An 11th Commandment for Bush Jnr, BLiar, and John Howard's Cannon Fodder at play in Iraq: Print E-mail
 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'. Well f--- that shit!"
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Sydney Morning Herald -- Thursday November 17, 2005 

By Julia Baird

THE Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright was embedded with the first marines to go into Iraq, hard men who punched the skies with their fists when American helicopter gunships flew overhead, shouting: "Get some!"

In Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War, Wright vividly describes the confusion and raw brutality of executing a military strategy in a civilian landscape.

In one story, after a bloody expedition through an Iraqi town, a marine who was excited at the death and mayhem pants: "I was just thinking one thing when we drove into that ambush. 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 f---ing cool."

This is war fought by a generation raised on hip-hop, reality TV, internet porn - and video games. When the unreal meets the surreal.

Books by former soldiers, and journalists embedded with them, about the poorly planned and erratically fought war in Iraq are starting to shoot off the presses now: telling us how the soldiers have been driven mad by boredom, are desperately worried their girlfriends will stray, and thirst to kill.

Each generation produces its own war literature. This batch, from both the recent Iraq War and the Gulf war before it, is different not because of how they end up - usually jaded, depressed and displaced - but how they start the war.

Today's young soldiers are cynical - they know they are being used, and they know this war on terrorism is unlikely to end. They laugh at the "retards" who command them. They are not wide-eyed, seduced by noble aims and determined to save the world from evil, like their forebears in the two world wars who were often reluctant to kill.

Instead of concentrating on the ends, this mob seems to relish the means: shooting, killing and careering through Middle Eastern towns in tanks.

They almost seem to operate in some kind of vacuum.

As former hardman Nathaniel Fick explained in One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer: "War for freedom, war for oil, philosophical disputes were a luxury I could not enjoy. War was what I had. We don't vote for it, authorise it, or declare it; we just had to fight it."

But many still end up as traumatised as their forefathers. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, tens of thousands of veterans have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. By early this year, more than 12,000 Iraq war veterans had been treated for post traumatic stress disorder in the US alone.

A British study estimates one in six suffer from it.

Others who hate the culture of killing undermine the macho bravado of the marines. Jim Massey is a former marine who was discharged after being diagnosed with post traumatic syndrome. In Kill Kill Kill, he claims American soldiers have killed civilians shamelessly in this war and experienced a sexual thrill from it.

Administration officials have disputed his claims and pointed to his disorder as evidence of his instability. But he is not the only one writing about guts, gore and the thrill of firing bullets into people's bodies. This is what is coming out of the first of the books of this war, and it is arresting.

A former National Guard, John Crawford, in The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq, for example, confessed he was completely immune to the plight of the Iraqis: "I didn't give a shit about them."

There will always be some things all soldiers share: camaraderie, homesickness, a feeling of futility, disillusionment, discomfort, and distrust of armchair generals.

And there are many more stories yet to be told - including those of the Iraqis. I am not saying all soldiers are the same - it is tough out there. It is worrying, though, at a time of allegations of torture, use of napalm and white phosphorous, that there is so much talk of slaughter.

Jarhead, Sam Mendes's new film about the first Gulf War, due to be released here in a few weeks, shows soldiers aching to kill, staring at sky-high spouts of fire from the flaming oil wells, covered in black oil, wondering why they were there.

A commanding officer screams while briefing them: "You have been taught your entire lives, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'. Well f--- that shit!"

This may be a fictional account - but the others are not.

The questionable wisdom of bulldozing freedom into the desert has been looking a little tarnished for some time now.