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What Every Person Should Know About War Paperback – June 9, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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
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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Free Press Trade Paperback Ed edition (June 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743255127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743255127
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
I almost fell over in disbelief when I read the Publishers Weekly review (see above) for this book. Either the reviewer has an ax to grind against the book's author, or else he/she is just completely misguided, living in some strange academic tower somewhere.
In discussing casualties, wounds, and combat trauma, the reviewer says: "...such experiences have become less common in America's high-tech, casualty-averse military."
Sentences like this prove to me (a two-time war-zone US Army vet) how much this book IS needed.
Who does the reviewer think is on the battlefield? Robots?
No. Humans. Human soldiers and human civilians and when humans step on land mines or get shot they scream, they bleed, and they die.
Hedges has held true to his prologue: this book is skewed neither to the left or right politically; it just tells it like it is, almost always from direct quotes from US Army manuals and medical texts. This book is about the truth, the truth of warfare. It makes no commentary, but it also pulls no punches.
Again, I'm a veteran, and proud to be one. If I had to do it again, I would join the service again, even if it meant a return to war for me. I think it's important to say that, because people are criticising this book for being anti-American. Ridiculous. This book is about the truth, the truth of the war experience. Not the Hollywood airbrushed "Army of One" ads the Pentagon runs on TV.
The USA has an all-volunteer military, something we should be proud of. In my mind, every potential "volunteer" should read this book before they join. They may still join (like I said, I would have), but at least they'll be going with open eyes.
Highly recommended for all humans to read: soldiers and civilians alike.
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Format: Paperback
I started flipping through this in a bookstore and was blown away. I took it home and read it cover to cover and was engaged the whole way through. Very little of it was information I had seen before, and almost all of it fell somewhere on the spectrum between interesting and shocking. I have been recommending it strongly to friends and am writing my first AMZN recommendation to do it here.
At first I thought the Q&A format would make it hard to get into, but it ended up making it easier. There's not an explicit narrative but the questions are broken up into chapters, and within the chapters they follow a simple logic. The next question is usually the next question you'd ask if you were having a conversation with someone who had all the answers.
I have to disagree with the official review from Publisher's Weekly, on two counts. One, the author's point is that while the Pentagon would have you believe that war has changed, the fact is that the soldier on the ground is still firing bullets at the enemy and having bullets fired at him. Believing that a high-tech war is fundamentally different or "easier" is demeaning to those who fight and win wars today the way they have always been fought and won: on the ground.
The second point is the suggestion that this is a book "for soldiers." This abrogates the responsibility of every American to understand what our government asks of these young men and women when it sends them off to fight. At the very least, anyone who votes or pays taxes in America is complicit in the decision to go to war, and everyone should understand what military men and women go through. To say to a soldier "this book is for you; I don't need to know this" is again to insult his or her experience.
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Format: Paperback
Chris Hedges gives us a straight-forward book about what it is like to be a soldier. It is arranged like a FAQ, in a question-and-answer format. The beauty of this book is it's simplicity and it's objectivity. Hedges doesn't try to convince anyone to join the military nor does he protest against the military. He just provides facts, and the readers can chose to use the facts as they please. For example, will you rush to join the army infantry after finding out that you have a 1 in 5 chance of getting seriously injured if you go into combat? He also goes into psychological problems that soldiers may develop such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. You'll also find out what will happen to you if you are wounded or killed. Some people may say that this information will just scare off recruits, but don't you think we should tell the men and women who defend our country the truth? Why should we lie to those we claim to honor? If you know someone who is thinking of enlisting, buy them a copy of this book before they do so that they will have more than a recruiter's promises to base their decision upon.
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I'm beginning to get the feeling Chris Hedges' books are Confession, and Act of Contrition rolled into one; and I think he's doing a good thing. I gave a stellar review to his first book, "War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning," and sent it to a young man graduating from high school in the hope it would help counter the effects of the jingoism we've been inundated with since 9/11. This second book would make a great companion piece, but in my situation, and thank goodness, it's not necessary.
This is a book that should be required reading for any prospective service person. Mr. Hedges has gone way out of his way to be factual, and objective, and let the facts speak. Its purposefully under-heated style reminded me of nothing else but the Baltimore Catechism, albeit minus the dogma. If I had the wherewithal I'd supply every guidance counselor in the US with a few copies, and if I were the Secretary of any service branch I'd give a copy to every potential recruit; however, I neither have, nor am.
I do wonder as to the books potential efficacy in guiding someone away from the service - not Mr. Hedges' stated purpose by the way. Eighteen year olds are immortal - I was - as well as, "young, dumb, and full of cum" - I was. Weren't you? And certainly not prone to being guided by facts - especially when our recruiting efforts are so sexy. Anthony Swofford in "Jarhead," writes about Marine recruits watching war movies - even those considered to be "anti-war" movies - and tells us that our anti-war movies are just the opposite to the troops. I can just hear a couple of prospective recruits reading about death's unraveling - "Cool..."
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