This book had all the potential to be a really dull read. Dublanica (in spite of his smug, smarmy, smartass attitude that made me want to kick him inThis book had all the potential to be a really dull read. Dublanica (in spite of his smug, smarmy, smartass attitude that made me want to kick him in the liver) has managed to make the mundane interesting by actually going out and rubbing shoulders with the people in professions that depend on tips for a living. in the case of the strippers, a little bit more than shoulders got rubbed. Hard to take, I'm sure, but one must suffer for his art. No doubt the suffering was eased by the fact that his trips were claimed as a tax deduction.
My desire to give Dublanica the mother of all wedgies aside, I think he did a creditable job of writing, but I got a kick out of the cast of characters he encountered in his travels...they saved the book for him. I do take exception with some of his conclusions, however.
For example, he opines that Canadians are bad tippers. There is some justification for this position, but only in comparison to Americans. People in other parts of the world think that Americans are just plain nuts in their tipping habits, and in fact have turned some of the service industries into extortionists. Don't tip? I won't change your sheets, or throw your newspaper in a puddle, or rub my private parts on your coffee cup. Apparently the land of the free allows the practice of paying people a substandard wage (or no wage at all), forcing employees to rely on tips. Visitors to the USA probably come from a country (like Canada) that enforces minimum wage laws. Naturally we tip as well, but we don't grease every palm we encounter. The mechanic? Seriously? Charges over $100 per hour and you want me to tip him?
Dublanica did engender some sympathy...particularly for the shoeshine guy who works only for tips. In spite of that, I feel that these people are being victimized by their employer, who is getting richer on the basis of the fact that he is guilting the consumer into paying his employees' wages through gratuities. Why not campaign for legislation that bans tipping and forces the billionaire hotel owners to take a couple of billion out of petty cash to give their employees a living wage?
Back in the real world, Dublanica's book is nicely developed, the only flaw being that he lets some of his own personality show through. He is unnecessarily profane and a name-caller, and obviously thinks quite highly of himself. But he did write a decent book, and thoughtfully added a couple of appendices to let us know whose palms should be greased at Christmas and at weddings. Sorry grandkids, if Poppa follows these guidelines there won't be a penny left for Christmas gifts!...more
This is an odd little book. There are probably some that won't like Mr Lukowiak's style (good old English name, wot?) or his irreverent and unorthodoxThis is an odd little book. There are probably some that won't like Mr Lukowiak's style (good old English name, wot?) or his irreverent and unorthodox attitude toward the military and war. In my opinion, this is either the best or worst military memoir I've read. I'm going to lean toward best because, once started, I could not put this book down.
At the time of the incidents referred to in the book, Lukowiak was a Private in 2 Para. He relates, more or less lucidly, his involvement in the Falklands conflict from the time that the news of the Argentinian invasion hit the telly right up to the time he disembarks on his return home. And although he unavoidably mentions incidents of armed conflict, this is no armchair general's adventure-type war story: this book is decidedly and profanely anti-war.
Lukowiak's sentences are short and crisp, and his paragraphs are brief and to the point, often a couple of pages in length. He shifts back and forth chronologically, but leaves one thinking that this is more the result of "fog of war" rather than carelessness on the part of the author. He manages to get the story told quite efficiently and, I believe, as truthfully as the limitations of human memory permit. He tries to relate the effect of the war on himself, and how it affected him in later years. (He didn't write the book until 10 years after the war.) Everything is related to the reader in simple terms, no dictionary required, with the possible exception of a British to English dictionary.
Surprisingly, this book about morbid topics is hilarious! Lukowiak has a dry and sarcastic sense of humor that had me laughing out loud, and I mean that literally. The paragraph describing a sniper duel entitled Maggie's Insane, Organic Killer was particularly side-splitting. In the end, though, Lukowiak's humor serves to emphasize his underlying point: war is a wasteful and hypocritical endeavor best avoided if at all possible. If you want a war book that is unlike the majority of the military histories out there, I heartily endorse this one.
I confess to taking considerable guilty pleasure from this one. To begin with, I have believed from the start that instead of going on about how the II confess to taking considerable guilty pleasure from this one. To begin with, I have believed from the start that instead of going on about how the Iraqis were shooting at them, the US and British troops should have got the hell right out of Iraq. They had no business there in the first place. On the other hand, I loves me a good story about the brotherhood of arms, and this book is a dandy example of just that type of story.
