We're a nation at war, but it hardly feels like it. That contrast is especially jarring for people like Hannah Allam, who just returned home to Oklahoma after two years in Baghdad running the Knight-Ridder Newspapers bureau there.
About a year ago, a John Hopkins University study in the British medical journal The Lancet estimated the number of civilian casualties in Iraq. It came up with a number—100,000 dead—that was higher than any other estimate, and was mostly ignored.
Captain Ryan Gist was given a particularly tough assignment in Iraq: To build relationships with a town where U.S. bombs had killed twelve innocent people. But first he has to apologize to the families of those who were killed.
So if, in fact, 100,000 Iraqis died because of the war—and that number is a year old—what do we do with that number? It instantly brings you to all these imponderable questions about what's worth 100,000 dead. In a way, this doesn't seem like a helpful question to think about.
Two young men, Jeff Neumann and Ray Lemoine, decide it'd be interesting to be part of the rebuilding of Iraq. So they take a bus to Baghdad during the war and the bombings and the kidnappings and try to make their mark.
Host Ira Glass talks to Tom Irwin, a stand-up comic who recently performed for American troops all around Iraq for over a month. It seems his best joke, about Iraqi sheep farmers, only makes sense if you're a soldier on deployment.
When an Arkansas National Guard Unit is sent off to Iraq, they assume they're going to help rebuild the country, since they're trained as an engineering unit. But once they arrive, they find themselves in a combat zone, unprepared and ill-equipped.
Rob Miller is a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps commanding a weapons platoon in "Charlie Company" of the First Battalion, Eighth Marines. He led his men recently in the battle of Fallujah, and in a recent satellite phone call, he told This American Life contributing editor Jack Hitt (who also happens to be his uncle) what we never seem to hear elsewhere: Details of what it's like to fight house-to-house in urban warfare.