Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Generation Kill

Tonight I watched the second episode in the mini-series of Generation Kill. For an hour, I felt like I was back in a room with some people I went to high school with, some of whom joined the Marines ("semper fi!"), and of those most went to Iraq. Mother Jones already gave the series a rave review, calling it "neither squeamish nor ham-fisted."

One of the broadest critiques of the film will surely be that the story is told from the perspective of an embedded journalist, the American perspective told over and over again by reported books like Fiasco, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and Assassin's Gate. But those stories tell or are a critique on the officer's line of Iraq. As David Simon noted during the Q&A of the screening, the stories of the enlisted men, thanks to the nature of the volunteer military force, are almost as foreign to some segments of the American population as the stories of the Iraqis.

In a setting where the separation between enlisted men and your average American is merely one of class, it is important to remind ourselves -- if not limit ourselves -- of that experience. Officers among enlisted men are resented. Enlisted men come speak the kind of filth you'd never mention in the polite company of your grandmother. This is one reality of the war. It would be a shame to ignore it.

It's true that while Simon's other creation, The Wire, was praised in part for highlighting stories and actors that might never see the light of day on other networks and that might not be the case with Generation Kill. But it's also true that the series is replicated honestly and experientially. While watching it, I could think of little else than the experience of the Marines. Simon, Ed Burnes, and Evan Wright created the experience in the best way they could. The stories of the Iraqis make up other stories.

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