This research explores the Iraqi military experience before and after the Iran-Iraq War and the Invasion of Kuwait. Particular attention is paid towards state-constructed nationalism, the soldier’s experience of war, and becoming (or failing to become) veterans. Based on a reading of available material and interviews with Iraqi veterans, the research reveals a ‘war generation’ filled with anger and despair over their ‘lost youth.’ The crushing defeat of Iraq during the Gulf War, the collapse of the armed forces, and a handicapped economy provided Saddam’s regimewith the political cover to ignore the needs of the war generation. Veterans’ benefits were largelynonexistent. Pride in military service disappeared and veteran communities never formed. Thisresearch suggests that the war generation continues to struggle with their memories of war and their participation in the longest war of the twentieth century.
Chapter I - Introduction
“Carrying the gun”
In a national radio address designed to raise public morale a few years into the Iran-IraqWar, President Saddam Hussein lauded the “heroic, modern Iraqi man” who “...proved to beloyal ... by carrying the gun in defense of Iraq...” (Workman, 1994: 150). Those who “carried thegun” were supposed to be national heroes. In his speeches, Saddam reserved special recognitionfor the fighting men, and the veterans.Between 1980 and 1988, Iraq engaged in near total war with Iran. Men were drafted,hurriedly trained, sent to the front, and if lucky, released back into society as veterans, many withlifelong physical or mental injuries. Whether he knew it or not, Saddam built what Faleh Jabar calls a ‘war generation’ (2004). An entire generation whose lives intertwined with a devastatingeight year war with Iran, a hasty invasion of Kuwait and a crushing defeat at the hands of the USand Coalition forces.