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March 19, 2013 12:18 PM   Subscribe

His Horse Was Named Death: The Iraq War Diary of 1st LT Tim McLaughlin, USMC

McLaughlin is a walk-on to history.

His diary begins at the Pentagon on the morning of the 9/11 attacks, jumps to his deployment in Kuwait, follows him into battle during the invasion of Baghdad, and recounts the moment his own American flag was draped over the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square -- an iconic image of the U.S. invasion. But the diary is much more than just a retelling of the early days of the Iraq war:

It's at times wryly funny, tragic, brutal -- and, above all, honest.
posted by timsteil (25 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating. I especially liked the draft of the letter to the parents of the soldier who was shot by someone cleaning their weapon, and the one to Victoria's Secret.
posted by papercake at 12:29 PM on March 19, 2013


It's particularly charming how on page four he has a tally of kills in columns, and he embellished it with "KILLS" in jagged letters like a bored high school student.

Hearts and minds, indeed.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tangentially related: Dying vet's "fuck you" letter to GWB and Cheney...
posted by symbioid at 1:04 PM on March 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


My mind, blissfully in neutral.
I can sit for hours, days, weeks + months,
with nothing but the clearest transmition
from me to nowhere.
Maybe I'm insane. I have some
of the featured characteristics. I talk
to myself. I stare and smile, hidden
from the rest of the world is a place I've
just been.

What spurns the spring because it
believes summer will be better, but
in summer realizes that fall soon
follows.

She took my hand


I highly suggest paying attention to more than just pictures.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah. I see in his letter to Victoria's secret he was a poetry major. This does not surprise me.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:26 PM on March 19, 2013


I highly suggest paying attention to more than just pictures.

I stand corrected-- he's pretty much Ezra Pound. You think the people cited in that kill list are as impressed by his sensitive side as we are?
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:22 PM on March 19, 2013


You think the people cited in that kill list are as impressed by his sensitive side as we are?

There's not enough "oh, get over yourself for God's sake" in the world.
posted by yoink at 2:35 PM on March 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Nice pat dismissal. Now make some effort and tell me why we should find this sadist anything better than repugnant. Because he made some embarassing attempts at free verse while creating orphans? It's not about me, even if you want to shift the discussion.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:07 PM on March 19, 2013


sadist

Objection! Assuming facts not in evidence.
posted by yoink at 3:09 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


What in the diary made you believe he's sadistic, Mayor Curley? I presume "KILLS" in jagged metal lettering is your exhibit A - anything else?
posted by incessant at 3:14 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


He can both be a good poet and a murderer.
posted by yoHighness at 3:34 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


What in the diary made you believe he's sadistic, Mayor Curley? I presume "KILLS" in jagged metal lettering is your exhibit A - anything else?

I was more focused on the double-entry tally of the people he credits his group with, you know, killing. Though the embellishment is definitely evidence of the sombre gravity he sees in the task.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:01 PM on March 19, 2013


I was more focused on the double-entry tally of the people he credits his group with, you know, killing.

So your theory is that every single soldier, ever, in the history of the world is a "sadist"? Or is it only the ones who keep a diary?

Judging the man on the basis of that "kills" graffiti is simply stupid. You don't know what he felt about it, how ironic he felt himself to be being. For all you or I know the whole point of that thing was a kind of ironic self-mockery ("OMG, look at us, we're tallying 'kills' like it's some kind of kids computer game"). From what I've read about soldiers in all wars that kind of ironic distancing from the fact of what you are doing is pretty ubiquitous--to simultaneously adopt the pose of the hard-ass, psychopathic killing machine and to mock it as something so obviously not what you are that it assuages the inevitable guilt associated with the deaths you inflict. Generation Kill was very good on that double consciousness.
posted by yoink at 4:16 PM on March 19, 2013


I worry that most people don't understand the unforgiving violence of my Marine Corps experiences in Iraq...Killing people is ugly, brutal, and abrupt. It is final, and it stays with you for a lifetime. It's done because that's what your country asks you to do. Yet most Americans only experience war through cable news, political speeches, and Hollywood. It's a flag on a statue, a talking point, or a movie.

There's an understatement.

You think the people cited in that kill list are as impressed by his sensitive side as we are?

All those poor MT-LBs and T-62's.

