Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘The White Donkey’: A Marine’s graphic novel of Iraq, loss and coming home

A graphic novel that reminded me of something that Marine drill instructors always yell about: Paying attention to detail.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 10.17.43 AM
Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 10.17.43 AM

I recently read and enjoyed Terminal Lance: The White Donkey, by Maximilian Uriarte. It’s a graphic novel that reminded me of something that Marine drill instructors always yell about: Paying attention to detail.
The cover really struck me. In full size, you see that the Marine’s eyes have that “thousand-yard stare.”

One the strongest parts of the book is when our Marine returns home, only to be pestered by people asking, “Did you kill anyone?”

Why is this question so powerful? I suspect because it is really asking: Did you step outside the realm of humanity? And have you come back? We lack the rituals that tribal societies used to help their fighters through those journeys. It is not a question that should be asked unless the interrogator is in a position to do something helpful.

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I recently read and enjoyed Terminal Lance: The White Donkey, by Maximilian Uriarte. It’s a graphic novel that reminded me of something that Marine drill instructors always yell about: Paying attention to detail.
The cover really struck me. In full size, you see that the Marine’s eyes have that “thousand-yard stare.”

One the strongest parts of the book is when our Marine returns home, only to be pestered by people asking, “Did you kill anyone?”

Why is this question so powerful? I suspect because it is really asking: Did you step outside the realm of humanity? And have you come back? We lack the rituals that tribal societies used to help their fighters through those journeys. It is not a question that should be asked unless the interrogator is in a position to do something helpful.

There’s an interesting afterword in which the author steps out from behind the screen. Two sentences particularly struck me: “We live in a unique time in American history, with an all-volunteer professional military” that is “fighting the longest war in American history.” (It seems to be the first graphic novel written as a memoir of the American war in Iraq. If youse know of others, please let me know.) Also, he writes, “In the end, I just wanted to tell a story that mattered.” He does. Check it out. 191

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Top Image: Amazon.com
Image credits: Maximilian Uriarte

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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