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July 7, 2008 | by  | in Books |
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Generation Kill and Salam Pax

Evan Wright, Generation Kill (Transworld Publishers, London, 2004), p446.

Embedded reporters, who accompany armies into battle wearing their uniform, have got a bad rap. Robert Fisk regularly accuses them of being gung-ho propaganda parasites, which they often are. But Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright is proof of the value of embedded reporting. Wright’s book Generation Kill recounts his time with the Marines of First Recon who led the Humvee charge into Iraq. While Wright clearly loved these guys, dedicating his book with the motto “The strength of the Pack is the Wolf,” his ability to recount their spur-of-the-moment battle remarks provides a disturbing illustration into the mind of the US warrior.

As the convoy recollects after one firefight, a gunner remarks that the experience was just like “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I felt like I was living it when I seen the flames coming out of windows, the blown-up car in the street, guys crawling around shooting at us. It was fucking cool.” Earlier on in the campaign, another Marine peers up at missiles whistling noisily overhead and exclaims “I wish I had some shrooms.” As Wright explains, many of these boys signed up after seeing a sweet-as ad where a dragon-slaying knight morphs into a Marine in dress uniform.

These scenes provide us with an alternative explanation for why the USA invaded Iraq, quite apart from the “it’s about oil” conspiracy theories or the transparently bullshit “bringing peace and freedom” line. For these marines represent “America’s first generation of disposable children.” Prior to 9/11, nothing much was expected of them, but war has given them a purpose – the invasion of Iraq was necessary to provide the US government some way to let out all the frustration built up by a generation of narcissistic internet debates a video games glorifying violence.

Salam Pax, Where is Raed? (dear_raed.blogspot.com)

To get a similar sense of the mindset of the other side of the war – that of the Iraqis – you have to turn to the blogosphere. Alongside Riverbend’s Baghdad Burning (riverbendblog.blogspot.com) and the metal band Hometown Baghdad’s video blog
www.chattheplanet.com, the star of the Iraqi blogosphere is Salam Pax (‘peace’ in Arabic and Latin), whose blog Where is Raed (dear_raed.blogspot.com) ran during the lead-up and invasion period (from 2002-3) and has been republished in book form as The Baghdad Blog. Salam Pax is a gay atheist computer programmer with a Sunni father and Shi’ite mother, and is obviously the coolest person in the world. He complains about his friend singing Nirvana’s ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ on the grounds that Iraq does not have cherry-flavoured laxatives; when he meets some gay arms dealers, he laments the fact that his kind are no longer just harmless hairdressers and film producers. He also wishes he was in Syria, smoking hashish and boogying at discotheques, instead of running from explosions and watching religious fanatics burn books in his hometown, but for some reason he refuses to leave.

During the leadup to the war, Salam Pax was neither totally pro- or anti- the invasion, on the grounds that while Saddam needed removing, the US would probably fuck things up through their arrogance. And so they did, and so his cynicism won out in the end. After his blog folded, Pax went and covered the 2004 US Presidential Election for The Guardian. Did I mention that I want to have his babies?

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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  1. Clay says:

    Fans of Evan Wright’s Generation Kill will be happy to learn that he has a new book called Hella Nation. Kirkus Reviews calls the book “Vivid confirmation of the arrival of a major chronicler of those who live on or beyond the margins of the American mainstream.” Don’t miss Hella Nation, on shelves April 7th.

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