As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the invasion, Peter Maass views on-the-ground accounts as possibly the best way “to remember and explore the still-painful aftermath”:
[Lt. Tim McLaughlin] shared his war diaries with me, and I realized, when I thumbed through the first pages and sand fell from them (Tim had not touched them since Iraq) that I was holding an amazing document. I had been a foreign correspondent for many years, and had seen lots of documentation about war, but this was the most original and emotional — war as seen by the combatant, in the combatant’s handwriting, written in his downtime between battles. It wasn’t filtered by the media, by politicians or generals, and it didn’t even suffer the visual flattening of a computer font.
The content stunned me. Tim was at the Pentagon on 9/11 and was a tank platoon commander in his tip-of-the-spear battalion in 2003. His diaries contain raw descriptions of everything from the smoke-filled corridors of the Pentagon on that tragic September day to the violence of the Iraq invasion and the craziness of the toppling of the iconic statue. The agony of firing too soon and shooting civilians, and firing too late and losing a fellow Marine to enemy bullets, as well as the boredom and humor and exhaustion of the invasion–these searing things are in the diaries, in addition to Tim’s evocative maps and pictures. While the diaries are remarkably personal, they reflect multiple facets of the combatant experience of war.