Reading “Beyond the Green Zone” by Dahr Jamail and “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright is like witnessing two sides to a court case on the actions in the Iraq war.
“Beyond the Green Zone,” an account from Iraqi perspectives, is accusatory; “Generation Kill,” from U.S. soldiers’ perspectives, is unapologetic.
The major thing I took from “Generation Kill” was how young and immature the First Reconnaissance marines were about their actions and their repercussions.
At times, the soldiers were struck by the severity and grave nature of their actions — albeit fleeting feelings. At other times, the soldiers were later singing Ice Cube songs as they fired rounds into towns with civilians.
“In combat, the changes seem physical at first. Adrenaline begins to flood your system the moment the first bullet is fired. But unlike adrenaline rushes in the civilian world — a car accident or a bungee jump, where the surge lasts only a few minutes — in combat, the rush can go on for hours. In time, your body seems to burn out from it, or maybe the adrenaline just runs out. Whatever the case, after a while you begin to almost lose the physical capacity for fear. Explosions go off. You cease to jump or flinch. In this moment now, everyone sits still, numbly watching the mortars dump down nearby. The only things moving are the pupils of their eyes.
This is not to say the terror goes away. It simply moves out from the twitching muscles and nerves in your body and takes up residence in your mind. If you feed it with morbid thoughts of all the terrible ways you could be maimed or die, it gets worse. It also gets worse if you think about pleasant things. Good memories or plans for the future just remind you how much you don’t want to die or get hurt. It’s best to shut down, to block out everything. But to reach that state, you have to almost give up being yourself. This is why, I believe, everyone said goodbye to each other yesterday before leaving on this mission. They would still be together, but they wouldn’t really be seeing one another for a while, since each man would, in his own way, be sort of gone.”
Wright, in an amazing account, writes about how he, an embedded reporter, tried to take solace in mortar fire. The chances of getting hit, Wright reasoned, were slim because of the inaccuracy of the fire.
Solace with artillery fire nearby? That view showed how perspectives change.
That statement also shows how justice and Rules of Engagement decrease in value in a hostile, uncertain war zone.
I don’t believe the actions of the marines, the first in Iraq, are justified (far from it), but it shows how the camaraderie of Marines and the often unquestionable orders they are given changed the name of the game.
Two sides to every story.