Generation Kill

Written by a journalist embedded with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the Marine Corps, Evan Wright’s Generation Kill describes the experience of invading Iraq alongside them in 2003. The book provides a graphic account of what transpired among the men of the Battalion and its subsidiary units, as well as on battlefields between Kuwait City and Baghdad.

Some of the more notable elements of the first person account include the lack of coordination between different units, poor logistics and intelligence, near-total lack of translators, wide variations in competence and attitude between officers, and the force with which the sheer terror and agony of the experience is recounted. While large portions of the invading army may have had tents, cots, and warm meals, the recon Marines operate for the entire war on pre-packaged food and holes laboriously pick-axed into the ground. They spent much of the war in bulky chemical protection suits, fearing gas attacks that never came. The Marines are intentionally sent into ambush after ambush, receiving massive amounts of fire from within open-topped Humvies, as a feint to confuse Iraqi forces about the overall American strategy. The book certainly does a good job of conveying the brutality of it all: for the Marines, their Iraqi opponents, and for the civilians all around. The most interesting aspects of the narrative are definitely the characters of the individual Marines, as effectively illustrated through quoted statements.

The book does reinforce some broader conclusions that can be drawn about the war: particularly in terms of how the treatment of the civilian population has been mismanaged. What is less clear is whether the lesson to be drawn is that much more attention needs to be paid to post-occupation planning in future conflicts, or whether expectations of anything other than absolute carnage following a ‘regime change’ are misguided. Probably, the answer lies somewhere between.

The book has also formed the basis for an HBO mini-series of the same name. The series and the book parallel one another very closely. Indeed, given the arguably greater capacity of film to depict the majority of the events described, just watching the series may be a superior option to just reading the book.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

4 thoughts on “Generation Kill

  1. Generation Kill (book)

    Generation Kill (2004) is a book written by Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright chronicling his experience as an embedded reporter with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion‎ during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His account of life with the Marines was originally published as a three-part series in Rolling Stone in the fall of 2003. “The Killer Elite”, the first of these articles, went on to win a National Magazine Award for Excellence in Reporting in 2004.

    Generation Kill (TV series)

    Generation Kill is a 2008 HBO television miniseries based on the book of the same name by Evan Wright, and adapted for television by David Simon, Ed Burns, and Wright. The series premiered on July 13, 2008 and spanned seven episodes. It is produced by Simon, Burns, Nina K. Noble, Andrea Calderwood, George Faber, and Charles Pattinson.

  2. ‘Generation’: A new breed of solider

    By J. Ford Huffman, USA TODAY
    When you see “New Face of American War” in the long subtitle of Generation Kill, you get the impression that author Evan Wright is aspiring to define and categorize the contemporary Marine. What he discovers is that they are as different as they are alike.

  3. Er, this book sounds charming…

    I would rather stick with something less full of appalling violence…

  4. And, the miniseries was adapted by David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of The Wire, which bestows instant awesomeness.

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