You've got mail, soldier

New York magazine reviews the 'instant' war memoirs being churned out by Iraqi vets and finds a generous dose of narcissism:


The invisibility of the enemy is in direct proportion to the narcissism of the Americans. Crawford’s unit hangs out at the base, lifts weights, takes steroids, goes on patrol, checks e-mail. The Iraqis they shoot are mainly civilians. Buzzell checks e-mail, works out (“The only thing that sucked about the gym is that whenever we received a mortar attack, the gym people would freak out and close the gym down, always right in the middle of your workout”), and tries to read as much as he can—he is stymied in this by his roommate, Sergeant Horrocks, who is always talking. (The situation is resolved when Horrocks gets a PlayStation.) Hartley, for his part, when he’s done watching all the DVDs he can watch, decides to start a blog.
That’s when the war really gets going for Hartley, because he becomes an embattled blogger: His commanding officer gets mad, the guys in the unit don’t seem to like him. Things are tough—even a weeklong leave at Camp Chili’s, the Army’s vacation spot in Qatar, brings no relief. "Forget what you may think about pass being a time to relax," Hartley tells his readers. "It’s just as stressful as not being on pass, because all that matters is getting laid." Buzzell, too, starts a blog, though he is a much more cheerful character, and no one seems to mind. And yet what could more accurately describe the atomization, the loneliness, the sheer weird Americanness of this war than this need to get online and post your thoughts? "Fighting in Iraq was an incredible experience for me,” writes the self-actualizing Hartley. “But the worst part was being surrounded by so many assholes."
Part of what makes this self-absorption hard to swallow is the unpalatable fact that even in these books, it's mostly Iraqis who die -- many of them civilians. Yes, let's mourn the 2000-plus dead soldiers and the many, many injured. But let's not forget just who is getting the rawest deal in this nasty little war. [LINK]

P.S.: The first comment made me think a little more carefully about how this post reads. I don't mean to say that the deaths of our soldiers are any less important or worthy. Their lives are equally precious. But I fear that we ignore the fact that Iraqi civilians -- who didn't sign up for this war or to be combatants; who have no body armor or weapons; and who also have died in the greatest number -- are the biggest victims of this war. The Radar review was useful in that we tend to valorize the suffering of "our boys" and put the greater misery of the Iraqis aside.

That said, I don't want to get into the zero-sum game of compassion, where mourning the losses of one set of people should take away from the suffering of another. So my message is simply this: let's not forget the Iraqis or the fact that they are suffering the most in this war.
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