David Bellavia interviewed on TSR

Today on The Situation Room, Wolf interviewed David Bellavia about his new book, the current state of al-Anbar province, and Michael.

Length: 6:21

LARGE (74.4 MB) ----- SMALL (6.9 MB)

WOLF BLITZER: With his visit today to Iraq's Anbar province, long one of the hotbeds of the insurgency, President Bush tried to send a message of success in Iraq. But any success has come at a very, very high price for U.S. troops who are there. As an army staff sergeant, David Bellavia fought the insurgents at close range in Fallujah. His new book is entitled "House To House, an Epic Memoir of War."

Dave, thanks very much for coming in.

DAVID BELLAVIA, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: I want to talk about the book in a moment but you spent a lot of time in Fallujah, in the al-Anbar province. When you look from afar now at what's going on there -- you're reading about it, I'm sure you're hearing about it from some of your buddies in the army. What do you think? Is this new strategy going to work?

BELLAVIA: Well, I'm not going to - I'm not naive enough to think that Fallujah's going to be put in a bid for the summer Olympics anytime soon. I think some people get a little carried away with what we see as security comparing it to the United States. But if you look at Anbar and if you look at where Anbar province was in 2004 during the battle of Fallujah, the last time I was in Anbar was in the summer of 2006, and I couldn't fly any aviation during the day and today the president of the United States took a 747 with his big presidential logo and landed it during the day in the middle of Al Asad air base. And if that doesn't speak for how far aAnbar province has come, I really don't know what else I can say.

BLITZER: It clearly does speak at the enormous capabilities of the U.S. military, the marines and the soldiers who have been operating there. But fundamentally, do you think the Shiites and the Sunnis, who hate each other and have been at war with each other for a long time, they're really going to get together and form a cohesive national government that's going to really take charge and lead to a prosperous Iraq?

BELLAVIA: You know I really hope to God they do because we've spilled buckets and buckets of American blood. And my whole point of view is that the brothers and sisters that I lost from the First Infantry Division, you know, Iraq has to mean something. Fallujah has to mean something. And at this point when we're so close and we're seeing success in places like the Diyala province in the east, al-Anbar in the west; at this point when we're starting to see the pendulum turn, that blood has got to stand for something, sir. And now is the time where we've just got to push the thing across the finish line.

BLITZER: The book "House To House" has been incredibly powerful imagery, details. You write about your first-person account, what you went through and many times it was hell in the battle for Fallujah and elsewhere. Let me read a paragraph. "I lunge at him, putting all my weight behind the blade. We're chin to chin now. And his sour breath is hot on my face. His eyes swim with hate and terror. They're wide and dark and rimmed with blood. I keep my weight on the knife and push down around the wound in staccato waves, like Satan's version of CPR."

You were engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.

BELLAVIA: Absolutely. We prepare ourselves for combat, sir, physically. I don't think anyone can ever be prepared for the mental, the emotional, and in my case, the spiritual combat that you have when you're that close with the enemy. That's a situation in 2004. There's no way on earth I ever would have imagined that that could possibly happen with our laser-guided bombs, our night version, our thermals. It just goes to show you that a man that's fighting for his life, no matter what side of the fight he's on, he's going to give everything he's got. And as painful as that was to experience, it was equally as taxing to write it and to even hear it now today.

BLITZER: And it's painful to read but important to read, very powerful words.

You also write in the book about your encounters with our own intrepid correspondent Michael Ware. You came upon him at various points. He's been there for now on and off, mostly on, for more than four years. Tell our viewers a little bit about your exchanges, what you saw from Michael Ware?

BELLAVIA: You know, I have to tell you that as far as the gold standard of combat journalism goes today, there is no one more qualified to give his opinion. I am awed by the bravery of Michael Ware. You have an outstanding correspondent. I won't work as his agent here, but I will tell you that I am blown away. He has almost lost his life more times than I can count.

I entered that room that I write about in "House To House," I had a couple of my army buddies who were my brothers in arms but there was one guy behind me and that was Michael Ware and he trusted me enough to enter this home with these six insurgents and I will never forget that.

BLITZER: You write this, let me read it to our viewers who know Michael Ware very well. "Ware is an authority on the enemy. He knows more about them than our own intelligence officers. I hang on every word and try to remember everything he tells us. It is the best, most comprehensive discussion I've heard about the enemy since arriving in Iraq."

We can only echo those words based on his extraordinary reporting for us but leave us with a final thought, David, what you hope the reader of "House To House" will emerge with after he or she reads this book.

BELLAVIA: You know, so many of the American population right now is, if they don't have a vested interest in this fight, they really don't know how to feel about it. They don't know if this is the same combat of Iwo Jima, if this is the same sort of military struggle that we had in Korea and Vietnam. And my story is so unfortunately so similar to all these other soldiers and marines' stories. What our men and women are doing, every inch of success in Iraq has been bought and paid for by the blood of the real patriots and heroes, and this book I hope when people read it not only can take a moment but to give that extra hug to that local hero that comes home on their block leave and also remembers all the many thousands that we've lost.

BLITZER: Let's thank you, David Bellavia for writing this book "House to House, an Epic Memoir of War." Thanks for your service to the United States.

BELLAVIA: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.