I recently read The Long Walk, a book about leading an EOD team on two tours in Iraq. It isn't really a narrative, more a prolonged rant. I think a better title would have been "The Crazy: A memoir of Iraq and after." But it certainly evoked Iraq for me in a way that many memoirs do not. It has a lot of lines that resonated with me -- I found myself reading the book for these:
--"Everything about Iraq sucked. I loved it."
--"No one drives through the center of Hawija unless forced: so much hate packed into such small space."
--"You are a different person on graduation day from the day you started [EOD school]. . . . It's like being a surgeon, except if you screw up, you die, not the patient."
--On driving an Iraqi dirt road at night: "Like snow flurries back home, the dust just reflected back at us what little light we gave off."
--"Sometimes, when the calls pile up, you can go from yesterday to tomorrow and never get to today."
--". . . so prodigious the blood soaking into the ground that it contaminates the oil reserves hidden beneath the rocky desert."
--"Two months later we had a Day of Five VBIEDs. By that time I was numb, my brain a tingle, and I have no memory of it at all."
--"Every moment you are being shot at you are blissfully, consciously, wonderfully, tangibly alive."
--Murphy's Law: "The odds say Murphy always win in the end."
--"I died in Iraq. The old me left for Iraq and never came home . . . . I liked the old me. . . . Everyone longs for the old me. No one particularly wants to be with the new me. Especially me."
--"Until one day, seemingly out of the blue, it surprised me walking down the street. I stepped off a curb normal. I landed Crazy."
--"There are two of me now. The logical one watches the Crazy one."
--"my first thought is always the same. Will I be Crazy today? And the answer is always 'yes' before my feet hit the floor."
--Considering going back for another tour in Iraq: "The Crazy purrs its approval."
--"Twitch. The left eye has been bad today."
--"When the depravity of this world is laid before you in its ruin, and you discover yourself mired in it, rather than above, what hope do you have?"
--"Forget the starter's pistol. There is a finisher's pistol, and it could go off at any time."
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.