Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘The Long Walk’: A striking forthcoming memoir of leading a bomb squad in Iraq, and then going crazy when back home

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 ...

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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."

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 from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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