I’m currently reading American author Tom Paine’s comic novel from 2003, The Pearl of Kuwait, about some US marines who go AWOL to rescue a beautiful princess after Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. It’s got a lovely style, told in the voice of Marine and surfer dude Carmichael. This passage, where a Marine officer is lecturing his troops on the humanity of the enemy, made me smile. I especially like the use of italics when he gets to the word chaplain. MP+
“In that sense, you and the average Iraqi soldier could have some common ground, do you see?”
No marine of Third Platoon could see.
There was silence and the humour evaporated. Captain Pettigrew was up there hanging, and you would have thought he’d pull back from the edge, but he stumbled onwards and said, “All I’m asking is for you not to demonize the individual Iraqi soldier. The average Iraqi soldier is a human being just like you who” – and here you could see Captain Pettigrew trying to circle back and tie it all together but having some trouble … And then Captain Pettigrew said something that even he looked confused about when it came out of his mouth: “What I want is for you men to feel there is a fellow human in the Iraqi out there in the trenches.”
There was total silence. I don’t think any of the men had known there was such a chaplain hidden in their captain. I had the sense that even Captain Pettigrew was surprised that he had a chaplain hidden inside, but war changes people in all sorts of ways. From then on Pettigrew was known behind his back as Captain Chaplain.