Let's start with Sgt Dan Mills. (I love the way he uses his rank on the dust jacket; being a soldier is a major part of his identity, having signed on as a boy soldier at age 16) He deployed to Iraq with the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment at the age of 36 and was in command of the sniper platoon at Al Amarah, Iraq. From the moment their boots hit the ground, they were under attack by Iraqi citizens. I won't call them insurgents; how can you be an insurgent against a foreign force in your own country? Writers of other sniper accounts speak of Iraqis in disdainful terms, calling them "evil" or "savages" or worse. Mills avoids that trap. While he and his mates are quite aggressive in countering attacks, he seems to have a grudging respect for his lightly armed opponents. He sees both sides of the conflict and, while he doesn't praise the Iraqis, he doesn't denigrate them either. The praise he saves for his mates, and he is lavish with it.
This was one of the refreshing parts of the book; there was little "I" in it. Where other writers boast of their accomplishments, Mills is more of a "we" type of fellow. If he is lavish in his praise, he is also brutally honest in his criticism. If an officer or subordinate has messed up, Mills names them and lists their offending behavior for all readers to see.
One of the best action writers I've had the pleasure of reading in a long while, Mills holds your interest not only during the firefights but also when telling you about camp routine or describing military equipment. He spares you much of the history of his regiment and his own life story, telling you just enough to acquaint you with both but not so much that your mind wanders off. He relates all manner of detail about the platoon: the rivalries, the practical jokes, even the sexual deviancy where applicable. Some passages of this book will probably have you laughing out loud. Some parts will make you glad you're not a sniper, like the time Mills' number two had to catch his steaming number two in plastic film while Mills shat and shot at the same time.
This is a solid book, fully equipped with diagrams and photographs to guide the reader through the action. An interpreter might have been handy to get me through some of the Brit terms, but you should have little trouble with most of them. You know: rummaging through the boot and walking about with a head torch and all that. Then you get gems like this from P.240:
Put it this way, Danny, threatening the Imam Ali Mosque is like waving a giant blood-red flag with bells on it in front of a seriously histrionic bull with a persecution complex.
Seriously, if you like military non-fiction, give this a read. It's Mills' tribute to his brothers-in-arms and well worth the time.
This book is mercifully short. I don't say mercifully because it's not well written, but because it gives an unpleasant glimpse of the systemic atrociThis book is mercifully short. I don't say mercifully because it's not well written, but because it gives an unpleasant glimpse of the systemic atrocities that a so-called civilized nation is capable of in time of armed conflict. You can only absorb so much of that stuff before it becomes tiring.
Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian interviewed 50 men and women from the American armed services specifically regarding how the military operation in Iraq affected the citizens of that country. I wish I could say I was shocked at the result, but the world is well acquainted with the excesses suffered by the Iraqi people during the coalition occupation.
It has been observed by many soldiers that the "insurgency" in Iraq was largely of American making...that they were welcomed as liberators and builders in the beginning. (In fact, Iraq had electricity and water before the coalition troops arrived...many places had no electricity or potable water when the troops pulled out...Iraq was actually in worse circumstances after American "aid") It was only later when it was realized that no building was under way and that the great convoys making tracks across their country were mostly supplies to maintain the privileged lifestyle the military was accustomed to stateside that support for the armed opposition to coalition troops gained strength. People would be shot up cutting between vehicles in a convoy. Others would be massacred at a checkpoint because they approached too quickly; some were killed by negligent discharge of a service weapon. The "insurgency" grew with every death, every atrocity.
Some (probably all) of the military men and women interviewed for this book were deeply disturbed by incidents they witnessed or participated in. In many cases these troops tried to act in an honorable manner, tried to report atrocities and shortcomings to superiors, only to be silenced or even threatened. They found that no honor remains in the upper levels of the American profession of arms. In fact, in some cases they were actually ordered to prey on the Iraqi public: the case of one unit that stole a generator from Iraqi civilians when their own broke down comes immediately to mind. We have to face it: the only honor left in a profession that prides itself in honor is found only at the individual level...it is no longer practical policy.
I think that the writers could have delved deeper into the possibility of racism as a factor in the abuse of Iraqis. Can you imagine the howl of outrage the world would hear if captured American soldiers were forced into one of the obscene human piles of outraged flesh we saw at Abu Ghraib? I asked myself if the opponent were from a European country...say for example Russia or Ukraine...would we see the same atrocities inflicted on them by American captors? I seriously doubt it. So what is the reason? That Americans felt superior to the Iraqis? That the Iraqis were dirt poor and totally unable to retaliate? The answers are not in the book, and you will need to look elsewhere for them.
This book is dated, of course. We all know what is happening to the hapless citizens of Iraq now. More troops will have to be sent in to sort out this situation; I hope none of them are captured....more