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More by the authorBiographyE-mail the AuthorGersh Kuntzman-American Beat
Game Over
After a three-star general describes shooting people as 'fun' and war as 'a hell of a hoot,' our columnist wonders if America has lost the ability to separate war games from the real thing
WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Gersh Kuntzman
Newsweek
Updated: 2:47 p.m. ET Feb. 7, 2005

Feb. 7 - I was over at my friend's house the other day and he introduced me to a video game called "Command and Conquer: Generals." Typically I try to stay away from anything involving such wanton and gratuitous bloodshed, but this game was fantastic! I was in command of the U.S. Army against what appeared to be a rag-tag group of under-equipped but pesky insurgents loosely affiliated under the name, Global Liberation Army.

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They fought tough, I'll give them that; but when the time came for a death blow, I didn't waste time and ordered one of my bombers to drop the big one. I mean, the Big One: a tactical nuke. All that was left were some charred trees and a few cockroaches. And, man, it felt good. 

Good thing it was just a game. Otherwise, I would've been pretty repulsed by my blood lust.

And that would have put me in the minority of Americans—at least, judging by the nearly silent reaction of my countrymen to a comment made last week by Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis.

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Mattis, a three-star general who commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and cuts such a heroic figure in America that he's slated to be played by Harrison Ford in an upcoming movie, had this to say about war (real war, not the game I was playing): "Actually it's a lot of fun to fight, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot.. You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Now, if Mattis had been describing the latest gore-fest from Playstation, I wouldn't have flinched. But Mattis's inelegant description of the enjoyment of killing people is somewhat incongruous with his own commander-in-chief's description of the same conflict.


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