Tammy and I have a running joke about how easily she sobs during a movie or when reading a book and how I never do.
Not this time. Reading Ann Jones’ They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story, I didn’t just sob, but broke down a few times. They were anger-fueled breakdowns, but breakdowns nonetheless.
They Were Soldiers is not a recent release. It’s actually been available for several years. I learned of it only recently, however, from an article at TomDispatch based on the book.
Jones’ expose of what endless wars are doing to those who fight them and those whose lives they touch (parents, girlfriends, spouses, kids, etc) is beyond brutal. If it were up to me, I’d make it required reading for every person who seeks federal office, and every voter who casts a vote in a federal election.
From my own personal perspective, I know some of the things I said while a candidate I never would have said had I known then what I learned from They Were Soldiers.
As for voters, especially political activist types, the support for candidates across the spectrum, from Donald Trump to Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio to Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton, just wouldn’t be there if voters were informed, truly informed, about this subject. For example, when pressed, many in the Ready for Hillary crowd will acknowledge that she’s “too hawkish” for their taste. If they understood fully the real cost of that hawkishness, they’d likely re-order their priorities. If they read They Were Soldiers, they’d know that a portion of the gun violence their candidate of choice rails against so eloquently was committed by veterans whose brains were irretrievably scrambled by the wars of choice she supported.
Readers here have read countless times how the cost of war is borne by a tiny slice, perhaps 1%, of our society. And we have some understanding of the nature of that cost — the lost lives, the lost limbs and eyesight, the lifelong disability, the drug addiction, the PTSD. Speaking for myself, however, I never grasped how horrific that cost is, and how the brutal reality is hidden from the rest of us.
I’ll get pushback about this to be sure. Steve will comment based on his experience in Vietnam. Other vets who read these pages may chime in. As always, I welcome the conversation. But I have one request. Whether before or after commenting, buy the book and read it. The price is down to $7.88 on Kindle, and it’s a relatively short read.
Of course, no mater what injustice we face, it connects to America’s extreme economic injustice. Jones makes that connection thusly:
The financial dynamics of war-making are rarely mentioned in connection with America’s economic woes, but from the [war] profiteers’ point of view, widening income inequality might be seen as a contribution to national security. During the past 12 years of wars, defined from the start as “endless,” the ranks of the poor have increased exponentially, while public services like the education system that once enabled them to rise above have decayed, ensuring that a supply of deluded kids, impoverished in every way, will don the uniforms of soldiers and perform the next round of America’s unnecessary wars.
They Were Soldiers is not for the faint of heart. There is not one passage that could be considered entertaining. So, if you read books for that purpose alone, skip it. But, if you value being informed, They Were Soldiers is a must read.