HBO, which has shown its ability to create great documentaries such as the recent John Adams series, has once again shown a mastery of the art of portraying real events with its newest series "Generation Kill" a fictionalized account of a single Marine unit's experiences in fighting the Iraq war from beginning to the present.
Loosely based on a book by reporter Evan Wright, a former Rolling Stone magazine reporter who was embedded with the Marine's 1st Reconnaissance Battalion early in the war, "Generation Kill," has been almost universally praised for it's gritty realism in telling the story of one unit's part in the war.
The stars of the series are not the upper echelons of command, although there are frequent appearances of actors playing ranking officers such as the First Marine Division's storied commander, then Maj. Gen. James Mattis and the gravel voiced battalion commander, it's the grunts and the lower ranking officers who are used to tell the story.
Most of the criticism revolves around the salty language of the men, the F-word is heard at least once in every spoken sentence, and from the top down it's always there. Defenders insist that to be realistic the language of the Marines must be presented the way it is, not the way the more sensitive members of the audience wish it was. That's the way Marines talk — and have always talked.
I started learning that language the day I got to Parris Island boot camp in 1943 when I was taught that "mother" is only half a word. In defense of my beloved Corps, however, I have to admit that most of the obscenities that have crept into my speech over the years were planted there not by my fellow Marines, but by the folks I worked with on Capitol Hill.
Another criticism focus on the willingness, if not the enthusiasm, of the Marines to kill as many of the enemy as possible. But again, that's what Marines do and are trained to do from the day they arrive at boot camp, and they are very good at doing the job.
As Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullo wrote in Tuesday's Front Page magazine, "'We're here to kill' one of the characters says. And that is about a succinct summary of the infantry mission as one is likely to find."
An even more succinct summary can be found in a quote author and ace war correspondent Nat Helms cites from the instructions now-general James Mattis gave his First Division Marines at the outset of the war in his ongoing series "The Thundering Third.": "At the end of three-one's deployment in late May 2003, the battalion staff compiled a 'Lessons Learned' list. At the top was the expectation of the Marine Corps brass that killing the enemy was what the Thundering Third was all about.
"Nowhere was it mentioned that it was too late to turn off the switch that had turned on the young Marines. They were locked and cocked, killing machines already let loose on the enemy. There was no calling them back.
"The prevailing attitude is exemplified by comments then Maj. Gen. Mattis made to newly arrived Marines at Al Assad Airbase in late 2003. Mattis, perhaps more than any other officer in the Marine Corps during the heavy fighting in Iraq, molded and fostered the fighting spirit of his command.
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event,” Mattis told his young Marines in late 2003. “That said, there are some a**holes in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim … It’s really a hell of a lot of fun. You’re gonna have a blast out here!”
Officially, the suddenly skittish Marine Corps is keeping the series at arm's length. A statement from the acting director, Division of Public Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps states: "The recent airing of the first episode of HBO's 'Generation Kill' has generated numerous inquiries regarding Marine Corps support of the series.
"The Marine Corps did not provide any official support to the filmmakers. The series is based on the book by the same title by Evan Wright, a former Rolling Stone magazine reporter who was embedded with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While there are certainly aspects of the film that are accurate, it is at its heart a commercial production.
"It's raw and has elements that are very much out of synch with the core values our nation rightly expects of its Marines. Viewed as a whole, in my estimation, it does not accurately portray the honor and professionalism of our Corps of Marines."
In defending the unjustly accused Thundering Third Marines of Kilo Company over the space of a couple of years I got a close up view of the kind of men who make up the Marine Corps today and I was stunned by their spirit, their arduous training and their professionalism."
A legendary Marine combat commander, speaking of my fellow World War II Marines, recently told me that "today's Marines just hope that we don't let you guys down, the ones who went before us."
I answered that I had recently seen a TV special on today's Marine Corps boot camp and that I doubt that I would have ever gotten through it. Today's Marines keep proving that you people are the best ever to wear the eagle, globe and anchor.
On the whole, I think "Generation Kill," is proving my point. Today's Marines are truly the best of the best.
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist and World War II Marine who writes for Newsmax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist (Cato) for National Review magazine in the 1960s.
He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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