Friday, September 25, 2009
Generation Kill by Evan Wright is a story about and beyond Iraq. It reads like the best novels and informs like the best history. The ideas in this book helped shift my opinion of the Iraq war and its ultimate consequences on the American populace. And I almost didn't read it.
In my humble opinion, books on the Iraq war tend to be out too quickly - it is hard to get real depth on an ongoing conflict. Once they began cluttering up the Military History and New Releases book shelves I began to make a beeline away from them. It seemed hard to read about something which we do not yet have a historical perspective on. This is an evolving engagement which requires continual adaption. Certainly the definitive account has yet to be written.
Some would argue of course the definitive account of World War Two has yet to be written
and we are closing in on seventy years gone.
That said, Generation Kill is an incredible achievement. If you want to read one or two books on the Iraq war to understand the ground conflict, make sure this is at the top of your pile. The author was embedded with the Marines who formed the "tip of the spear" on the initial engagement. They were trained for a completely different mission and used against type. Through his writing, Wright exposes incompetence among command and a general sense of what could they possibly have been thinking? However, his human portraits of the men in the unit and their commitment despite bad decisions is richly detailed and defined.
Ultimately, Wright argues, the American people have let down the current generation who are fighting in our wars - we sent them away and abandoned them when we turned against the war. Regardless of the reasons for war, we must accept responsibility for the mess we rode a wave of patriotism for. As Slim Charles stated in HBO's epic The Wire: "Whether or not we fight on a lie, we got to fight...We in it now."