Michael Yon does not have time to talk to you. There are things going on. The front is ablaze with fire. The sound of gunfire is not distant, but down the block. And yet here he is, sitting down across from you, setting a bottle of scotch on the table, taking off his sunglasses to see straight into your eyes. He is tired, yes, tired of it all – but he has a story to tell you, a story you must hear, and you are damn well going to listen.
“There is a clear battlefield conversion from ink to blood, from blood to ink,” he says. And you understand.
Yon’s new book, Moment of Truth in Iraq, reads as this conversation would: the unflinching staccato of a man who has seen more than almost anyone else of this war, this absolutely necessary but unquestionably mismanaged war, and the men and women who fought and died to win it.
It is the story of Fallujah and Anbar. Deuce Four. The Welsh Warriors, Rorke’s Drift Company. The Holy Hand Grenade. How to Get Killed. Petraeus. The Surge. The Sons of Iraq. The Seven Rules. Farah.
Do not say another word about these things – do not write about them as if you know what you are talking about – until you read this book. Until you set yourself down and talk over scotch and sand as the explosions echo.
You will listen. Again and again, unwise policies devised by diplomats throw new perils upon them. Again and again, Yon heads out with groups of young men, soldiers who do know what awaits them, and yet conquer their fear, set it aside to do what must be done.
He checks the windows first.
If you are going on a combat mission and soldiers have not cleaned all their windows to a sparkle, do not go with them. Soldiers with dirty windows are not watching for tiny wires in the road, nor are they scanning rooftops. They are talking about women, football, and the cars they will buy when they get home. I will not go into combat with soldiers with dirty windows.
Clean windows, so they will see what’s coming. Sometimes they will stop it before it comes. Sometimes they will not. Yon is there for it all. He is determined that these stories – the stories the media at home will not tell you, the stories you must dig to find amidst the latest celebrity marriages, hot new gadget, and Hollywood gossip – will not go unwritten. He will write them himself, in the back of a Humvee, and send them back across the globe. And you will listen.
You cannot read Yon’s book in bed. I found it hard enough to read it sitting down – it rips out tales that will make you frustrated, then angry, then grateful, and then you weep. But clear your reading list. You must read it, because it is the most truth about this war that you will ever read, a tale of blood and sand and heroes and villains – and hidden underneath it all, hope.
The military is at war. America is at the mall…American combat soldiers don’t want pity. They’re ready to fight to the end; they just don’t want it to be for naught. They have been fighting for two nations, one of which didn’t seem to notice. The Iraqis noticed.