Synopses & Reviews
In 1979 a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the U.S. Army. Defying all known accepted military practice and indeed, the laws of physics they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them.
Entrusted with defending America from all known adversaries, they were the First Earth Battalion. And they really weren't joking. What's more, they're back and fighting the War on Terror.
With firsthand access to the leading players in the story, Ronson traces the evolution of these bizarre activities over the past three decades and shows how they are alive today within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and in postwar Iraq. Why are they blasting Iraqi prisoners of war with the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur? Why have 100 debleated goats been secretly placed inside the Special Forces Command Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina? How was the U.S. military associated with the mysterious mass suicide of a strange cult from San Diego? The Men Who Stare at Goats answers these and many more questions.
"This exploration of the U.S. military's flirtation with the supernatural is at once funny and tragic. It reads like fiction, with plenty of dialogue and descriptive detail, but as Ronson's investigation into the government's peculiar past doings creeps into the present and into Iraq it will raise goose bumps. As Ronson reveals, a secret wing of the U.S. military called First Earth Battalion was created in 1979 with the purpose of creating 'Warrior Monks,' soldiers capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, reading minds and even killing a goat simply by staring at it. Some of the characters involved seem well-meaning enough, such as the hapless General Stubblebine, who is 'confounded by his continual failure to walk through his wall.' But Ronson (Them: Adventures with Extremists) soon learns that the Battalion's bizarre ideas inspired some alarming torture techniques being used in the present-day War on Terror. One technique involves subjecting prisoners to 24 hours of Barney the Purple Dinosaur's song, 'I Love You,' and another makes use of the Predator, a small, toy-like object designed by military martial arts master Pete Brusso that can inflict a large amount of pain in many different ways ('You can take eyeballs right out...with this bit,' Brusso tells Ronson). Ronson approaches the material with an open mind and a delightfully dry sense of humor, which makes this an entertaining, if unsettling, read. Indeed, as the events recounted here grow ever more curious and the individuals Ronson meets more disturbing it's necessary to remind oneself of Ronson's opening words: 'This is a true story.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information)
"A hilarious and unsettling book....Ronson comes off as an unusual cross between Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh." The Boston Globe
"Ronson sets his book up beautifully. It moves with wry precise agility from crackpot to crackpot in its search for the essence of this early New Age creativity...." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Jon Ronson...skitters clumsily between genuine inquisitiveness and invented interpretations worthy of an X-Files episode. Intriguing? At times. Humorous? Occasionally. Informative? Not so much..." Houston Chronicle
"A work that combines investigative reporting, slapstick encounters with fringe people and not-so-funny events ripped from recent headlines to push a provocative thesis..." San Diego Union-Tribune
"Very funny and packed with oddities....Entertaining and alarming in equal parts." Kirkus Reviews
From the acclaimed author of Them comes a truly disturbing, often hilarious look at the U.S. military's long flirtation with the paranormal and the psy-op soldiers who are still fighting the battle.
About the Author
Jon Ronson is a documentary filmmaker and the author of Them: Adventures with Extremists. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
1. The General
2. Goat Lab
3. The First Earth Battalion
4. Into the Heart of the Goat
5. Homeland Security
7. The Purple Dinosaur
8. The Predator
9. The Dark Side
10. A Think Tank
11. A Haunted Hotel
12. The Frequencies
13. Some Illustrations
14. The 1953 House
15. Harold's Club or Bust!
16. The Exit
Acknowledgments and Bibliography