallowed in flames, a terrible, beautiful, boiling bloom of red and orange and yellow, lighting the darkness for a moment. Somehow we don't die, one more time.

We pack into the trucks after midnight, and the convoy snakes out of camp and speeds toward the target house. I sit in a backseat and the fear settles in, a sharp burning in my stomach, same as the knot from hard liquor gulped too fast. I think about the knot. I'll be the first through the door. What if he starts shooting, hits me right in the face before I'm even through the doorway? What if there's two, or three? What if he pitches a grenade at us? And I think about it more and run through the scenarios, planning my movements, imagining myself clearing through the rooms, firing two rounds into the chest, and the knot fades.

The trucks drop us off several blocks from the target house and we slip into the night. As always, the dogs bark. We gather against the high wall outside the house and call in the trucks to block the streets. The action will pass in a flash. But here, before the chaos starts, when we're stacked against the wall, my friends' bodies pressed against me, hearing their quick breaths and my own, there's a moment to appreciate the gravity, the absurdity, the novelty, the joy of the moment. Is this real? Hearts beat strong. Hands grip tight on weapons. Reassurance. The rest of the world falls away. Who knows what's on the other side?

One, two, three, go. We push past the gate and across the courtyard and toward the house, barrels locked on the windows and roof. Wells runs up with the battering ram, a short, heavy pipe with handles, and launches it toward the massive wood door. The lock explodes, the splintered door flies open, and we rush through, just the way we've practiced hundreds of times. No one shoots me in the face. No grenades roll to my feet. I kick open doors. We scan darkened bedrooms with the flashlights on our rifles and move on to the next and the next.

He's gone, of course. We ransack his house, dumping drawers, flipping mattresses, punching holes in the ceiling. We find rifles and grenades and hundreds of pounds of gunpowder. And then, near dawn, we lie down on the thick carpets in his living room and sleep, exhausted and untroubled.

Many, many raids followed. We often raided houses late at night, so people awakened to soldiers bursting through their bedroom doors. Women and children wailed, terrified. Taking this in, I imagined what it would feel like if soldiers kicked down my door at midnight, if I could do nothing to protect my family. I would hate those soldiers. Yet I still reveled in the raids, their intensity and uncertainty. The emotions collided, without resolution.

My wife moved to Iraq partway through my second deployment to live in the north and train Iraqi journalists. She spent her evenings at restaurants and tea shops with her Iraqi friends. We spoke by cell phone, when the spotty network allowed, and she told me about this life I couldn't imagine, celebrating holidays with her colleagues and being invited into their homes. I didn't have any Iraqi friends, save for our few translators, and I'd rarely been invited into anyone's home. I told her of my life, the tedious days and frightful seconds, and she worried that in all of this I would lose my thoughtfulness and might stop questioning and just accept. But she didn't judge the work that I did, and I didn't tell her that I sometimes enjoyed it, that for stretches of time I didn't think about the greater implications, that it sometimes seemed like a game. I didn't tell her that death felt ever present and far away, and that either way, it didn't really seem to matter.

We both came back from Iraq, luckier than many. Two of my wife's students have been killed, among the scores of journalists to die in Iraq, and guys I served with are still dying, too. One came home from the war and shot himself on Thanksgiving. Another was blown up on Christmas in Baghdad.

Thinking of them, I felt disgusted with myself for missing the war and wondered if I was alone in this.

Much more on the link
By netchicken: posted on 22-3-2007

This article shows that no matter which generation you are part of in the US, one can always have the opportunity to test themselves in a major conflict. Generations here define themselves with the wars their contemporaries and they fought or witnessed in their prime. I guess its just one of the many opportunities that America has to offer.

By IAF: posted on 23-3-2007

Well, that certainly isnt PC! lol.

Anyway, if he misses it that much, why not go back? The enlistments are still coming up short.

I think its rather strange to miss a damn deathtrap, but thats me.
By Xphilesphan: posted on 24-3-2007

Not hard to understand at all.
You and your buddies are the good guys, trying to win the conflict. You can trust those around you because you have to, and you know that they are the same way.
Silly little things like the car needing a wash, the kids acting up, the wife riding you for watching too much sports on the weekends, all those little minor annoyances that seem so big at the time are not even thought about. The world is put into perspective. The world is black and white. Life is something that is on the edge, and you know that you are alive and not simply going through the motions in a daze.
Getting back to the "world", dealing with office politics, back-stabbing and stupid cat-fighting, petty gripes and moans of the undisciplined civilians around you....

As far as why he doesn't go back, there can be a number of reasons why he doesn't go back at this time. Maybe those little trivialities of civilian life are in need of attention. After all, aren't they what we are defending? Our Western trivialities? Sure, taking out the trash and staying around the old town to help aging parents, for example, isn't a do or die situation, but it needs to be done. The more time passes by the more trivialities mount up and hold one back. There are many reasons why eighteen year olds are best enlistees.
By Thomas_Crowne: posted on 24-3-2007

Well, all I got out of this article is the fact heís
Never felt more alive and needed by this war.
To which I can understand some people just love
Living on the edge, I think itís as simple as that.

It wouldnít be unlike any extreme sports or activity
A person would participate in feel.
That high exhilarating adrenalin rush one feels despite
Putting themselves in High risk makes them feel more
Alive as he stated himself; itís brighter, louder, brasher,
more fun, more tragic, more wasteful. More. More of everything.

Facing a terminal illness from cancer and beating it
For instance can give one a new perspective on life,
Never would walking down the road to your local shop
Feel so mundane or boring. Instead you enjoy and
Feel every breath you take, colours Is indeed brighter
And everyday noises sound like sweet music to the ears.
Indeed you never felt more alive.

That kind of feeling is extremely addictive yet it can and
Does go hand in hand with misery and suffering or the prospect of it.

So, no Im not the least bit surprised by his feelings it quit
Normal and in fact it can only do good for him I suppose,
It would at least make him a better soldier for the fact it makes
Him love his job.
By Shan: posted on 24-3-2007

In the past I have read of people who said similar things about WW2. That they never felt so alive except when they were in war, and how much they missed the 'rush' of it all.

I think some people really hit there best under the stress and environment of war.

Nancy Wake a highly decorated woman agent in france, is one such person, reaching remarkable highs during war time only to be bored stiff in the peace that followed. she said that the war was the pinnacle of her life.
By netchicken: posted on 24-3-2007

Nothing quite makes you appreciate and really feel life than coming close to losing it. or taking another's.
By Twilight_Rogue: posted on 25-3-2007

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