November in Iraq


“At some point in time, when Iraq is able to defend itself against the terrorists who are trying to destroy democracy, as I’ve said many times, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.”

–President Bush, December 2, 2004

“There are some who feel like — that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on.”

–President Bush, July 2, 2003


The deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began: 137 killed (compared to 135 killed in the second-deadliest month, April 2004, when both Shiite and Sunni fighters rose against U.S. forces. Another comparison: About 128 U.S. troops were killed in the first 30 days of the war, from March 19 through April 17, 2003. The total number of U.S. troops killed since the war started is 1,260).

Eighty of the 137 American Marines and soldiers who died last month were killed in the eight days from November 8 through November 15, when fighting was heaviest in Fallujah and areas where insurgents counterattacked.

The wounded in action in November: 1,265 or so. The Defense Department reports 654 of the wounded returned to duty within 72 hours, and 611 did not. The total wounded in action for the war so far is 9,552, including 5,049 wounded too seriously to immediately go back to their units. (The count of all troops evacuated from Iraq because of non-combat illnesses, injuries, and other medical reasons, such as psychological problems encountered on duty, is much higher. For instance, the Army alone reported 14,452 medical evacuations from Iraq through the end of September).

About one in nine U.S. military deaths in Iraq occurred in November. About one in eight of those wounded in action suffered their injuries during the month.

In November:

  • 125 U.S. troops died in action; 12 deaths are listed as “non-hostile,” mostly vehicle accidents.
  • By service: 72 Marines and 12 Marine reservists; 38 regular Army, 4 Army reservists, 10 members of the Army National Guard; one each from the Navy and Air Force.
  • By rank: One major, two captains, four lieutenants, 33 sergeants, one petty officer, 68 corporals and lance corporals (all Marines), 15 Army specialists, 15 privates (all Army).
  • By age: 73 of those killed were 19 to 22 years old; 34 were from 23 to 25; 19 were from 26 to 29; and 11 were from 31 to 45 years old (the oldest was an Army command master sergeant, Steven W. Faulkenberg).


How many enemy fighters or Iraqi civilians died during the month.

The Commander and the Troops:

“… If the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at such a place;’ some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.”

–“Henry V,” Act 4 Scene 1

[In the play, King Hal does what a modern leader would do and answers by saying that what a subject does is a subject’s responsibility, not the king’s: “Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as every sick man in his bed, wash every mote out of his conscience: and dying so, death is to him advantage.” So, if you’re ready to meet your maker, the king, or president, is doing you a favor by sending you to your death in battle.]


Bush quotes: and

November casualties: and

Army medical evacuations:

“Henry V”:


Nineteen years ago today was a chilly, overcast Sunday, the close of Thanksgiving weekend. Kate and I had a date at 2 in the afternoon at Turning Two, the preschool in the Berkeley Hills where she taught. She had gone ahead to meet some people up there; I was running a little behind, cooking a couple of Russian macaroni casseroles out of the Moosewood Cookbook. When I finally got there, about 15 minutes late, it was just starting to rain.

Who was there? My mom and dad, on their first visit to Berkeley since I moved out here from Chicago’s south suburbs in 1976. My son Eamon, who was six at the time. And a small group of friends. Trapper Byrne and Judy Wong, whom we knew from our days at The Daily Californian (they’re married now, live in Lafayette, and have two kids, Elizabeth and Keenan). Robin Woods and Jim Tronoff, also close friends from Daily Cal days (they’re married now, too; Robin got her Ph.D. in English literature from UC-Berkeley and is now a professor at Ripon College, in the same Wisconsin town where the Republican Party got its start in 1854). Our great friends Larry Hickey and Ursula Stehle, whom I’d met shortly after Eamon was born in 1979; they came down to Berkeley for the day with their two sons, Dylan and Dominic (Ursula was about halfway through her pregnancy with their daughter, Megan). Bill Joyce, a friend we met through Larry and Ursula, a teacher, lover of literature, and prankster of note. George Paolini and Jane Paulsen, comrades from the Alameda Times-Star (slogan: “25 cents — worth more”). Vicki Carlton, who started and ran Turning Two, and her husband Ross and her daughter Cedar. And finally, Bruce Hilton, a Methodist minister, copy editor, and tuba player. I think that’s everybody.

It was our wedding day, in a preschool classroom looking out into the mist and rain and dusk spreading across the town below us.

Kate and I said the vows we’d written with Bruce’s help, including a bit from Yeats’s “The Two Trees,” Bruce married us over no objections from the onlookers. Then we ate our potluck dinner, the kids played in the schoolroom, and Bill and Larry led us in a couple of songs, “The Gypsy Rover” and a version of The Clancy Brothers’ “Haul Away Joe” refashioned for the occasion. After dark, the party broke up, and a few of us went down to the Albatross, our semi-regular bar on San Pablo Avenue. Bob Johnson, one of the two Icelandic-American North Dakota brothers who owned the place, brought out complimentary bottles of Cook’s champagne (OK, “champagne”) when he heard what we had been up to. Later, we went home to the “little yellow apartment,” my tiny studio-like hovel on Addison Street.

Nineteen years. Not so long, really. We look different, but I think we’re still the same two people, still learning about each other and about how life and marriage work. I’d gladly go back and do all the years again; but I think I’m happiest to trace them back, remember them, and go ahead from where we are on this December 1.

Thanks, darling Kate.