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What Every Person Should Know About War Paperback – June 9, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
"This book is a manual on war. There is no rhetoric. There are very few adjectives," Hedges proclaims in his introduction to this graphic primer. Framed as a question-and-answer manual for GIs, not "every person," the book gives perfunctory information about military social life, pay, housing and housekeeping (a "central latrine will be established for multiple camps"). But the bulk of it is concerned with battlefield carnage, madness and pathos. A gristly chapter on "Weapons and Wounds" details the bodily effects of artillery shells, incendiaries and several types of bullets. Questions like "What does it feel like to kill someone?" (exhilaration, then remorse) and sections on post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks probe the psychic wounds of war. A chapter on "Dying" covers topics like "Will I be frozen in the position in which I die?" ("You can be straightened out after rigor mortis has set") and "What will my last words be?" ("Many call for their mothers"). War correspondent Hedges, author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (whose introductory paragraphs look a lot like their counterparts in this volume), presents this anxiety-provoking information as a grimly factual account of the true face of war-culled from "medical, psychological, and military studies"-that America shies away from in favor of sanitized myths of glory and heroism. He fails to note that depictions of gore, mayhem, psychological trauma and flashbacks have become staples of Hollywood's treatment of war even as such experiences have become less common in America's high-tech, casualty-averse military. Americans, soldiers and civilians both, could use a clear-eyed analysis of modern warfare, but this limited treatment doesn't yet provide one.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The New
York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science
Monitor and National Public Radio. He was a member of the team that won the
2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for The New York Times
coverage of global terrorism, and he received the 2002 Amnesty International
Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Hedges is the author of the bestseller
American Fascists and National Book Critics Circle finalist for War Is
a Force That Gives Us Meaning. He is a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute
and a Lannan Literary Fellow and has taught at Columbia University, New York
University and Princeton University.
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Top Customer Reviews
By: Taylor Fielstra
I was first introduced to Chris Hedges’s book What Every Person Should Know About War by my Intro to World Civilizations professor at Bethel College. We were asked to read the book and complete a project discussing the affairs covered within the pages. If my professor had not necessitated reading the book, I do not believe I would have ever thought twice about opening it up. Although I have a lot of respect for those who have served our country, I have never been strongly inclined to research the topic of war. However, I am glad that I engaged in reading What Every Person Should Know About War.
The book contains nine chapters where each one describes a different aspect of war. It emphasizes the stark contrast between life before, life during the war, and life afterwards. Hedges also reveals many of the shocking realities military personnel face on a day-to-day basis in combat. By doing without fancy wordplay, the concise question and answer format gives readers only factual information. Statistics and detailed descriptions shatter the misguided and dreamily heroic depictions of war. The book addresses questions regarding the heinous horrors of war such as torture, imprisonment, rape, and the intense psychological battles that follow.
What Every Person Should Know About War thoroughly accomplishes its purpose. By exposing the naked truth of wartime, Hedges sheds some light on a subject that many have not experienced. Hedges states only factual information without the frequent frills of writing that are custom to our culture today. Regardless of prior knowledge, all people can learn more about wartime. Hedges thoroughly explains and attempts to answer all questions that the public may have concerning warfare.
I would definitely recommend this book to a wide audience. If you have an extensive knowledge of modern warfare, this book is still for you. It is a great reminder about what all war entails. If you are like me and have barely any knowledge of modern warfare, I would definitely recommend this book to you as well. I was blown away by the many horrific truths of war. Hedges presents the information in an interesting format, keeping the attention of readers. This is a book the public needs to read.
The book is from 2007, so there will be less on the war in Afghanistan. The book is shorter than I thought it would be; a good portion is dedicated to citing the source material (not a criticism, just an observation).
I think the part of the review that says that it is a "ringing indictment of the glorification of war and the concealment of its barbarity" isn't completely accurate. I didn't see it that way. If you are giving this book to a young person in an attempt to dissuade them from joining the military, I'd caution you to think twice. The book in honest and raw, but to the type of person who would consider enlisting is probably the type of person who it would appeal to.