Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Anthony Swofford's Jarhead is the first Gulf War memoir by a frontline infantry marine, and it is a searing, unforgettable narrative.
When the marines -- or "jarheads," as they call themselves -- were sent in 1990 to Saudi Arabia to fight the Iraqis, Swofford was there, with a hundred-pound pack on his shoulders and a sniper's rifle in his hands. It was one misery upon another. He lived in sand for six months, his girlfriend back home betrayed him for a scrawny hotel clerk, he was punished by boredom and fear, he considered suicide, he pulled a gun on one of his fellow marines, and he was shot at by both Iraqis and Americans. At the end of the war, Swofford hiked for miles through a landscape of incinerated Iraqi soldiers and later was nearly killed in a booby-trapped Iraqi bunker.
Swofford weaves this experience of war with vivid accounts of boot camp (which included physical abuse by his drill instructor), reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family. As engagement with the Iraqis draws closer, he is forced to consider what it is to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man.
Unlike the real-time print and television coverage of the Gulf War, which was highly scripted by the Pentagon, Swofford's account subverts the conventional wisdom that U.S. military interventions are now merely surgical insertions of superior forces that result in few American casualties. Jarhead insists we remember the Americans who are in fact wounded or killed, the fields of smoking enemy corpses left behind, and the continuing difficulty that American soldiers have reentering civilian life.
A harrowing yet inspiring portrait of a tormented consciousness struggling for inner peace, Jarhead will elbow for room on that short shelf of American war classics that includes Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, and be admired not only for the raw beauty of its prose but also for the depth of its pained heart.
Frontier were drunks and not the simple drunks who are concerned only with their own drunkenness, their own sad stupor, but social drunks, the poor bastards who feel it is their duty to fill every mouth in the house with drink. So nightly they filled me up, with decent whiskey mostly, but as their funds ran low, they switched to generic gin and powdered Gatorade. The two were pleased with hydrating themselves and catching a drunk at the same time. I was happy to drink with Frontier and Bottoms;
been told, an abandoned oil company camp, but actually a military base that had sat vacant for years, waiting for the American protectors to arrive in the event of a regional conflict, protectors who’d be tolerated until they obliterated the threat and returned the region’s massive oil reserves to their proper owners. We are soldiers for the vast fortunes of others. I realize this while sitting on a shitter and reading the English-language Arab Times. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney is quoted as
shot. He thinks I can take two people out in succession, the commander who wants to fight and one of his lieutenants. He thinks that the remaining men in the tower will surrender plus however many men are under that command, perhaps the entire defensive posture at the airfield. The Fox CO tells me over their freq, Negative, Sierra Tango One—break. Negative on permission to shoot—break. If their buddies next to them—break—start taking rounds in the head—break—they won’t surrender, copy. I reply,
flies. The couple stared at one another and the woman occasionally smiled at me. The artists worked and smoked and talked back and forth in quiet, harsh whispers, aware only of the skin canvases in front of them. The woman’s work was completed first, and when her tattooist noticed me, he hissed and threw his cigarette at me. The burning cigarette missed and I picked it up and threw it back at him, then I ran from the shop. The woman screamed. I didn’t stop running until I made it home. I
I can’t understand why he didn’t bury the men or at least move them from his bunker, but maybe they were a comfort, a cold comfort—helping him to know his end so intimately, sleeping next to it and smelling it and waiting. Many of the men in the bunkers seem to have died not from shrapnel but concussion, and dried, discolored blood gathers around their eyes and ears and nose and mouth, no obvious trauma to their bodies. A few weeks into the air campaign the United States began employing the