War

War by Sebastian Junger
Oh, this is not an easy book. It is every bit as dreary, frightening, and depressing as I thought it would be.
Yet, still, I am glad I read it. Even though it will haunt me.
But doggone it, we’re a nation at war; why the hell shouldn’t an American feel haunted?
Between June 2007 and June 2008, Junger (yes, the same guy who wrote The Perfect Storm and who writes for Vanity Fair) was an embedded reporter who lived with Army troops who were on the front lines in Afghanistan.
So he got as close to living their experience as anyone can, and thank goodness he’s one heck of a writer, because he makes it real to those of us who are reading in our comfy armchairs and living our cushy lives.
For even more of this reality, you can check out the documentary Restrepo, which Junger and Tim Hetherington co-directed and co-produced. The film’s web site also has photos of the soldiers who appear in the book.

As one would expect, there’s plenty of suffering in this book. Soldiers die, and soldiers are injured. And then the survivors wait around in a start of tense boredom, yearning for it all to start up again. That sentiment seems unfathomable, but Junger makes it make sense.

He writes that war (the big picture) is different from combat (what happens on the ground/air/sea), and that many of the soldiers grow to love combat. But, he says, for them, a love of combat does not equal a love of killing. Instead, combat comes to mean protecting, defending the tribe—which quickly becomes addictive.
The entire third section of the book, titled “Love” is a remarkable thing I’ll not soon forget.
And listen to this, from the section titled “Killing”:
“Society can give its young men almost any job and they’ll figure out how to do it. They’ll suffer for it and die for it and watch their friends die for it, but in the end it will get done. That only means that society should be careful about what it asks for.” (p. 154)
Dang.
Anyone else just feeling like weeping?

by

Reader, librarian, & happy little geek

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