While I was reading the second half of Packing Inferno, a quote Boudreau made on page 182 really stuck out to me. In the particular section prior to the quote, Boudreau had been remembering a past experience from when he was a kid unclogging sewers filled with rotting animal flesh that had been piling up for years. Comparing the war in Iraq to the unclogging of the sewers, he quoted, “Someday, all the truths of this war that we’ve shoved down into the sewers of our reports may clog, too. And when the time comes that we have to shovel them all back out again…they’re going to stink like hell.” If this is how Boudreau really feels about the war, and rightfully so, then I can easily see why he’s been so tormented upon his return back to the states.
Boudreau commented that there was always some sort of justification for the killings, or for the raids…that the Iraqis COULD have been insurgents. The violence was justified by the soldiers’ desire just to stay alive. It had been ingrained in the soldiers’ minds that they were fighting for freedom and democracy, which perhaps allowed them to carry on and engage in battle with a lighter conscience that at least they were fighting for the “greater good.” However, if upon hearing, from a retired general of all people, General John Abizaid in particular, that “Of course the war in Iraq is about oil,” then I can’t blame him, and every other solider who had been struck with this recognition, for feeling betrayed. And I think by that quote Boudreau made comparing war to the clogged sewers, he meant that once the government’s ulterior motives regarding the U.S.’s presence in Iraq became known, American citizens, including soldiers, would no longer be so adamant about remaining there.
To me, the first half of Packing Inferno seemed to focus on how bloodthirsty Boudreau was, and how much he longed for combat. Conversely, I think the second half brought to light a more humane side of him. This more humane aspect was revealed especially on page 190 when Boudreau explained what he thought was necessary of a successful commander. He stated, “He must love his troops, truly, dearly, or they will not follow him. But ultimately, no matter how much he loves them, he must love the mission a little more.” Because according to a commander, humans are just considered bodies and are referred to as “the currency of the battlefield commander.” Upon then reading of Boudreau’s resignation of his commission in the Marine Corps, I suddenly realized how much the war had actually affected him. He no longer cared just about the mission, but in addition felt love for the troops he commanded.
Before this class, I can’t say that I’d read much about the Iraq war, or wars previous to it. However, based on what I’ve read since then, war could be accurately compared to a cigarette as Boudreau does. War is like a cigarette in the aspect that as soon as the soldier experiences it, that soldier becomes addicted. Why else would a soldier who has already served his or her time in the service choose to return fully aware of the risks entailed? War is also like a cigarette in that it never entirely goes away. This is evident in war vets such as Boudreau who have written books based on their experiences because they remain still affected to this day by their experiences from years before. Packing Inferno was an insightful read, as it opened up my eyes and mind to a perspective of the war entirely new to me: that of a soldier’s.