We write a good deal here about war, sex, enemies, and power. As we read about Steven Green, a name not yet popularized, and the infamy of Mahmudiyah, maybe we can grasp in greater detail how these big things – war, sex, enemies, power – can emerge in these moments of concentrated, and sexualized, fury and unspeakable horror.
At the time, the soldier’s matter-of-fact manner struck me chiefly as a rare example of honesty. I was on a nine-month assignment as an embedded reporter in Iraq, spending much of my time with grunts like him — mostly young (and immature) small-town kids who sign up for a job as killers, lured by some gut-level desire for excitement and adventure. This was not the first group I had run into that was full of young men who shared a dark sense of humor and were clearly desensitized to death. I thought this soldier was just one of the exceptions who wasn’t afraid to say what he really thought, a frank and reflective kid, a sort of Holden Caulfield in a war zone.
But the private was Steven D. Green.