“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
An eyewitness account of a government war, especially that of a participant in it, is invaluable for providing those of us who weren’t there with a more accurate idea of what actually happened. Despite any bias on the part of the eyewitness, many secrets can still be uncovered if only one knows where to look. Yet, I feel compelled to remind everyone of the contextual background that such a war occurs in.
The Iraq “war”, also referred to as the Second Persian Gulf War, was a unconstitutionally undeclared executive military campaign that took place between 2003 – 2011, according to the official story. It followed very closely on the heels of the similarly unconstitutionally undeclared “war” in Afghanistan, which itself is still ongoing despite being popularly forgotten, going on 12 years now. I say that because just as the Afghan “war” was the first major military campaign kicking off the so-called “War on Terror” in 2001 (because of the suspiciously violent events at the World Trade Center in New York City and other locations earlier that year), the pretext for the Iraq “war” lay not only in assertions made by the Bush, Jr. Administration that Saddam Hussein was harboring Al-CIA-da operatives, but more importantly, that he was hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) from United Nations weapons inspectors.
You would expect that if the threat from Hussein’s activities were serious enough to merit a full-on military invasion, then you’d expect to find proof verifying nearly everything then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN Security Council, but alas, such was not the case. It was only until years later that Powell admitted the “intelligence” he received wasn’t as solid as he had been led to believe, even going so far as to admit that it was a blot on his credibility; however, that didn’t stop Bush, Jr. from issuing his ultimatum to Hussein, giving him 48 hours to evacuate his own country. Yet, it was in 2005 when Bush, Jr. joked about the “missing” WMDs at the Radio & Television Correspondents Association Dinner, despite the fact it was the chief reason given for invading a sovereign nation in the first place (consider also the reaction Iraq vet Tomas Young had toward’s Bush’s WMD lies). No wonder the Winter Soldier II event was held in 2008, which deliberately invoked the original Winter Soldier Investigation of 1971 regarding the Vietnam “war,” both of which were about the inhuman atrocities committed by the American military against civilians the brass described as “collateral damage.”
Before I venture into this memoir, I would like to take a moment and offer some plausible reasons for what this “war” was really about. If you keep in mind that Hussein was a CIA trained intelligence operative, wouldn’t it stand to reason that after American troops discovered him in his foxhole, he would be subjected to a kangaroo court trial before he was summarily executed? Once Hussein was out of the way, the American federal government would be able to run the place into the ground with their monopoly weapons sales, mercenary contracts, protecting the opium fields (so much for “say no to drugs,” huh?), reconstruction “no-bid” contracts, seizing the oil fields, and most importantly, the establishment of permanent military bases. In short, what you were told about the reasons for the invasion and subsequent occupation of a foreign country made up of people who have caused us no harm was invented out of whole cloth by the very same rebel elements who are incrementally robbing you of your liberty.
The author mainly focuses on his experiences during the Second Battle of Fallujah. Bellavia describes in horrific detail how enemy targets were neutralized, how his subordinates were killed or horrendously injured (such as when Sgt. Alan Pratt got a shrapnel wound from a piece of a dead-bolt lock embedded in his penis), and how he deals with his own personal demons. If you get a thrill from reading about Bradleys, M249 SAWs, and AT4s, then this is the memoir for you, but for everyone else who is already either feeling nauseated by the gore, or enraged at why any of this bullshit is happening in the first place, then I would like to offer something unique for your own didactic education.
A moment ago, I referred to Bellavia’s personal demons, which I think are the key to understanding his motivations as well as why he takes stupidly unnecessary risks (which naturally result in more violence and gore). When Bellavia was 23, his parents’ house was robbed by hoodlums. Struck by what he describes as his own cowardice, Bellavia mentions how his dad stared at him with “a look of disgust and pity” for his inaction. Thus, Bellavia has been trying to make up for his perceived cowardice ever since, and because of this, it has turned him into a killer, a term he readily self-identifies with that describes what he has become.
