Author: McConnell, Richard A
Date published: January 1, 2012
WELCOME TO THE SUCK, Narrating the American Soldier's Experience in Iraq, Stacy Peebles, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 2011, 174 pages, $29.95.
"War alters the shape of our families, communities and nation . . . It matters, and soldiers' stories tell us why and how. Then and now, we have to listen."
Welcome to the Suck is a must read for the American public and anyone interested in the emerging war narrative of our country's experience in Iraq. For most members of the military, the "suck" of Iraq is obvious, but not so for the American public. Welcome to the Suck provides a great window through which to view the Iraq experience from the most important perspective- through the eyes of those who served there. The pictures these soldiers' stories paint "matter" and are fi nding their way into our culture's literary consciousness. The varied sources Peebles surveys appeal to all interests, spanning from novels to poetry to fi lms and video interviews with veterans. The book does more than merely list various authors and summarize their writing; it compares and contrasts the works with writings and fi lms from other confl icts. By doing this, Peebles aids the reader in understanding how the Iraq experience has shaped these writers and potentially our nation's view of the confl ict. Welcome to the Suck shows veterans and citizens alike where the Iraq confl ict is establishing itself in our literary history.
Peebles discusses the foundation of these war stories from Iraq, arguing that many of the authors obtained their view of war from stories that emerged from previous confl icts. She says the most powerful infl uences were from Desert Storm and Vietnam narratives. However, the tales from Iraq have taken on a unique fl avor that is a departure from the style of previous narratives.
One of the most interesting departures Peebles discusses is from a literary trope used in numerous Vietnam stories where a key character either asks to be killed or someone asks to be killed by them. This trope is interpreted as a device used by those authors to address the "moral ambiguities of that confl ict." The Iraq version also deals with moral ambiguity, but this device usually surrounds the death of a child often as part of a spur of the moment interpretation of the rules of engagement. Peebles discusses this moral ambiguity in numerous sources, one such being Nathaniel Fick's One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Offi cer. Fick observes, "I was learning that choices in war are rarely between good and bad, but rather between bad and worse." For many who have grappled with the myriad wicked problems in Iraq, this observation will especially resonate.
Welcome to the Suck is for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of the emerging literary narrative of the Iraq confl ict. For military and civilian alike, the book guides the reader through the unique perspectives of the stories' authors. These American military storytellers have an important story to tell and as Peebles quotes Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman, "ttention must be paid."
LTC Richard A. McConnell, USA, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas