“Over a three-week period in the autumn of 1993, the fate of Vareš opened before me like a perverted fairytale. The cast included the Muslim folk of a forest village, a murderous pilgrim rogue and his band of killers in the valley below, a serb warrior who had the skull of an imam mounted on his jeep, and the embattled forces of good, represented by a company of Swedish troops.”
There is nothing glorious, romantic, or easy to read in the contents of Anthony Lloyd’s book. It’s dark, occasionally maudlin, maybe a bit narcissistic — but damn is it good. Any sane reader will want to throw the word alleged in front of the phrase “Lloyd’s experiences,” but that’s not an option.
Surely people aren’t capable of such depravity. Surely you shouldn’t be able to use words like desultory, incongruous, or ridiculous to describe a war.?
The author is an English journalist/war correspondent and former British infantry officer from a military family. He mixes experiences from his time with Yugoslavia in with recounting what he saw in Chechnya, then intermingles both with glimpses into the head of a cynic who seems secretly romantic and admittedly addicted to heroin.
All of it is surreal. Muslims and Croats fighting Serbs, Muslims fighting Croats, Serbs fighting Muslims, Anthony chasing the heroin dragon…all of it coached in supremely visceral prose.
Sonuvabitch do I wish I could write so well. I’ll tell you one thing — this would be a better book review if I could.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the first firefights Lloyd experienced during the war(s) in Bosnia, as told in My War Gone By, I Miss It So. Both it and the following excerpts are representative of what you’ll find in the book; none of them touch on the more sobering (read, horrifying) sights and events he witnessed and experienced. I’ve left them for you to read yourself, once fully immersed.
“…bullets are seldom as unnerving as as shellfire. It was logical that as long as you stayed away from the windows you would be unlucky to get hit, though the odd ricochet pinballed between the walls in an unpleasant series of whines and thwacks. So I lit a cigarette, dumped the rucksack, and installed myself in a suitable corner and watched what happened.
The first thing I noticed was the way the fighters’s faces seemed contorted: eyes wide, jaws clenched, mouths grimacing, skins oily with sweat. Nobody was still for more han a few seconds. It was as if small dust devils of energy would ripple one group or another into action, something close to a hysteria of juddering gun barrels, feverish concentration and tensed muscle, followed by an almost post-coital backwash when a firer would slide behind the cover of a wall, head lolling slightly, sometimes uttering an unnatural peal of relieved laughter, near to a giggle, to anyone who made glittering eye contact.
Then the vibe would rip into another part of the room, and that would suddenly convulse into activity and noise. There were the occasional shouts, grunts, and hoarse directives, all but lost to the overwhelming Kalahsnikov-crackling tempo and the jingle of falling brass…”
Later, returning during the Dayton Accords, a bit of humor.
“If I felt personal triumph then its details were earthy. Pinned down by tank fire late in the afternoon I realized that I was desperate for a piss. The choice was either to roll over cravenly and piss where I lay or take the risk of being blown away by standing up to do it. I crossed my legs and agonized over this for a while, then stood up quickly, cursing to give myself fortitude as I slashed against the wall before sprawling on the ground again. It felt like a major victory at the time. Maybe it was. Don’t knock it until you have tried.”
And later, fleeing a Serb counterattack in the Nino-Chenga salient with elements of the 502nd Brigade’s HQ element,
“For long lung-busting minutes, I cursed everything: my predicament, my job, my choices, the Serbs, the shooting, the amount I smoked. I invoked the name of every deity I had ever heard of, promising them all, again, that if only I made it out of that situation alive then I would never go back to a front line. Never.
War terror always brings out the religious slut in me: on a bad day one bang and I am anybody’s. Born-again Christians have got nothing on me. I find some sort of god or another in every firefight.”
Expressing his frustration with the UN mission — and his empathy for military officers who were bound not to act, even under the most appalling provocations, he wrote,
“Any commander with sense could see the flaw in the whole thing, and throwing food at the victims of an ongoing and savage fight, risking your men’s lives to safeguard the impotent moral cowardice of an organization that only perpetuated the war with its hamfisted ineptitude and indecision shamed officers of every nationality on whom the UN’s blue beret was forced…”
I could excerpt more, but at some point you’d just get tired of it; might as well just buy the book, which you can do right here.
Get to reading, if for no more reason than to exit the weekend knowing more than when you went in.
Follow Raven Concealment Systems on Instagram, @ravenconcealment.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: It might not be too surprising that David Reeder, who never met a $50 word he didn’t like, one of the “leaders” of the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous Breach Bang Clear team — insomuch as they have a leader (the terms orchestra conductor and rodeo clown are equally apropos). A former POG who tastes like chicken, Reeder cannot play the harmonica. He founded Breach-Bang-Clear quite accidentally at his young son’s behest several years ago. He is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, he was an O/C at the National Homeland Security Training Center for many years and a longtime MOUT instructor at the Bold Lighting UWS. Reeder has appeared on Fox News Business and written for a number of publications, from US News & World Report and Military.com to RECOIL Magazine and Soldier Systems Daily. All of that sounds way cooler than it actually is. You can read more about him here. Follow his banality on Instagram, @davidreederwrites.
“I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me” Hunter S. Thompson
“Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.” T.S. Elliot
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin