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What Every Person Should Know About War

What Every Person Should Know About War

4.0 6
by Chris Hedges, Dominick Anfuso (Editor)

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Acclaimed New York Times journalist and author Chris Hedges offers a critical -- and fascinating -- lesson in the dangerous realities of our age: a stark look at the effects of war on combatants. Utterly lacking in rhetoric or dogma, this manual relies instead on bare fact, frank description, and a spare question-and-answer format. Hedges allows U.S.


Acclaimed New York Times journalist and author Chris Hedges offers a critical -- and fascinating -- lesson in the dangerous realities of our age: a stark look at the effects of war on combatants. Utterly lacking in rhetoric or dogma, this manual relies instead on bare fact, frank description, and a spare question-and-answer format. Hedges allows U.S. military documentation of the brutalizing physical and psychological consequences of combat to speak for itself.

Hedges poses dozens of questions that young soldiers might ask about combat, and then answers them by quoting from medical and psychological studies.
• What are my chances of being wounded or killed if we go to war?
• What does it feel like to get shot?
• What do artillery shells do to you?
• What is the most painful way to get wounded?
• Will I be afraid?
• What could happen to me in a nuclear attack?
• What does it feel like to kill someone?
• Can I withstand torture?
• What are the long-term consequences of combat stress?
• What will happen to my body after I die?

This profound and devastating portrayal of the horrors to which we subject our armed forces stands as a ringing indictment of the glorification of war and the concealment of its barbarity.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Neither jingoistic nor pacifist, the book is about the moral authority of information, as it applies to the present and future nature of war. — Robert Pinsky
Publishers Weekly
"This book is a manual on war. There is no rhetoric. There are very few adjectives," Hedges proclaims in his introduction to this graphic primer. Framed as a question-and-answer manual for GIs, not "every person," the book gives perfunctory information about military social life, pay, housing and housekeeping (a "central latrine will be established for multiple camps"). But the bulk of it is concerned with battlefield carnage, madness and pathos. A gristly chapter on "Weapons and Wounds" details the bodily effects of artillery shells, incendiaries and several types of bullets. Questions like "What does it feel like to kill someone?" (exhilaration, then remorse) and sections on post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks probe the psychic wounds of war. A chapter on "Dying" covers topics like "Will I be frozen in the position in which I die?" ("You can be straightened out after rigor mortis has set") and "What will my last words be?" ("Many call for their mothers"). War correspondent Hedges, author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (whose introductory paragraphs look a lot like their counterparts in this volume), presents this anxiety-provoking information as a grimly factual account of the true face of war-culled from "medical, psychological, and military studies"-that America shies away from in favor of sanitized myths of glory and heroism. He fails to note that depictions of gore, mayhem, psychological trauma and flashbacks have become staples of Hollywood's treatment of war even as such experiences have become less common in America's high-tech, casualty-averse military. Americans, soldiers and civilians both, could use a clear-eyed analysis of modern warfare, but this limited treatment doesn't yet provide one. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Free Press
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Copyright © 2003 Chris Hedges
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743255127

Chapter One

What is a war?

War is defined as an active conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Has the world ever been at peace?

Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history.

How many people have died in war?

At least 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century. Estimates for the total number killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to 1 billion. War has several other effects on population, including decreasing the birthrate by taking men away from their wives. The reduced birthrate during World War II is estimated to have caused a population deficit of more than 20 million people.

How many people around the world serve in the military?

The combined armed forces of the world have 21.3 million people. China has the world's largest, with 2.4 million. America is second with 1.4 million. India has 1.3 million, North Korea 1 million, and Russia 900,000. Of the world's 20 largest militaries, 14 are in developing nations?

How many wars are taking place right now?

At the beginning of 2003 there were 30 wars going on around the world. These included conflicts in Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, China, Colombia, the Congo, India, Indonesia, Israel, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda.

Is there a genetic reason why we fight?

There is no single "war gene." Combinations of genes can predispose a person to violence. However, aggression is a product of biology and environment. In America, sources of aggressive dispositions include domestic violence, the portrayal of violence in the media, threats from enemies, and combat training.

Is war essentially male?

Worldwide, 97 percent of today's military personnel are male. This is thought to be a reflection of culture and biology. Fifteen percent (204,000) of American military personnel are female.

Can women fight as effectively as men do?

Yes. While fewer women are "natural killers," and women are on average smaller than men, there are many women who have the psychological makeup and the physical ability to fight. There are many men without either. Women have shown valor in combat. Dr. Mary Walker won the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

Why are civilians so attracted to war?

War is often regarded by observers as honorable and noble. It can be viewed as a contest between nations, a chance to compete and be declared the victor.

Does the American public support war?

Between 65 and 85 percent of the American public will support a military action when it begins. Vietnam had 64 percent support in 1965. As American casualties mount, support often decreases. The Korean and Vietnam Wars ended with support levels near 30 percent. World War II support levels never fell below 77 percent, despite the prolonged and damaging nature of the conflict. The Gulf War enjoyed similar levels of support.

How large is the American military?

The active peacetime force of the U.S. armed services includes 1.4 million people, with the Army making up almost 500,000 of that number. The Navy has approximately 380,000 men and women on active duty. The Air Force has approximately 365,000, and the Marines have approximately 175,000. Approximately 1.3 million Americans serve in Reserve and National Guard branches that can be activated in time of war.

How many Americans have died in wars?

More than 650,000 Americans have been killed in combat. Another 243,000 have died while wars were being fought, due to training accidents, injury, and disease. In the twentieth century, approximately 53,000 Americans were killed in combat in World War I, 291,000 in World War II, 33,000 in the Korean War, 47,000 in Vietnam, and 148 in the Gulf War. Including deaths from disease, accidents, and other factors, each war's total was much higher: approximately 116,000 died in World War I, 400,000 in World War II, 53,000 in the Korean War, 90,000 in Vietnam, and almost 400 in the Gulf War.

How deadly is the American military?

It is difficult to measure how many enemy deaths American armed forces have inflicted. Americans and their allies typically cause 10 to 20 times more combat casualties than American forces suffer. Estimates of Iraqi soldiers killed in the Gulf War range from 1,500 to 100,000. The lowest figure would still be 10 times the number of Americans killed in the war. Approximately 850,000 Vietcong died in the Vietnam War, 18 times the 47,000 U.S. dead. More than 600,000 North Korean and 1 million Chinese fighters died in the Korean War, almost 50 times the 33,000 American dead. In World War II, 3,250,000 German and 1,507,000 Japanese soldiers, sailors, and pilots were killed, 16 times the 291,000 American servicemen who were killed.

How much does it cost the United States to maintain its armed forces?

Since 1975, America has spent between 3 and 6 percent of its gross domestic product on national defense, or approximately 15 to 30 percent of each year's federal budget. In the first years of the twenty-first century, this meant spending roughly $350 billion per year. In comparison, annual spending for other programs included roughly $15 billion on state and international assistance and $60 billion on education. From 1940 to 1996 (a period that includes several cycles of war and peace, including the arms race of the cold war), America spent $16.23 trillion on the military ($5.82 trillion of that on nuclear weapons), versus $1.70 trillion on health care and $1.24 trillion on international affairs.

How much does war cost?

The cost of the Gulf War was approximately $76 billion. Vietnam cost $500 billion; the Korean War, $336 billion; and World War II, almost $3 trillion. Put another way, the Gulf War cost each person in the United States $306; Vietnam, $2,204 per person; Korea, $2,266 per person; and World War II, $20,388 per person. At its outset, estimates for the cost of the Iraqi War were $50 to $140 billion, and an additional $75 to $500 billion for occupation and peacekeeping, or from $444 to $2,274 per person.

How big is the military industry in the United States?

Besides the 1.4 million active duty personnel, the military employs 627,000 civilians. The defense industry employs another 3 million. In total, the military and its supporting manufacturing base employs 3.5 percent of the U.S. labor force. In 2002, the Department of Defense spent $170.8 billion with military contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

How has the size of the industry changed over time?

The 2003 level of 3.5 percent of the labor force is historically low. In 1987, toward the end of the cold war, defense (including the military) made up 5.7 percent of the U.S. labor market; in 1968, during Vietnam, 9.8 percent; in 1943, during World War II, 39 percent. After World War II, defense employment dropped to 4.5 percent, but jumped back to 11 percent in 1951 with the Korean War and the start of the cold war.

Does the military industry help make defense spending decisions?

Yes. In 2000, defense lobbying groups spent approximately $60 million. Defense political action committees also contribute roughly $14 million per congressional election cycle. Defense aerospace, defense electronics, and miscellaneous defense are the 31st-, 44th-, and 46th-ranking industries, respectively.

How many weapons does the U.S. military industry export each year?

In 2001, U.S. arms manufacturers exported $9.7 billion in weapons worldwide. The United Kingdom was second in international exports with $4 billion. In addition, the United States made new sales of $12.1 billion. Russia was second with $5.8 billion. The United States is the world's largest arms manufacturer, supplying almost half of all the arms sold on the world market.

What kinds of arms does the United States export?

In 2002, U.S. manufacturers planned to export arms including Cobra and Apache attack helicopters, Black Hawk helicopters, KC-135A Stratotanker air-to-air tanker/transport aircraft, Hellfire and Hellfire II air-to-surface antiarmor missiles, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, TOW 2A and 2B missiles, M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, grenade launchers, MK-82 (500 lb.) and MK-83 (1,000 lb.) bombs, Sentinel radar systems, GBU12 Paveway series laser-guided bombs, standard assault amphibious personnel vehicles, assault amphibious command vehicles, and CBU-97 sensor fused weapon antitank cluster bombs.

How many of the weapons U.S. companies export go to developing countries?

Approximately half. From 1994 to 2001, the United States exported $131 billion in arms, with $59 billion going to developing nations. The United States is the leading exporter to developing countries, with Russia and France second and third.

How do American arms exports affect the American people?

Arms exports are an important source of American jobs and help maintain U.S. military manufacturing capacity. They also have some negative consequences. When American weapons are used in a conflict-for example, by Israel against the Palestinians-America is also blamed for the attacks. U.S. forces regularly find themselves up against sophisticated weaponry of American origin, which is harder to defend against.

How dangerous is war for civilians?

Very dangerous. Between 1900 and 1990, 43 million soldiers died in wars. During the same period, 62 million civilians were killed. More than 34 million civilians died in World War II. One million died in North Korea. Hundreds of thousands were killed in South Korea, and 200,000 to 400,000 in Vietnam. In the wars of the 1990s, civilian deaths constituted between 75 and 90 percent of all war deaths.

What is the civilian experience in war?

They are shot, bombed, raped, starved, and driven from their homes. During World War II, 135,000 civilians died in two days in the firebombing of Dresden. A week later, in Pforzheim, Germany, 17,800 people were killed in 22 minutes. In Russia, after the three-year battle of Leningrad, only 600,000 civilians remained in a city that had held a population of 2.5 million. One million were evacuated, 100,000 were conscripted into the Red Army, and 800,000 died. In April 2003, during the Iraqi War, half of the 1.3 million civilians in Basra, Iraq, were trapped for days without food and water in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees.

How many refugees axe there?

In 2001, 40 million people were displaced from their homes because of armed conflict or human rights violations. Refugees have been a concern throughout the twentieth century. Five million Europeans were uprooted from 1919 to 1939. World War II displaced 40 million non-Germans in Europe, and 13 million Germans were expelled from countries in Eastern Europe. Approximately 2.5 million of the 4.4 million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina were driven from their homes during that region's war in the early 1990s. More than 2 million Rwandans left their country in 1994. In 2001, 200,000 people were driven from Afghanistan to Pakistan. In early 2003, 45,000 Liberians were displaced from their homes.

What are the consequences of becoming a refugee?

Refugees have very high mortality rates, due primarily to malnutrition and infectious disease. Rwandan refugees in Zaire in 1994 had a death rate 25 to 50 times higher than prewar Rwandans. Iraqi Kurdish refugees in Turkey in 1991 had a death rate 18 times higher than usual.

How does war affect children?

More than 2 million children were killed in wars during the 1990s. Three times that number were disabled or seriously injured. Twenty million children were displaced from their homes in 2001. Many were forced into prostitution. A large percentage of those will contract AIDS. Children born to mothers who are raped or forced into prostitution often become outcasts.

How many child soldiers are there?

More than 300,000 worldwide. Soldiers are sometimes recruited at age 10 and younger. The youngest carry heavy packs, or sweep roads with brooms and branches to test for landmines. When children are hostile, the opposing army is more likely to consider every civilian a potential enemy.

Why do children join armies?

They are often forced to. Some are given alcohol or drugs, or exposed to atrocities, to desensitize them to violence. Some join to help feed or protect their families. Some are offered up by their parents in exchange for protection. Children can be fearless because they lack a clear concept of death.

How can war affect women?

Women often take on larger economic roles in wartime. They must find ways to compensate for their husband's military deployment or unemployment. Those in war zones must search for food, water, medicine, and fuel despite shortages. Some women in war zones are forced into prostitution to provide for their family. Famine and stress cause increased stillbirth and early infant death. AIDS risk increases for many women in war, from prostitution, husbands who return from military duty with HIV, or rape.

What is genocide?

Genocide is any number of acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, according to the United Nations. Others include political and social groups in the definition, making genocide more broadly the annihilation of difference. Genocidal campaigns have become more frequent since World War I. Modern industrial weapons have made mass killings easier to commit.

How many genocides have occurred since World War I?

Dozens. The most devastating include those in the Soviet Union, where approximately 20 million were killed during Stalin's Great Terror (1930s); Nazi Germany, where 6 million Jews were killed in concentration camps along with 5 million or more Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other "enemies of the German state" (1937-1945); Cambodia, where 1.7 million of the country's 7 million people were killed as a result of the actions of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979); Iraq, where 50,000 Kurds were killed during the ethnic cleansing of Anfal in 1987; Bosnia, where 310,000 Muslims were killed (1992-1995); and Rwanda, where more than 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered over ten weeks in 1994.

Chapter Two


How is the U.S. military organized?

The U.S. military is run by the Department of Defense. It oversees the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, which are responsible for land, sea, and air fighting respectively.


Excerpted from WHAT EVERY PERSON SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WAR by CHRIS HEDGES Copyright © 2003 by Chris Hedges
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The New
York Times
, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science
and National Public Radio. He was a member of the team that won the
2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for The New York Times
coverage of global terrorism, and he received the 2002 Amnesty International
Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Hedges is the author of the bestseller
American Fascists and National Book Critics Circle finalist for War Is
a Force That Gives Us Meaning
. He is a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute
and a Lannan Literary Fellow and has taught at Columbia University, New York
University and Princeton University.

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What Every Person Should Know About War 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SarahWorldCiv More than 1 year ago
Chis Hedge doesn't seem to take sides, but he does ask some amazing questions. In his book "What Every Peron Should Know About War.", his questions raise eyebrows, state clear facts, and even touch on the humanity in war. When people talk about war now days -especially after the Bush administration- they can't seem to not be biased. Either they seem to either love or hate war. They hate war and therefore sneakily hate Bush or they love Bush OR they like his politics but hate him..war doesn't have to do with Bush. He gives facts without seeming to promote war or bash it. This makes this book a good source for any person to read regardless of political ideas because it simply gives facts. Hedge's also delves into both sides of war, the emotional and physical, with a broad range of questions. He is very good at asking a physical and factual questions like question Like "What is war?", "What are the most common forms of torture" and What will it be like to be shot? and turning it into an all-encompassing answer. Emotional side of things "What will it be like to see my spouse again? (ch. , and Will I develop a friendship with my captors?" (ch. Imprisonment, Torture, and Rape), "What will the effect on my family be if I develop PTSD?"(ch. After the War) Surprising but interesting questions peppered though out like "Will I visit prostitutes?" (ch. 3 Life in War), "Should men try to protect their genitals in combat?" (ch. Weapons and Wounds), and "Will I have trouble having sex with my spouse?" (ch After the War) It answers every question imaginable it a factual and accurate way. Hedge's shows how war is but also how it affects humans both serving in and outside of the war. Put in a very easy format to read. A good read for those that have interest in war, humanity, or just learning something new.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While reading this book, I was truly shocked and fascinated at all the things that Hedges was telling us. One can only watch so much television and read magazines about the Middle East, and areas of the like. It was bound to happen that someone would actually tell us the truth about what happens during war. Who would have thought that could be so much said about what happens to you when you are captured. Chris Hedges, who is currently a senior fellow at The National Institute. Hedges spent nearly two years as a foreign correspondent in areas such as Africa and the Middle East. For the book What Every Person Should Know About War, Hedges collaborated with several combat war veterans. This is what makes this book so interesting. By joining forces with them it gives the book more authenticity. It is not just someone writing a book about war, it is someone writing a book about war with information from someone who was actually there. I would recommend this book for high school and college students. It is a great book to use for in-depth discussions. It gives high school students a chance to see how life in the military really is. Since a lot of high school students go into the military after graduation, it would be a good time for them to see if this is really what they want to do. For college students, it¿s a chance for them to explore all the aspects of war. Assignments may be attached to reading this book, such as researching what countries had wars and when. There are some uncomfortable moments in the book. There is a whole chapter entitled, ¿Imprisonment, Torture, and Rape.¿ It goes into details about what would happen if you were captured. While it may be uncomfortable and/or controversial, it does provide ¿tips¿ or ¿insights¿ on what could possibly happen. Also, there is a chapter about dying. Obviously, dying is a hard topic to talk about. But it seems to give some comfort on the subject. Later on in the chapter it addresses what will happen to your body, how your family will be notified and what your funeral will be like. It is true that every person should read this. There are many interesting facts that not everybody knows. Some people try to turn away from all the war stories in the news, when in fact we should try to understand it more. These men and women put their lives on the line every single day for us. The least we could do is try to understand why things are the way they are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What Every Person Should Know About War by Chris Hedges is a very informative book that should be read by every teenage and adult American. Mr. Hedges is a journalist and author who has reported from wars in Bosnia and Kosovo as well as the Persian Gulf. His reporting comes from first-hand experience. He takes the reader through enlistment, war and post-war experiences. Mr. Hedges answers questions such as, 'What is war?', 'What will make me fire?', and 'How will I feel when I hear war discussed?' This book is a must-read whether you are entering the military, have a loved one in the military or are just a concerned American. I was assigned this book for a World Civilizations class and hesitated reading it. However, it has made me a more informed American. Are you between the ages of 16-216 and an American? Then this book is for you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'What Every Person Should Know About War' is an excellent read that really makes one think. It was a book I was assigned in my history class in college and I was quite reluctant to read it. I automatically figured that it was just another book that me and my class would have to write on. I had no idea the book would be the easy read that it was and provide insight to questions I have had for years. The book takes you through different aspects of war and the most popular questions proposed on that topic. Topics range from enlistment to dying. Questions range from, 'What will it feel like to be shot,' to 'Will I want to go home after the war?' The author, Chris Hedges, provides great questions and answers in this book and has credibility as one that knows something about war from his first book entitled 'War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning'. Great chapters that answer questions that everyone is curious about. Overall, this book is a great read for a person of any age, however, I suggest it to the war enthusiast or one that is college-aged. This book sparked my interest and it was very intriguing. I remember interrupting my roommate every once in awhile to tell him an interesting facet about the book. A great book that every American needs to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is great! This book answers many questions about what war is like and the challenges, fears and doubts anyone threatened with possibility being in the middle of one might face.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is nothing but a long series of questions and answers There is no writing skill