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The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War Paperback – January 29, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061990523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061990526
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Sites highlights the importance of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and sharing stories. Most importantly, he forces readers, those average civilians, to look at what war does to people and think about whether it’s always worth it.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“The harrowing accounts detail the experiencesof 11 US soldiers and Marines who have been ravaged by modern warfare and its psychological aftermath. What makes Kevin’s reporting unique and essential is that it didn’t stop on the battlefield—he followed his subjects home.” (Vice)

“Brilliant! An unprecedented view into the heart, mind and soul of American Warriors from every generation. A must read for every American.” (Sean Parnell, New York Times Bestselling Author of Outlaw Platoon)

A vivid set of portrats of modern combatants written in prose taht moves with speed and heat.” (Edward Tick, Ph. D., codirector of Solider's heart and authof of War and Soul)

“Riveting and emotionally raw...These gripping stories...are evidence of a profound desire to heal.” (Publishers Weekly)

“This is tough stuff, as many of the experiences recounted here are graphic, cruel,and bloody, but they offer an intimate look at the costs of war on a personal, elemental level.” (Booklist)

“In sensitive, honest prose, the author emphasizes that this is a book about hope. An important book for warriors and the communities that send them to war.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A gritty look at postwar distress, including veterans’ personal accounts, by a journalist with his own intimate perspective on the subject. (Shelf Awareness (Bruce Jacobs of Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, KS)

About the Author

Kevin Sites has spent more than a decade covering wars and conflicts for ABC, NBC, CNN, Yahoo! News, and Vice magazine. He is the author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. He is also an associate professor of journalism at the University of Hong Kong.


More About the Author

Kevin Sites traded in his career as a network news correspondent/producer (NBC, ABC, CNN) to become a pioneering backpack journalist on the Internet. He covered nearly every war in one year for Yahoo News, earning the 2006 Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism. He's the author of In the Hot Zone and The Things They Cannot Say. He was selected as both a Neiman Fellow at Harvard and an Ochberg Fellow at Columbia and currently serves as an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre.

Customer Reviews

This author is very talented.
Phil K
This collection of stories is haunting to me, as someone who has also fought in these wars.
TWhit210
Very graphic, but it has to be to tell the true stories.
Tessas Mom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 46 people found the following review helpful By C. Brown on February 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
I commend the author for the authenticity of his reporting and the access he was able to gain to actual soldiers in combat. Unfortunately, the book too often gets away from what it's billed as (a recounting of soldiers' combat experiences) and devolves into a wandering-- and solipsistic-- autobiography. A full third of the book details the writer's failed personal relationships, his bizarre (and exploitative) foray into scuba diving in the Caribbean, and his self-destructive efforts to sabotage a dream fellowship at Harvard. He attempts to justify all of this through a narcissistic narrative thread in which he equates his failure to save a wounded Iraqi (whether the man could have been saved is even doubtful) with the vastly more authentic experiences-- including grievous wounds-- of soldiers in combat. It's too bad the author felt compelled to jam his not-so-compelling autobiography in with the gripping stories of his subjects. But for this, he'd have had a terrific book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are no certainly no shortages of compelling accounts about soldier's experiences over the last 10 years. It's difficult for readers to sift through it all and pick out the few that offer something new and vital.

This series of individual accounts by long-time conflict reporter Kevin Sites accomplishes exactly that - by following up with soldiers and veterans that he first met several years ago, he can tell a much fuller story than even the best embedded narratives are able to offer. As the title indicates, his subjects offer fairly negative accounts from their past, but with the perspective from a few years of reflection.

The most haunting story is Sites' own. He relates filming a wounded, unarmed, captured insurgent begging for help - who was later summarily executed by US forces in Fallujah. Sites could have helped - probably could have saved the man - but he didn't care, and he didn't bother. As his narrative explains, there's a price one pays for days like that. Never mind the sick feeling a reader gets at seeing how deeply our own soldiers descended into that violent pit.

I wouldn't say any of the stories of the men he met end on an entirely uplifting note, but some are much better than others. James Sperry took a shell fragment to his brain and faced a long struggle and broken marriage - but he came through it to work with the Wounded Warrior Regiment, and pose with President Obama. That's one simple example.

The stories themselves, of Sperry or others, are not unique. Most readers of war-related news will have seen many similar accounts. What IS new and important is Sites' ability to tell these stories as complete packages.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chris on March 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition with Audio/Video
It's really good book in my opinion. But there're other books about Afghanistan war I like more.
Today it is the US forces who are stationed in Afghanistan. But in 1979–1989 Soviet troops fought on the same roads, and often out of the same bases.
A book recently published at Amazon,
“Soviet Afghanistan Veterans Share Their Stories, Make Predictions. Comparison of Soviet (1979-1989) and American battlefield experience in Afghanistan”
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B5YFS66
presents an impressive collection of stories, anecdotes, and impressions of Soviet troops.
For example, one Soviet soldier recalls:

Alexandr
What I remember about Afghanistan is that during the scorching hot daylight hours the war was suspended by mutual agreement. Neither the Soviet troops nor the spooks were willing to fight in the hellish heat. Just try holding a burning-hot metal rifle in your hands! During those hours, there was no war—every living thing was hiding from the scathing sunlight.

Here is another abstract from a Soviet soldier’s recollections:

Vladimir, intelligence agent
The information we got from our sources was analyzed and generalized, conclusions were drawn and radioed to the HQ along with a recommendation for possible action: airstrike, military operation, ambush, etc. Then the info would be forwarded to the staff, who would make the final decision. However it went, we had to participate along with our “friend.” (translator’s note: I.e. the informant who obtained the information.)
You want to know about military operations? Our command usually tried to carry them out together with Afghani forces, since we were supposed to train them. There was a small difficulty, however: Afghanis have no concept of secrecy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By timothy on February 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition with Audio/Video Verified Purchase
This book contains stories which reveal some of the darkest moments experienced in combat. Those same dark moments that haunt us for the rest of our lives. I have been serving in Afghanistan since 2008, and am currently deployed there now. Kevin Sites has done an exceptional job of illustrating the lasting affects of war....good and bad.
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Format: Paperback
I did a very detailed review of the author's first book, In the Hot Zone and I recommend that book as well as this one. They are different books and complement one another. The first book is about the over-all external reality of war, this book is about the internal reality and loss of reality and inner psychic confusion, grief, pain and general loss of self that war inflicts on those that survive it.

The book can be read in a morning, and in my view is an excellent gift for young men thinking about joining the military. It is also an excellent reference and could usefully be required reading in both entry level and mid-career courses for Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO), Chief Warrant Officers (CWO), and officers including officers at Command & Staff College or a War College. Certainly it would be a very valuable reference for those who are going into a combat zone as civilians, including United Nations, Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and others. In all my reading, I have no encountered a book quite like this, focused on putting together direct first person stories covering the following topics as ably captioned by the author:

Part I: The Killing Business: What's It Like to Kill in War?

Part II: The Wounds of War: What's It Like to be Shot, Bombed, or Burned in Combat?

Part III: Things That Stain the Soul: What Can Never Be Forgotten?

Part IV: Deadly Honest Mistakes: What's It Like to Kill Your Own Men or Civilians?

Part V: Moral Ambiguities: How Do You Know What's Right?
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