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War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaningby Chris Hedges
Nominated for the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award, General Nonfiction
"The title might give the impression that this book would be at home on Patton's shelf, but a glance at the chapter headings shows the book's true heart and mind: 'The Myth of War,' 'The Plague of Nationalism,' 'The Highjacking and Recovery of Memory,' etc. A former seminary student, Hedges is a longtime war correspondent for the New York Times who has seen enough of death and killing. He has seen many governments use the same manipulation of facts to generate support for war and quash dissent."
"War is seductive," Hedges tells readers in this powerful and intelligent book. Throughout our history, it has appealed to the human mind by providing a false sense of purpose and the opportunity to rise above everyday life. Using examples from his experiences as a veteran war correspondent, Hedges debunks the ennobling myth of war, showing its brutality and its devastating effect upon community, life, and culture. Hedges, who's no pacifist, smartly cautions us against assenting to the myths that accompany war. This invaluable work should be required reading, especially now.
Synopses & Reviews
General George S. Patton famously said, "Compared to war all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance. God, I do love it so!" Though Patton was a notoriously single-minded general, it is nonetheless a sad fact that war gives meaning to many lives, a fact with which we have become familiar now that America is once again engaged in a military conflict. War is an enticing elixir. It gives us purpose, resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble.
Chris Hedges of The New York Times has seen war up close — in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central America — and he has been troubled by what he has seen: friends, enemies, colleagues, and strangers intoxicated and even addicted to war's heady brew. In War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, he tackles the ugly truths about humanity's love affair with war, offering a sophisticated, nuanced, intelligent meditation on the subject that is also gritty, powerful, and unforgettable.
"[Hedges'] book is an example of the best kind of war journalism: It is bitterly poetic and ruthlessly philosophical. It sends out a powerful message to people contemplating the escalation of the 'war against terrorism.'" Los Angeles Times
"A brilliant, thoughtful, timely and unsettling book...it will rattle jingoists, pacifists, moralists, nihilists, politicians and professional soldiers equally." New York Times Book Review
"Hedges is not a pacifist, acknowledging that people need to battle evil, but he thoughtfully cautions us against accepting the accompanying myths of war. This should be required reading in this post-9/11 world as we debate the possibility of war with Iraq." Library Journal
"If...I thought Bush and Blair would give it time I would happily send them a copy to read." Jonathan Power, Toronto Star
"Hedges' account of the horrors of war follows a confession of rare and frightening honesty." Slate.com
"I highly recommend Chris Hedges' splendid little book....His understanding is profound and was earned on the ground." Molly Ivins, author of Bushwhacked
"[I]n a category all its own....[His] extremely moving book should be read by anyone fascinated by this least understood and most terrible of human follies, and especially by those who have any responsibility for conceiving, planning, or conducting future wars." Brian Urquhart, New York Review of Books
"[P]ainfully and profoundly illustrates how conflict destroys those it engulfs, not only in the sense of physical death but in terms of individual and collective spirit, culture and polity....
"In times of increasing flag-waving, Mr. Hedges' book is bracing, essential." Dallas Morning News
"War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning has found an audience and a place in the discussion about the war in Iraq and its consequences." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Rarely is a book so timely as Hedges' latest...a refreshing jolt of cerebral and emotional clarity to war's all-encompassing destruction..." Willamette Week (Portland, OR)
"Chris Hedges has written a powerful book, one which bears sad witness to what veterans have long understood....[A] somber and timely warning to those — in any society — who would evoke the emotions of war for the pursuit of political gain." General Wesley K. Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and author of Waging Modern War
A veteran New York Times war correspondent presents a thought-provoking reflection on how life is lived during times of war, and tackles the ugly truths about humanity's love affair with war, offering a sophisticated, intelligent meditation on the subject that is also gritty, powerful, and unforgettable.
In this exposé of the seductive and corrupting power of war for individuals and societies, Hedges draws upon his own experiences and events he has witnessed as a correspondent in far-off lands. He also balances these with writings on war by writers from the Classical period to the present day. A New York Times Notable Book for 2002.
As a veteran war correspondent, Chris Hedges has survived ambushes in Central America, imprisonment in Sudan, and a beating by Saudi military police. He has seen children murdered for sport in Gaza and petty thugs elevated into war heroes in the Balkans. Hedges, who is also a former divinity student, has seen war at its worst and knows too well that to those who pass through it, war can be exhilarating and even addictive: “It gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living.”
Drawing on his own experience and on the literature of combat from Homer to Michael Herr, Hedges shows how war seduces not just those on the front lines but entire societies, corrupting politics, destroying culture, and perverting the most basic human desires. Mixing hard-nosed realism with profound moral and philosophical insight, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is a work of terrible power and redemptive clarity whose truths have never been more necessary.
Includes bibliographical references and index
About the Author
Chris Hedges has been a foreign correspondent for fifteen years. Currently on staff at The New York Times, he has previously worked for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and National Public Radio. He holds a master of divinity from Harvard University. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
1 The Myth of War 19
2 The Plague of Nationalism 43
3 The Destruction of Culture 62
4 The Seduction of Battle and the Perversion of War 83
5 The Hijacking and Recovery of Memory 122
6 The Cause 142
7 Eros and Thanatos 157
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History and Social Science » American Studies » Culture Wars