Roman Skaskiw, who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has written several thoughtful pieces about his experiences for the New York Times. He has an essay there today in the "Home Fires" series that the paper has been running about Iraq. Titled "Narrative Memory at War," Skaskiw writes about the fact and fiction of war narratives, and why they come down to us in the forms that they do. It's a good piece, well worth reading, and I appreciated his comments on two of our most ancient war narratives as he probes the curious line between hero and victim, and the mixed motives of participants and chroniclers of war:
While I like the spare granting of hero or victim status in “The Iliad,” I’d be kidding myself to think it isn’t also a whitewashing — propaganda even — for the Greeks. Unglamorous labors are merely alluded to, while excessive descriptions of bloody, glorious combat go on for pages.
My favorite war narrative is Thucydides’s “History of the Peloponnesian War.” The two-and-half-millennium-old narrative does not ignore selfish pettiness, opportunism, false bravado, naïve adventure seeking, and is more familiar to me than many accounts of our wars being peddled today.