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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

. September 1, 2008 at 8:47 pm

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.

. September 2, 2008 at 11:07 am

‘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.

Anon September 2, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Er, this book sounds charming…

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

Padraic September 4, 2008 at 11:03 am

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

. July 22, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Journalists today face a ‘brick wall of nationalism,’ says director Rob Reiner

Journalists today have a more difficult job than ever in bringing the truth to light, according to actor and director Rob Reiner.

“You have two sets of narratives going on,” he told The Current’s guest host Duncan McCue.

“You have one section of mainstream journalism that is fighting very hard to get to the truth, and they’re coming up against a brick wall of nationalism that is stoked by this other chunk of mainstream journalism, which is essentially state-run media.”

Reiner’s new film, Shock and Awe, is centred on a group of journalists trying to get to the truth in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

Those journalists — reporters John Landay and Warren Strobel, columnist Joe Galloway and editor John Walcott — were skeptical of the Bush administration’s justifications for the invasion of Iraq.

Working for now-defunct media organization Knight Ridder, they began working on a theory that the decision to invade Iraq had already been made, and the government was seeking a reason to convince the public. It was a hunch not shared by other publications, some of whom later regretted their own lack of skepticism.

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