Essay: Soldiers Rhetorical Analysis: Chapter

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Rhetorical analysis: Chapter 5 of the Good Soldiers

To document the effects of the surge on American and Iraqi troops, author David Finkel uses chapter headings with chilling simplicity in his book The Good Soldiers. The title July 12, 2007 simply marks the day chronicled in Chapter 5. July 12th is yet another miserable day in the ever-spiraling conflict taking American lives. This chapter is headed with a quote by President George W. Bush: "We're helping to enhance the size, capabilities, and effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces so the Iraqis can take over the defense of their own country. We're helping the Iraqis take back their neighborhoods from extremists" (Finkel 83). Bush's quote manifests a palpable irony, when contrasted with the real-life situation on the ground. The conflicts between American and Iraqi troops are constant, as are the frequent demonstrations of incompetence of the Iraqi police forces. Irony is the predominant rhetorical feature of Chapter 5 the text, contrasting the real and the ideal, the words of American politicians and life on the ground [Thesis].

"What's happening that turns everything into a fight?" asks Col. Ralph Kauzlarich in the first sentence of the chapter, an ironic expression of dismay given the fact that the Americans are fighting a war (Finkel 83). The fact that the violence is increasing is seen as proof of the fact that the Americans are winning in Kauzlarich's eyes, in a kind of reversal of expected logic. "They wouldn't be fighting if we weren't winning" (Finkel 83). However, while Kauzlarich speaks without intended irony, another military leader's comment, as he is poised on the front lines of the fight, has a different tone: "Good thing we are winning, because if we were losing [imagine how bad things would be]" (Finkel 85).

These forced attempts at optimism are ironically contrasted with the real, expressed attitude of the troops who are fighting on the ground. The closer a soldier is to actual combat, the less idealistic his or her analysis of the conflict. Witty troops make up a handmade 'morale meter' which directly contradicts Kauzlarich's statement. Its 'ratings' include a scale with headings such as: "Embracing the suck…Fuck this shit, I quit…Bend over. Here comes again" (Finkel 85). The deliberately profane tone shows how the troops see through the official party line that America is winning the war and engaging in meaningful combat for the Iraqis. Instead of stating 'the troops are angry and dispirited,' Finkel uses the homemade artifact of the morale meter as evidence of the truth, of non-official sentiment. The author shows rather than tells how the troops are feeling.

Finkel also uses ironic repetition to show the circular and tautological logic of the military: "Their job now was to follow the orders of other soldiers who were following orders too" (Finkel 85). Finkel's tone gives the impression that no one is really giving orders at all, but that people are following directions mindlessly and reflexively, like the armed forces is a giant chicken with its head cut off. His words suggest the old oxymoron that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. The highfalutin nature of official orders is contrasted with how they are viewed and actually carried out. "Order: 'enhance the size, capabilities, and effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces so the Iraqis can take over the defense of their own country'" (Finkel 85). So… [END OF PREVIEW]

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