View Full Version : Who has read Generation Kill?

06-16-2007, 01:50 PM
I just finished it, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It contradicted a lot of things I thought I knew, reinforced others, and taught me quite a bit about our servicemen (mostly positive).

I'm going to go ahead and start this in DC, because I imagine it will go there eventually, anyway.

Here's a review from amazon:

Whether you were for or against Gulf War II, this is essential reading about it. Rolling Stone writer Wright was embedded with an elite U.S. Marine reconnaissance unit that was often at the "tip of the point of the spear" during the invasion of Iraq. He spent approximately two months with them, riding shotgun in a Humvee as they were used as ambush-bait in the push north. The result is brilliant front-lines reportage that's at turns harrowing, hilarious, shocking, and chaoticóreflecting the reality of combat at its most basic level. The book's title is provocative, designed to sell rather than describe the contents. And yet, Wright does have something to say about the new generation of American soldiers sent to fight in Iraq: "These young men represent what is more or less America's first generation of disposable children. More than half of the guys in the platoon come from broken homes and were raised by absentee, single, working parents. Many are on more intimate terms with video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own parents."

Based on that excerpt, one might expect Wright to go on to provide a litany of the unit's worst excesses and examples of Marine Corps machismo and arrogance. Thankfully, he instead is interested in the men and not stereotypes, and manages to gain acceptance among them. Some have critiqued the book for thisóessentially saying that because Wright became tight with these Marines, he couldn't be objective about their actions. While it would be absurd to suggest that Wright operated under total objectivity, as a critique, it doesn't hold up. Most of the book is Wright just writing about what he sees happen and recounts the feelings the men share with him about their experiences. And it's not as if he sugarcoats his two months with themóplenty of screwups and bad mojo make their way into the pages.

Those with illusions about high tech modern warfare will read in astonishment as duststorms blind all electronic reconnaissance, guns break down for lack of lubricant, thermal imagers aren't available due to battery shortages, and radios from different units can't communicate due to incompatible encryption keys. Alas, the bad news doesn't end there, the unit Wright rides with is sent into tactical situations they're unprepared for, in vehicles they have little experience in, replying on some weapons they've hardly ever trained on, and later on, supported by a reservist unit of DEA and LAPD officers who are total cowboys.

On the plus side, Wright is scrupulous in detailing how attentive the soldiers are to the rules of engagement, and goes to great lengths to explain how the fog of war operates and can lead to civilian casualties. And when civilians are killed due to lapses of discipline, Wright doesn't have to point it out, the Marines he's rides with do it for him. What's perhaps the most surprising thing about the book is how upset some of the Marines get by the scenes they witness. And then again, he does recount the excitement some of the soldiers felt at unleashing spectacular acts of destruction. Another criticism of the book is that he vilifies "all" the officers, usually by recounting the griping of the men under them. The truth is that there are two officers in particular ("Captain America" and "Encino Man") who do come across as dangerously incompetent, and Wright's account makes it very clear why the enlisted men lost all confidence in their leadership. Indeed if one reads between the lines, there's a critique of how the military lets middle-grade officers sit behind desks for ten years and then expects them to perform on the battlefield when they have morphed into mangers.

One could go on and on about the other aspects of the war Wright writes about with clarity: how the chain of command works (or doesn't), the addictive adrenaline rush of being shot at, how the soldiers kept themselves hepped up on ephedra, the deep cynicism many Marines have for the war, and how ultimately, "The invasion all comes down to a bunch of extremely tense young men in their late teens and twenties with their finders on the triggers of rifles and machine guns." Perhaps the most telling thing about the book is that the soldiers he was embedded with have stood by his warts and all account as being truthfulóat least one has even posted his support on Amazon. Wright recounts how one Marine writes constantly to his wife, saying"If something happens to me, I want my wife to know the truth. If they say we fought valiantly here, I want her to know we fought retarded." For those who don't have relatives at the front lines, Wright's book is the first-hand account we should be reading in order to get a true picture of the cost and consequences of going to war.

06-17-2007, 12:35 AM
Looks like an interesting read. Thanks.

dirk digler
06-17-2007, 08:36 AM
I bought the book several months ago and couldn't put it down. Very good book.

06-18-2007, 12:34 PM
sounds like it's worth a read.