Bellavia’s machismo is quite comical…well, to me, at least. As he says:
“Honor. What an overused word. It’s an abstraction. Who can define it? All year in Iraq, I’ve stood with my men. If they had to fill sandbags until three in the morning, I’d be out there in the dirt and mud with them. I would never give an order, then go relax as they worked. My example is all I have as a noncommissioned officer. I take pride in that. That is my honor.”
Remember, this is the same kid who thought he was a coward for his stare-in-the-headlights inactivity during his early twenties. Regarding a house in Fallujah filled with “insurgents,” he says:
“If I don’t go in, they’ll have won. How many times have we heard that American soldiers rely on firepower and technology because they lack courage? How many times has our enemy said that man-for-man, they can beat us? That’s nothing new. The Germans and Japanese said the same thing in World War II. Inside that house, I surrender my honor and my manhood. Now I have to take both back, or live with the fact that they are right about me. That is unacceptable.”
Again, the author is wracked with guilt over being not violent enough, so naturally, he overcompensates. Notice also how he ties his manhood with “honor,” and treats both as the antithesis of cowardliness. This is also highlighted when he returned to Fallujah almost two years later:
“God and I still had much to work out. On that street corner I realized that before I asked for His blessing over this soil, I had to figure out how to ask for forgiveness. Heart reeling, I turned away from the breach. This trip had been a mistake. I should have never come back. Yet I continued. Quitting would have been cowardice.”
So, here we have an adult man who believes he must join the army in order to become a man, a theme that is repeated many times throughout his memoir. He describes Sgt. Pratt’s stoic suffering as evidence of him being “a fucking stud;” he makes numerous other references to how proud he is of his co-workers because they have “proved” they are “men” simply due to the fact that they can shoot brown people (sure, one could argue about the institutionalized racism within the military, as Mike Prysner has done, but honestly, who gives a fuck? If these socialized mercenaries are so callous in their wanton disregard for human life, then what difference does their natural prejudice make in the final equation?).
What effect does Bellavia’s personal demons have on his life? For starters, he’s got a massive guilt complex going on. When he returned to Fallujah almost two years later in 2006 as a reporter for The Weekly Standard, he says:
“All the emotions, all the bottled-up angst and grief I’d pretended didn’t exist suddenly broke free. Tears rushed down my cheeks, and I began to sob uncontrollably. I covered my face in complete shame, but I knew that the woman still watched me…I slipped off into an abandoned home a street away, embarrassed and surprised by my own meltdown on that Fallujah street. I sat and stared at the front gate. I have no idea how long I sat there, wracked with guilt for surviving. I lost track of time, lost track of where I was.”
Great, so now the guy has become a blubbering idiot only because he has silenced his conscience until now, a habitual act he admitted to earlier in his memoir. Regarding the old woman he passed, he said:
“The soil in Fallujah and all of Iraq has been consecrated with the blood of our dead. And her reverence reminded me of that. Fallujah will never be just another battlefield. This old woman showed me that my time in Fallujah was a life-altering privilege. It was here that we fought for hope. It was here that we fought to end the reign of terror that had descended on the innocents of a city.”
Uh, what part of “Bush lied, kids died” does he not understand? Hell, Bellavia himself remarks the following about their deaths:
“Through it all, I witnessed the best of the human condition – the loyalty, the self-sacrifice, the love that the brotherhood of arms evokes. I realized then that I am complete for having experienced that. Those who died gave their lives for a noble ideal: that freedom from tyranny and oppression is a basic human right. We were the force to do that, and my brothers paid the price…I knew this: as long as I honored these men each day, I would have a second chance at redemption. At last, I understood.”
No, I don’t think he does understand. Bellavia’s fellow co-workers were killed in hazardous working conditions just so that some empty suit, fat cat CEO corporatist sucking at Leviathan’s teat could get rich quickly with all the weapons sales, no-bid contracts, and oil revenues that became available to them only by way of government. But, alas, Bellavia’s personal demons aren’t limited to his co-workers, for his son, Evan, was just as deeply affected, if not more so:
“Three days later, on July 7, 2004, I saw Evan for only the second time in two years. I got off the plane at the Buffalo airport, still dressed in my desert camouflage uniform. Deanna regarded me coldly with that you’re an asshole look she’s got down pat and uses when I most deserved it. Evan hid behind her pant legs. When I reached for him, he recoiled. My own son was afraid of me. Deanna guided him to me, and I hugged him. He did his best to minimize the contact between the two of us, as if he was hugging a stranger. It was devastating to me. Of course he’d react this way. I was a stranger…his memory was empty of any time with his father.”
