Renee's Reviews > Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles

Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
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's review
Jul 30, 2007

did not like it
Read in January, 2006

{Warning: Strong language} Once upon a time I read a review of the book Jarhead, by Anthony Swofford, which peaked my interest. DH Jeff was thoughtful enough to pick me up a copy. I'm glad he's not a marine, or at least anyone like Mr. Swofford. Honestly, I kept thinking, "what a horse's a-- this guy (Swofford) is." And, did I need any reminders that so many of our young marines will screw anything around - and I do mean anything? Especially while they're bemoaning their unfaithful women at home? But these items paled in comparison to the narrative close to the beginning of the book of what evidently was the desert version of a "code red," only involving the rape of a fellow marine (because he "...[had] recently been a jerk or abused rank or acted antisocial, ignoring the unspoken contracts of brotherhood and camaraderie and esprit de corps and the combat family" - I kid you not) instead of just beating the crap out of him. I sincerely hope I misunderstood this charming narrative and will berate myself for my immediate gut reaction of "these guys are indeed expendable and it's a good thing we have so many stupid, violent, drunk, sexually diseased ones to throw at the enemy," if that is the case. Then the aforementioned promiscuous philosophe whines at the end that he didn't get to kill anyone. At least it was a quick read.
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message 1: by Ryan (new) - rated it 1 star

Ryan Bauman Swofford is a whiner and he deliberately made the Marine Corps look bad because of his specific and individual frustrations. No, actually, he did it to make $$$$$. Way to make the rest of us look bad, ***hole. Does the experience of combat and warfare polarize life and forever alter your perspectives and priorities?


But, as Swofford points out, he didn't even see actual combat. Everyone who has gone to Iraq has received indirect fire.

Does life in the Marine Corps suck? Well, it's not designed to be fun, that's for sure. If it was fun, easy, or paid well, you probably wouldn't get the caliber of people that you do- people who are dedicated to putting an idea ahead of their lives, comfort, or convenience.

(I for one sure wouldn't complain if they did start paying us more, by the way.)

Did he embellish anything/make stuff up?

Beats me, I wasn't there with him.

But, do Marines like myself and others look at how he handled his experience and shake our heads with pity at how poorly he and some of his friends handled the experience?


I have friends with multiple purple hearts who saw people they cared about exit this life too soon, and sometimes violently, sometimes graphically.

They all to a man, handle their experience better than Swofford did his uncomfortable training op in Iraq.

However- to the woman who said her reaction was:

"these guys are indeed expendable and it's a good thing we have so many stupid, violent, drunk, sexually diseased ones to throw at the enemy"

You, Ma'am, are not worth saving. You live a sheltered, protected life. You can go to the store and buy frivolous items, contribute to Starbucks' 5 Billion dollar yearly revenue, and have nice things without too much fear of being assaulted, robbed, and murdered because of people like that whiner Swofford. Even if everything in his novel was/is absolutely true, and even if he and his buddies did and said every single thing in the book, YOU are still lucky to have them- can we call on your condescending *** when the next conflict breaks out? No? How about when the next domestic dispute ends in violence? Can we call you instead of the police? How about this:

I'll stop telling you how to go about looking down your nose at people, if you stop reminding us how ungrateful you are that some of the people capable of extreme violence are in fact, willing to do it for you, and people like you.

How dare you spit on them, even the ones who wander astray? You'll never earn enough money, nor donate it to enough charities (if you do), to equal someone risking their life because they appreciate something as diverse and sometimes thoroughly unappreciative as an entire country. Do you really think that the people that keep you safe are all that stupid? You're lucky they believe in something greater than themselves or you-

more than you apparently believe in them.

Semper Fidelis.

Renee Thanks for your comment Ryan. I appreciated the first part especially. The second part was a knee-jerk response, ie, you didn't read carefully what I wrote & just lumped me in with anti-military libs who think freedom and security is free and we should just make nice with everyone.

What I said was that that was MY IMMEDIATE reaction to this book, to the author's attitude, behavior, and especially to the particular narrative I cited. I don't imagine you condone rape? And do you consider it (rape) an appropriate training mechanism for troop readiness and cohesion? Cohesion, loyalty and teamwork aren't usually a result of rape or am I wrong?

I have known many honorable service men and women, but I've also known some like Swofford. The former I'd trust the defense of my country, the latter give me pause.

Glad you got it out of your system, but wrong target.

Mick Renee, I believe you mean "piqued" my interest, not "peaked". Sorry to correct you, but I'm sure you'll be happier in the long run when your grammar is corrected by some jerk you don't even know. BTW, I enjoyed your review.

Renee Thanks Mick - for the correction & for the vote of confidence! Cheers, Renee

Scott I'm not a Marine, and I don't know for sure, but I'm fairly certain that "field-fucking" doesn't refer to actual rape, penetration, or even necessarily nudity. It's a friendly simulation that dissolves out of frustration, anger, exhaustion... Regardless, whether it's actual rape or a somewhat bawdy "game," I can't see how anyone would see it as a "training mechanism." An unofficial punishment by the Marine in question's peers, maybe, but not an officially sanctioned method of training or retribution. It was very clearly NOT part of the plan, and you'll notice, should you actually pay attention instead of reacting naively and subjectively while reading that passage, that the officers in charge do not condone the "field-fucking," no matter its possible innocence, because it makes the Corps look bad in front of the field reporters.

And, yes, "piqued."

Jonpaul I think you miss the point that Swofford is aware of the contradictions of his and his fellow soldiers' feelings. Written from a perspective gained through age and maturity, he does his best to describe those types of feelings-about war, sex, violence, friendship-without coating them with a friendly varnish or turn them into a pro- or anti-war polemic. It takes guts to write about oneself without rationalizing or, as is often the case with war memoirs, claiming to be a hero of some sort. His descriptions of the more jack-assed behavior aren't told scornfully nor are they romanticized.

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