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 Post subject: Chris Hedges -an honest war correspondant?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:19 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2005 6:19 pm
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Chris Hedges writes for the NY Times and was educated at the Harvard Divinity School. He has written a book recently called "What every person should know about war" and should be required reading for all those potential young bored recruits that decide to do their duty to gOD and country, before they enlist.

Chris Hedges aims to provide "a glimpse into war as it is, not as it is usually portrayed by the entertainment industry, the state, and the press." What Every Person Should Know About War (2003) answers 437 questions about the practice of war. It has no smoldering phrases, no calls to action, no arguments at all, just questions and answers. Each answer is footnoted, and almost every footnote leads to a scientific study or U.S. military publication. The book is blunt, dispassionate, and the last thing the government wants you to read.

Hedges focuses on specific, often mundane, concerns as he walks the reader through "war as it is." He opens with general information, such as the number of people in military service around the world, the size and expense of the U.S. military, and the number of wars currently underway. The rest of the book proceeds through the stages of military life, beginning at enlistment. ("What will happen to me at boot camp?" "Can I sign up for a job that will keep me out of combat?" "What is the median income of those who enlist?") No detail is too small. Consider this entry from the chapter on life during war:

"What will I eat? It will depend on what you are supposed to do that day. If you have a day of hard work ahead, you will be given a carbohydrate-rich meal. If your mission requires peak cognitive ability, you will receive protein. You may be given food rich in carbohydrates and low in protein to make you tired if you need to sleep during irregular hours. A typical meal ready to eat (MRE) or self-heating individual meal module (SHIMM) might include a Salisbury steak, bread, and a specially formulated chocolate bar that is designed not to melt in hot climates."

Sounds like he knows what goes on and should be required reading by the potential 'Meat'.

Part of military life is, of course, death. There are questions about killing and dying, but Hedges eschews scare tactics. He puts the odds of an American soldier being wounded or killed in a war zone at a relatively low 1 in 15 (1 in 5 for infantry in major wars). He examines various ways of dying and the likelihood of each: infection, land mines, aircraft accidents, friendly fire, chemical and biological weapons, radiation poisoning, and so on. As the data pile up, the glamour of war gives way not to hysteria, but to sober reflection. The truth shall wake you up:

"What will happen if I am exposed to nuclear radiation but do not die immediately? The Office of the Surgeon General's Textbook of Military Medicine states: 'Fatally irradiated soldiers should receive every possible palliative treatment, including narcotics, to prolong their utility and alleviate their physical and psychological distress. Depending on the amount of fatal radiation, such soldiers may have several weeks to live and to devote to the cause. Commanders and medical personnel should be familiar with estimating survival time based on onset of vomiting. Physicians should be prepared to give medications to alleviate diarrhea, and to prevent infection and other sequelae of radiation sickness in order to allow the soldier to serve as long as possible. The soldier must be allowed to make the full contribution to the war effort. He will already have made the ultimate sacrifice. He deserves a chance to strike back, and to do so while experiencing as little discomfort as possible.'"

Like a glow stick at night, he outlives his purpose when he peters out, but deserves his usefulness to the end. Keep him angry and he'll continue to perform his duty. Narcotics are good.

TP.c: When you say the rush to war is like a drug, how is it addictive? What void does it fill? What needs are fulfilled by this kind of rhetoric and this kind of myth-making, and this kind of political discourse, that are not otherwise accomplished in a peacetime political environment?

Hedges: Well, I think war is probably the supreme drug. War -- first of all, it is a narcotic. You can easily become addicted to it. And that?s why it?s often so hard for people who spend prolonged times in combat to return to peacetime society. There?s a huge alienation, a huge disconnection, often a longing to go back to the subculture of war.

War has a very dark beauty, a kind of fascination with the grotesque. The Bible called it "the lust of the eye" and warned believers against it. War has a rush. It has a hallucinogenic quality. It has that sort of stoned-out sense of -- that zombie-like quality that comes with not enough sleep, sort of being shelled too long. I think, in many ways, there is no drug, or there are no combination of drugs that are as potent as war, and one could argue as addictive. It certainly is as addictive as any narcotic.

Imagine war being compared to a narcotic. Imagine the thrill of war, that 'lust of the eye', as a stimulus to rape and pillage. It is a well known adage that was glorified by viking conquest. What is the power of the narcotic? It radiates freedom.

....Unfortunately, I didn't understand what war was. And I got caught up in the subculture, and to be honest, the addiction that war was. And I ended up over the next 15 years traveling from war zone to war zone to war zone with that fraternity of dysfunctional war correspondents who became my friends -- some of whom were killed, including my closest friend who was killed in Sierra Leone in May of 2000. So I got sucked into the kind of whirlpool that war is -- into the death instinct.

The cameraderie, the derring do the exposure to life and death situations that make living seem more, Important. It is a false image that generally leaves the veteran silent through the years, preferring not to dwell or talk about its issues. Free to kill. What a rush.

Well, the cause is... is always a lie. If people understood, or individuals or societies understood in sensory way what war was, they'd never do it. War is organized industrial slaughter.

The good example is the Vietnam War. It began as a mythic war against communism and this kind of stuff, and -- especially when the middle class began finding their sons coming home in body bags -- people began to look at war in a very different light. It no longer was mythic. It became sensory war, i.e. we began to see war without that film, that mythic film that I think colors our vision of all violent conflicts. And then the war became impossible to prosecute.

So the cause, the myth, the notion of glory -- those are lies. They?re always lies. And nations need them. Emperiums need them especially in order to get a populace to support a war. But they're untrue.

The truth is out. War is a lie. The great lie supported by all the lies society covets. Beware of the scribes and pharisees, for their words are like a narcotic, goading you on like a Zombie to do their bidding by believing in them. Listen to our Generals. ... edges.html


"The best way to get a short war", he says, "is to have such a shock on the system, that the Iraqi regime would have to assume early on, that the end was inevitable."

The General was admirably candid. Quote: "We need to condition people that this is war. People get the idea this is going to be antiseptic. Well, it's not going to be. People are going to die."

I read those words just after finishing this book, WAR IS A FORCE THAT GIVES US MEANING. Its author, Chris Hedges, knows about war, knows about people dying from close up experience. As a foreign correspondent for the NEW YORK TIMES, Chris Hedges covered the Balkans, the Middle East, including the first Gulf War where he was captured by the Iraqis, and Central America.

I believe, I believe, O hallowed one, and with this cross and this gun and its wisdom, I shall do your bidding.

MOYERS: Tell me, having covered the first Gulf War, what the men and women who are about to go into Iraq are going to experience.

HEDGES: Well, the ones who are up on the front line are — especially as they prepare to go into battle — are going to have to come face-to-face with the myth of war. The myth of heroism, the myth of patriotism. The myth of glory. All those myths that have the ability to arouse us when we're not in mortal danger.

And they're going to have to confront their own mortality. And at that moment some people will be crying, some people will be vomiting. People will not speak much. Everyone will realize that from here on out, at least until the fighting ends, it will be a constant minute-by-minute battle with fear. And that sometimes fear wins. And anybody who tells you differently has never been in a war.

MOYERS: And yet you say in your book that the first Gulf War, that we made war fun.

HEDGES: For those who weren't there. You know the — I was with the U.S. Marine Corps and they hated CNN. They hated that flag-waving jingoism that dominated the coverage on, or dominated so much of the coverage…all those abstract terms that create the excitement back home become obscene to those who are in combat.

Life is about the quest for meaning and purpose. It appears war gives that sense as well. Pity the fools that believe in the faith of 'Death as their gOD'.

Fun indeed.

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