Benjamin Solah's Reviews > Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War

Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
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's review
Mar 22, 2009

really liked it
Read in January, 2008

This is by no means an explicitly anti-war novel. It’s more an honest account and because the honest truth is that war is vicious and atrocious, an anti-war message cannot be hidden except through lies.

Anthony Swofford was a U.S. sniper during the first Gulf War and Jarhead tells his story of life in the Marines and fighting in this war. His whole experience in coloured by power-hungry and vicious officers, rowdy nights out with fellow Marines and of course, the in your face brutality of killing innocent people in Iraq.

Although Swofford still holds onto an idea that the Marines are a good thing, he and other Marines still hold this contempt for the officers, whether it’s for their brute discipline or whether it’s taking credit for kills in the battlefield. It brings to mind the contempt for officers during Vietnam when grunts used to frag their officers who tried to send them on virtually suicidal missions. It’s clear from this that despite the cultural indoctrination the army tries to impose on its recruits, the reality of the situation still shines through stronger.

I would’ve thought that the book would deal a lot more with the actual war, but most of it deals with the painful waiting for it to begin. But it is clear the the war was short and still left Swofford and his fellow marines with fucking strong images. The scene that left the biggest impression on me was when he walked into a circle of dead Iraqi soldiers and sat with them. He could really empathise with these men as if they weren’t really his enemy, they were men in the same situation as him.

So although Swofford draws conclusions I would not agree with, like how he hates war but still sees it as necessary, the reality of the story he tells leaves me with facts and anecdotes that hardens my own conclusions in that war is a brutal thing that only benefits the rulers who do not have to go to the front-line to fight it and risk their own lives.
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