From Baghdad, With Love, by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman, with Melinda Roth. Lyons Press, 2006. $22.95.


Reviewed by Pete Creighton


This is not your usual book review, more an invitation to read a good dog story — and a candid report of what it’s really like to fight a war in Iraq, by Marine Lt. Colonel Jay Kopelman, a surfer and bike racer from California, and a proud Marine.

His story is about the rescue of a young puppy in “the most dangerous city in the world” — Fallujah — during the war’s most vicious battle in 2004. It was strictly against military rules, but this hardened Marine just fell in love with Lava, named for his unit.

For readers, this primarily is a tale of a fuzzy puppy, one saved from certain tragedy. The author also describes just what kind of deadly force we face. You can hear it from a Marine officer who doesn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Reporting in February, 2005, he writes, “As far as I see, the only thing gaining momentum is the insurgency’s attacks against Iraqi recruits. Though they’ve been issued 79,000 pistols, 60,000 assault rifles, 94,000 sets of body armor, 5,900 vehicles, 20,900 radios, 2,400 heavy machine guns, 54,000 Kevlar helmets, and 79 million rounds of ammunition, the new Iraqi forces are being killed faster than Americans. More than 1,300 have died since we started training them.”

Lt. Col. Kopelman wrote this two years ago, but nightly TV reports show us the killing of recruits (and now more civilians) continues. Iraqi recruits are the most important factor in bringing home our U.S. forces.

To show just how vicious the insurgent enemy is, the author tells that when human suicide volunteers were difficult to recruit, animals were used. “Dogs, cows and donkeys were rigged with explosives and set loose among potential victims. The bomb was then detonated by remote control.” Such weapons would be used against U.S. or Iraqi recruits; the latter are hated even more than us, he says.

Now, in 2007, President Bush is sending more troops, hoping for any kind of success toward establishing a stable Iraq. So far, the only battle this book tells of winning is that of rescuing the pup Lava, against stiff military regulations.

The Democrats have inherited the most brutal and vicious conflict of our time. No side can “win” such a war. The enemy has found a cause to live and die for, and will recruit many needed to defeat and force out of their lands what they see as an evil and ungodly invader. More American forces alone won’t end the mayhem. Our best chance of ending the violence might be in enlisting a worldwide peacekeeper force of many countries. As we withdraw, Iraq will surely have to be divided into two or three entities governed each by their sectarian beliefs.

To continue a war fought against roadside bombs and suicide bombers is too much to ask of our proud and brave forces.


This book is available at the Galesburg Public Library.