The book recounted blow by blow, the horror and ecstasy of war and killing by the Marines. Riding in the back seat of a humvee the author saw it all. Now and then some of the solidiers began to feel conflicted about the war. Wright recounted one GI named Espera, from Los Angeles, who was beginning to feel remorse.
He wrote that though Espera took pride in being a "violent warrior," the philosophical
implications weigh on him. "I asked a priest if it's okay to kill people in war," Espera told Wright. "He said it's okay as long as you don't enjoy it. Before we crossed into Iraq, I fucking hated Arabs. I don't know why. I never saw too many in Afghanistan. But as soon as we got here, it's just gone. I just feel sorry for them. I miss my little girl. Dog, I don't want to kill nobody's children."
Wright reports Marines call themselves "Devil Dogs" -- according to lore, German soldiers in WWI nicknamed them, "Tuffen Hunds," in grudging praise of their tenacity -- and the chaplain assigned to the outfit incorporated this into his sermons. "They nickname you Devil Dogs," he tells his flock. "But Jesus was the original Devil Dog. He faced evil, and he beat it. Jesus is the Devil Dog you will want on your side going into battle."
If Jesus was Devil Dog, who would Allah be?
Wright tells us about Alpha Company commander Bryan Patterson, Naval Academy graduate before becoming a Marine. Patterson says, "There is not a good thing that comes out of war. I'm not going to pretend I'm this great American savior in Iraq. We didn't come here to liberate. We came to look out for our interests. That we are here is good. But if to liberate them means putting a Starbucks and a McDonald's on every street corner, is that liberation? But I have to justify this to myself. It's Saddam's fault." Still, he says, "the protestors have a lot of valid points. War sucks."
Then there was Carazales from Cuero, Texas. He hates the Marines, hates officers, hates rich people. As they move from village to village, they are shooting at virtually anyone who moves. It wears on Carazales. Wright reports again, "How do you think we would feel if someone came into our country and lit us up like this?" Carazales says. "South of Al Gharraf I know I shot a building with a bunch of civilians in it. Everyone else was lighting it up. Then we found out there were civilians in there. It's fucked up." Carazales works himself into a rage. "I think it's bullshit how these fucking civilians are dying! They're worse off than the guys that are shooting at us. They don't even have a chance. Do you think people at home are going to see this -- all these women and children we're killing? Fuck no. Back home they're glorifying this motherfucker, I guarantee you. Saying our president is a fucking hero for getting us into this bitch. He ain't even a real Texan."
The book ends with the Marines sent back to the states but with orders to soon return to Iraq. Espera returns home to Los Angeles. He was invited to a party at a gated community in Malibu where residents wanted to toast a war hero. Wright recounts how guests repeatedly praised his heroism in serving his country. Then, after his fifth or sixth glass of wine, Espera rose to his feet. "I'm not a hero," he said. The guests nodded, their smiles stretching even wider at this hero's show of humility. "Guys like me are just a necessary part of things," Espera continued. "To maintain this way of life in a fine community like this, you need psychos like us to go out and drop a bomb on somebody's house."