Looks like someone really could have used Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s advice on child-rearing. On a brief sojourn to Iraq in 2005, Bellavia commented on his return back to the Buffalo airport two weeks later:
“Evan recognized me, but he was standoffish and cautious at first. I had to win him back all over again. This time, it was different. He was five now, and through the leave I began to see all the things I had missed. He was in T-ball. Somebody else had taught him how to throw a baseball. Somebody else bought him his first mitt. I have never even played catch with him. His grandfather had shown him how to ride a bike. Inside, I was furious. These were my duties – sacred ones a father must do as part of his son’s rite of passage. I had failed again by being absent when he needed me. If I stayed in the army, what else would I miss? Everything.”
Evan managed to firmly tell his father that he needed him more than his job did (as a side note, Bellavia’s admiration of his son is always described in terms of a rather trite hypermasculinity, that is, Evan is supposedly acting like “my son” when he tries to hide his tears of joy when his dad finally decides to stay stateside for good when he returned from his 2006 reporter gig). In summation, Bellavia adds:
“Evan no longer tells people I fight bad guys for a living. When asked, he tells his friends that his dad talks on the phone a lot and vacuums on occasion. I smile and laugh and go back to working on this book. I wrote it so someday, when he is old enough, he will understand his father at last.”
There you have it; this entire memoir isn’t really about a war, necessarily, but rather a odyssey into the psyche of a man who is awfully preoccupied with his rather egoistical notions of masculinity. Of course, he uses the Iraq “war” to “prove” his own masculinity to himself because he seems to be emotionally insecure. As Bill Hicks said about the first Persian Gulf War:
“People who bug me in the States, people said, ‘Hey, war makes us feel better about ourselves.’ Really? Who are these people with such low self-esteem, they need a war to feel better about themselves? I saw them on the news, waving their flags. Can I recommend instead of a war to feel better about yourself, perhaps…situps? Maybe a fruit cup? 6 – 8 glasses of water a day? I am not telling you how to live, I’m just recommending a perhaps better way to feel better about yourself, and we can avoid a conflagration. Merely a suggestion.”
Truer words have never been spoken, at least, with regards to those stuck within the left-right paradigm who seem to try and soak up the blood-drenched corpses that are the inevitable result of the warfare state.
David Bellavia’s House to House: An Epic Memoir of War is an insightful, yet pathetic, look into how a combat infantry soldier can lie to himself so convincingly, despite the literally mounds of evidence surrounding him. This man practices doublethink like it’s going out of style with sentences like, “I will always hate war, but will be forever proud of mine.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, there are some within the Patriot Community who think that this memoir is a “brutally honest tale of camaraderie, sacrifice, and heroism” that was initiated during Bush, Jr.’s Reign of Terror. Although the eyewitness detail is certainly valuable for other reasons, you have to consider the source, namely, a man who seriously lacked any sort of emotional maturity before he was sent overseas.
The worst of all this, is, Bellavia, as the statist that he most likely is, unsuccessfully ran for elected office numerous times after he came back, instead of either becoming a firearms and tactics instructor teaching American citizens how to defend themselves from the Standing Army, or, forming a local Committee of Safety. That, more than anything, demonstrates to me that Bellavia is nothing more than a loyal government stooge, who is more than happy to obey his political masters rather than help you secure your Liberties. While some readers may take unusually great offense at my statements in this report, what I find even more offensive is the fact that Bellavia claims to be a patriot all the while serving the very tyrants who are successfully harming you and your family right now. If David Bellavia or Chris Kyle are what pass for being emblematic of American patriotism these days, then I am simply not fucking impressed.