The wars in Iraq have figured as prominent cultural events in my adult life. I arrived in Berlin two weeks before the 1991 invasion and experienced firsthand the anti-American sentiment that decision fostered. When I returned to the States, I noticed how differently my experiences were from those of my friends and family. Germany’s perspective on war is different from that of many other nations, the US included. The last seven years have been characterized by various iterations of the terror war. I believe, in time, America’s involvement in Iraq will become the defining characteristic of my generation– more culturally significant than the Internet, the cellular phone, or Seattle grunge rock.
It is with this admission that I am surprised at how little I actually know about US involvement in Iraq. My condition is not due to lack of exposure. I know Iraq has not wanted for lack of copy or airplay. I know the wars in Iraq have dominated news, business and politics for at least the last eighteen years. Still I am left wondering: why? What is it we are doing there? So I intend to correct that oversight. Generation Kill is an award-winning book by the Rolling Stone journalist, Evan Wright. For two months in 2003 Wright experienced the most recent invasion of Iraq as an embedded reporter with the First Reconnaissance Battalion in the United States Marine Corps. The New York Times described Wright’s work.
Mr. Wright’s portrait is nuanced and grounded in details often overlooked in daily journalistic accounts, like the desperate search for places to relieve oneself during battle. Or the constant use of racial epithets toward fellow soldiers and Iraqis. … [This is a] complex portrait of able young men raised on video games and trained as killers. There’s 19-year-old Cpl. Harold James Trombley, whom Mr. Wright describes as curled over his machine gun, firing gleefully, and whom he quotes, as saying: ‘I was just thinking one thing when we drove into that ambush. “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,”’ he says, referring to a video game. ‘I felt like I was living it.’
Like most things in life, I do not expect to find simple, elegant answers– as much as I might wish to do so. I am diving into this unknown with that apprehension and understanding firmly in mind. What I do hope to find is some bits of understanding– however small they might ultimately be.