Fighting Words

Lt. Adam Tiffen, left, and Spec. Roland Bullock during a raid on an Iraqi house. Tiffen's military blog,
Lt. Adam Tiffen, left, and Spec. Roland Bullock during a raid on an Iraqi house. Tiffen's military blog, "The Replacements," was quoted in "Doonesbury." (Courtesy Of Adam Tiffen)
By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"The man was standing 100 meters from the explosion and he said there was no explosion," Adam Tiffen says.

He's looking at his computer screen, where a photo shows him in his Army uniform, questioning a kneeling Iraqi who was captured after a roadside bomb exploded near Humvees carrying Tiffen and other soldiers from the Maryland National Guard.

"If he wasn't the triggerman, he was the spotter for the triggerman," Tiffen says. "But I had to let him go. I had nothing on him. What can you do? Iraqis have rights, too."

Tiffen, 31, is sitting in his office at the law firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, a few blocks from the White House, looking at pictures from his year in Iraq. His law degree hangs on the wall near his Bronze Star. On his desk sit a couple of souvenirs of Iraq -- a .50-caliber machine gun bullet and a hunk of shrapnel from a roadside bomb. His black crew cut matches his black suit.

"Look at me, I'm in my lawyer uniform," he says. "I'm Mr. Attorney on Pennsylvania Avenue with my degrees on the wall. And seven months ago, I was in Iraq wearing body armor and I hadn't slept in three days and I was running around the desert."

While he was in Iraq, leading a 40-man rifle platoon, he wrote a blog about his experiences. He called it "The Replacements" because, he says, "we replaced guys and then other people replaced us -- we were just in a chain, a cycle." His blog contained no editorial comments, no political messages. He just told stories about what he saw every day:

The first round explodes with a shattering crack, and I can hear shouting coming from outside the sandbagged room.

"Incoming! Incoming! Incoming!"

I leap to my feet and quickly settle my advanced combat uniform helmet onto my head. Despite the explosions and yelling coming from outside, somehow my mind registers the inconsequential thought that the helmet pads lining the inside of the helmet feel tacky from days of sweat and grime and will need to be washed.

At first the blog was just for his family and friends but soon word got out and his stories were e-mailed around and he started getting feedback from strangers: "Thank you so much for allowing us to see the human side of the war."

Armchair General, a military history Web site, printed part of his blog ( So did the liberal journal Mother Jones. Last October, several of his stories were posted on The Sandbox, a military blog founded by "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau. Last Sunday, two tiny snippets from Tiffen's stories were quoted in the "Doonesbury" comic strip.

An Unexpected Call

"People asked me, what are you doing?" Tiffen says, laughing. "You're a nice Jewish boy. You're a lawyer, Why are you in the Army? Why are you in the infantry? Why are you in Iraq?"

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