See, because he was a LT he's riffing on keeping a platoon leader's notebook.(the army has an app) The Lieutenant's notebook has information on everyone in his platoon, name, age, serial #, typically their NOK, qual scores, boot size, everything there is to know about the people in his outfit, training, etc. and he has to make sure they get appropriate medical care, billeting, make sure they're fed, if they've been wearing shit-stained underwear, everything about everything. Everything they do. Everything they fail to do. He writes a daily PERSTATREP (personnel status report).
He also needs to list encounters with the enemy, their disposition, etc. in a tactical notebook. He writes situation/action reports, what kind of vehicle/field piece/building/etc. encountered,
This would be an extraction from his sit/spotreps, salute and contact reports which outline, for example, enemy KIA.
As opposed to an actual "double entry tally" like a high school student writing "killz!" in bad-ass red, it's a riff on the nature of the reports he's seeing..... oh, wait, but why try to understand something before you comment?

Since I am not a major league shithead who does that, and I've actually seen the material he's seen, my useful conjecture would be that he's not celebrating the number of kills but rather protesting in one of the few (and time honored) ways he can.

Though I would probably have made a similar presumption given it's adjacent to material saying "bullshit mission" and his comments on several clusterfucks after writing some rough drafts to the parents of people killed in his unit.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:19 PM on March 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


... how ironic he felt himself to be being. For all you or I know the whole point of that thing was a kind of ironic self-mockery ...

Or I'd come up with what yoink seems to have come up with. Which is accurate.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:20 PM on March 19, 2013


i can't remember where, maybe it was a movie? somebody saying how in video games if a woman and her child crawl into a drain pipe to hide and you mistake them for hostiles and throw in a grenade, the mission fails. how in real life, everything just goes on as if you didn't just kill a mother and her child. you just keep going and they do not.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 4:34 PM on March 19, 2013


Smedleyman: "As opposed to an actual "double entry tally" like a high school student writing "killz!" in bad-ass red"

Man, I never had kill. I just had "Die!" written over all the jock's faces, and it was in lowly boring pencil over a greyscale picture. I never even got bad-ass red. le sigh.
posted by symbioid at 4:47 PM on March 19, 2013


gorestainedrunes: "i can't remember where, maybe it was a movie? somebody saying how in video games if a woman and her child crawl into a drain pipe to hide and you mistake them for hostiles and throw in a grenade, the mission fails. how in real life, everything just goes on as if you didn't just kill a mother and her child. you just keep going and they do not."

It makes me wonder - we talk about desensitization to violence, and we think of it as "oh, everyone's getting all excited about blood and gore and kill counts" but in a situation like this where you fail a mission for killing, it desensitizes in another way, makes the reality of war a lot less ugly. "Oh, of *course* I know killing an innocent person is wrong, so of *course* I would get penalized for killing someone in a tense situation as mentioned above, of COURSE war is totally fair and nobody is scarred by their actions and they don't have to pretend they did horrible things that they're actually ashamed of. If they did, they'd just reset the level!" (Yes, I'm being slightly facetious here, but... I guess in a way it might have some grain of truth, perhaps?)
posted by symbioid at 4:50 PM on March 19, 2013


"Pat's Not With God, He's Fuckin' Dead."
posted by jeffburdges at 5:58 PM on March 19, 2013


Nice pat dismissal. Now make some effort and tell me why we should find this sadist anything better than repugnant. Because he made some embarassing attempts at free verse while creating orphans? It's not about me, even if you want to shift the discussion.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:07 PM on March 19 [+] [!]


I find that every human, by nature of being such, to be capable of beauty.
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:50 PM on March 19, 2013


All soldiers are baby killers. That trope worked so well in the past. Thanks for reminding me that being anti-war doesn't mean not being hateful and intellectually shallow.
posted by kjs3 at 6:57 PM on March 19, 2013


Mr. McLaughlin appears in two New Yorker articles: "The Toppling: How the media inflated a minor moment in a long war" and "Iraq, Ten Years Ago and Now."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:11 PM on March 19, 2013


Saddam's statue: the bitter regrets of Iraq's sledgehammer man. Kadom al-Jabouri became famous when he took his hammer to the dictator's statue. Now he wishes he had never done it
posted by homunculus at 9:12 PM on March 19, 2013


Never really can get enough of fresh, steaming war pr0n.
posted by signal at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2013


Flag that covered Saddam’s face stashed in N.H. safety deposit box: U.S. forces pulled down the statue 10 years ago today. Now one Marine doesn't want that flag used as propaganda
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2013


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