War and reports of war have been a reality of our life, more so in recent times. After 9/11, the threat of war had been looming large, especially with the President George Bush coming out with knee-jerk jingoistic reactions, which was pardonable considering the shock and dismay generated by the incident.Then came the actual war in 2003. The question of the political expediency of the War of 2003 was drowned in a collective American fear of threats to security. George Bush's speeches were also engineered to keep the morale of the people high, in the tradition of past war leaders of the world (Churchill, for instance)In this war rhetoric, the image of the American soldier was glorified. The soldier was a savior and a friend. In the First Gulf War of 1991, George Bush, Sr. had done the same thing. He depicted through his speeches, the perfect image of an American soldier. Our soldiers, he said, are "some of the finest men and women of the United State of America" who "leave their spouses and their children, to serve on the front line halfway around the world. They remind us who keeps America strong: they do." (Bush). He continues, "in the face of danger, they are brave; they are well-trained, and dedicated" (Bush) He mentions that they are willing to sacrifice their lives and their time to be with their families to fight for peace for the whole world (!)There is deceptiveness, conscious or unconscious, in a speech of this nature. It is implied that peace is brought about through war - a debatable statement. There is also an implication that those who fight are there, by their own free will. "There was an American soldier who said to an Iraqi soldier: 'it's okay, you are all right, you are all right'. . . Let us always be caring and good and generous in all we do" (Bush) The image is sought to be created as if the American soldiers have gone to have a party in Iraq. It needs a vigilant media to talk of an Abu-Ghraib or a Guantanamo Bay. Bush's American soldier is the perfect gentleman (something like the British image of their 'bobby'- the gentle policeman - who nevertheless shot an innocent Brazilian immigrant on mere suspicion that he was responsible for the London train station bombings!)
Bush's speeches are cleverly done, and achieve the purpose they want. In that sense they are masterpieces of their own genre of political writing. However, they seem to fall on the border of fact and fiction. Coming to Swofford's Jarhead- the irony is that this is 'fiction', but it gives a more real picture of war than do Bush's speeches! Swofford talks of the war from a soldier's perspective. There is no attempt to romanticize it. He talks of the dirt and the dust, and the rape, pillage and arson that taint war. He brings home to us that there is never a clean war or a good war. All war is terrible and dehumanizing.
Swofford himself fought as a young marine in the Gulf War of the 1990's. He had written his memoirs then, and he uses this to liberally create the atmosphere of his story. He writes of writing to loved ones, " I was in the desert, sending out messages worldwide, claiming for love with my pen, and with each letter I wrote and sealed part of me escaped the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. At time I thought I might write myself away" (Swofford, 37).
Swofford's book is a powerful book about the truth of war. As a matter of fact, we must remember that throughout history, there have been many who have fought wars and have come back convinced that peace is the only solution for bringing about lasting comfort to all humanity. Swofford tells what we all perhaps instinctively know, that the real reasons for war are "the old white fuckers and others who have billions of dollars to gain or lose in the oil fields, the deep, rich, flowing oil fields of the kingdom of Saud" (Swofford, 11).
Solyan's article, What Bodies talks about the attempt by the US government to hide truth from