Most helpful positive review
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A page-turner of modern warfare
on 4 January 2008
I've read quite a few accounts be soldiers of life in war zones, including Somalia, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and WWII Europe. This account of fighting with the infantry in the streets of Fallujah, Iraq, is not the deepest philosophically, but definitely the most gripping in the intimacy and detail of its description of the action.
We don't hear much about the motivation of the soldiers involved on either side or how the invasion of Falujah came to be deemed necessary in the first place. we are left in no doubt though that once the battle was joined it was bloody and intense.
Combat is described in frank and sometimes gory detail. Many war authors are content to tell us simply that the enemy was killed. Bellavia tells us exactly how they were killed, whether they screamed or cried, were disintegrated by an explosion, or eaten by dogs once they were dead. Not for the faint hearted.
The lack of background and concentration on the specifics of violence does not make this a shallow story. I found myself caring more even for the insurgents that are killed than for any other opposing forces I have read about. And even though we don't learn much about the US soldiers fighting their way around the city, their lives in the US before or after the war, it is still heart-breaking to hear about them being wounded or killed. It has the attention to detail of Black Hawk Down but a much faster pace.
It also makes it clearer why the insurgency against allied forces in Iraq has only gathered pace in the intervening years. Fallujah was not an isolated incident of a few dozen men fighting each other. It was a full scale obliteration of an entire city, leaving a mark on the country and the minds and bodies of those involved that will never heal. Some of the men in Bellavia's platoon were 19 when they went to Fallujah. how do you live the rest of your life in peace when you've shot someone, seen them run over by an armoured vehicle, and then seen dogs licking their blood from the tank's tracks? Or fought your way through a house single-handed, bludgeoning a man to death with your helmet and then stabbing him to death with your pocket knife?
An amazing story I found impossible to put down once the action began.