War Is...: Soldiers, Survivors and Storytellers Talk about War

War Is...: Soldiers, Survivors and Storytellers Talk about War

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In a provocative anthology, two editors with opposing viewpoints present an unflinching collection of works reflecting on the nature of war.

Marc Aronson thinks war is inevitable. Patty Campbell thinks war is cruel, deceptive, and wrong. But both agree on one thing: that teens need to hear the truthful voices of those who have experienced war firsthand. The result is this dynamic selection of essays, memoirs, letters, and fiction from nearly than twenty contributors, both contemporary and historical — ranging from Christian Bauman's wrenching "Letter to a Young Enlistee" to Chris Hedges's unflinching look at combat to Fumiko Miura's Nagasaki memoir, "A Survivor's Tale." Whether the speaker is Mark Twain, World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, or a soldier writing a miliblog, these divergent pieces look war straight in the face — and provide an invaluable resource for teenagers today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763642310
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 02/10/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 473,262
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Contributors: Christian Bauman, Bill Bigelow, Chris Hedges, Chaplain Lyn Brown, Mark Twain, Bob Dylan, Fred Duane Cowan, Ernie Pyle, C. W. Bowman, Jr., Mickey Andrews, Helen Benedict, Lee Kelley (now contributing to the NEW YORK TIMES "Home Fires" blog), David Bellavia, Joel Turnipseed, Fumiko Miura, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Margo Lanagan.

Read an Excerpt

WAR IS . . .?
an introduction by Patty Campbell

WAR IS . . .
CRAZY. Looked at without its veil of noble causes and glory, war is insanity, as Mark Twain so deftly observes in "The War Prayer," a story that was deemed so controversial that it was not published until thirteen years after his death. For the people of one country to try to kill as many of the people of another country as possible makes no sense at all, in terms of our common humanity. Yet . . .

WAR IS . . .
HISTORY. The story of civilization has always been told in terms of a progression of wars. We have always waged war against one another, and the leaders of those wars are the people who are praised or deplored in our memories. The artists, the composers, the architects, the actors and dancers, the women and children, daily life and religion — these matters we leave to the archaeologists and the anthropologists to record. But it is the kings and warriors who are remembered in the history books.

WAR IS . . .
DECEPTION. Even in conventional warfare, the first thing that must happen before a nation can be led to war is to demonize the enemy, to portray those others as less than human. Stories begin to be shared about their dreadful deeds, and derogatory terms replace their true names. Soldiers cannot be allowed to remember that the people they will be sent to kill feel pain and fear and love their spouses and children, just as they do. And even the U.S. government’s enlistment contract is shockingly deceptive, as Bill Bigelow warns in "The Recruitment Minefield," his revelation of recruitment activities with high-school students. Nor can civilians be allowed to know the real causes of war. Slogans like "to preserve freedom," and "to protect the world for democracy" sometimes mask the actual economic and political incentives.

WAR IS . . .
UNBEARABLE. The ugly details of how people die in war and the brutality of battle is often more than the psyche can endure. People see things in war that the human soul is not equipped to bear. In every war, many soldiers return wounded not in their bodies but in their minds. After the Civil War, this condition was referred to as "soldier’s heart." Now we describe it as "post-traumatic stress disorder." Battle veterans almost invariably carry emotional and psychological scars.

WAR IS . . .
DELUSION. The bait that entices young people to become soldiers is glory, as we see in the reflections of students at the grave of a young marine in the article that opens this collection. The reward of medals and honor and a sense of patriotic duty and loyalty to comrades cover the ugly reality that a soldier’s primary job is to kill and destroy. While it is old men who plan the wars, the dying and killing has always been done by the young, as Bob Dylan rages against in his song "Masters of War."

WAR IS . . .
MALE. Although there have been exceptions — Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, the Celtic warrior queen Boadicea — the leaders of war have nearly always been men. For most of history, it has been women who weep for their dead sons and husbands, women who are the victims of rape and enslavement, while men fight and die on the battlefield. Editor Marc Aronson has brought the unhappy experiences of women in the military to this anthology with Helen Benedict’s "Women at War," an essay on what it’s like to be a female soldier in Iraq, while my own father’s World War I letters from Paris, "Letters from ‘Over There,’ " show the typical horsing around of young men having fun, even in the presence of war.

WAR IS . . .
LINKED WITH RELIGION. The sad fact is that throughout history religion has provided motivation and support for many wars. But on the other hand, some churches, like the Society of American Friends, or Quakers, find a rationale in their faith for acting out peace. And some young men, as Chaplain Lyn Brown describes in his interview with me, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," move to become conscientious objectors when confronted with the realities of battle.

WAR IS . . .
WORSE FOR CIVILIANS. The devastation of war is always harder on civilians than it is on soldiers, and civilian casualties vastly outnumber those suffered by the military. For instance, while the U.S. lost 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam, it is estimated that more than three million Vietnamese civilians died from war-related causes. And at this present writing, U.S. deaths in Iraq number exceed 4,000, while Iraqi civilian deaths exceed 78,000 (although a recent study by Johns Hopkins University published in the respected medical journal The Lancet estimates the number at 655,000). War also often destroys a society’s most basic means of survival, its ability to provide food and shelter, water and electricity, as well as the delicate psychological and moral structures that hold a civilization together with the authority of law and the expectation of safety and mutual dependency, as we see in Margo Lanagan’s stunning story "Heads" and Fumiko Miura’s memoir of the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

WAR IS . . .
IMPOSSIBLE TO WIN Modern warfare takes the form of terrorism, and this is a type of war we don’t know how to fight. The insurgent army wears no uniforms and are indistinguishable from the general population — until they shoot. There are no battlefields, no occupied territory, no visible enemy, and no possibility of victory. Yet we continue to fight this new kind of war as if all these features from the past were still in place, a failed strategy that makes it inevitable that there will be no endpoint for hostilities.


WAR IS... by Marc Aronson and Patti Campbell. Copyright © 2008 Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Somerville, MA.

Table of Contents

What I Believe About War
War Is ...?$dan introduction by Patty Campbell     3
People Like War$dan introduction by Marc Aronson     7
Deciding About War
Dead Marine Becomes Lesson for Students$dan Associated Press article     13
Letter to a Young Enlistee   Christian Bauman     15
The Recruitment Minefield   Bill Bigelow     20
The Moment of Combat: an excerpt from What Every Person Should Know About War   Chris Hedges$dan introduction by the author     27
Thou Shalt Not Kill$dan interview with army chaplain Lyn Brown     39
The War Prayer   Mark Twain     46
Masters of War$da songby Bob Dylan     50
Experiencing War
Letters from "Over There," 1919: excerpts from the World War I letters of Fred Duane Cowan     55
In the Front Lines$dcolumns by Ernie Pyle     63
The God-Damned Infantry
A Pure Miracle
The Horrible Waste of War
A Long Thin Line of Personal Anguish
Memories of Vietnam   C. W. Bowman, Jr.     76
The Battle of the Horseshoe
Vietnam Tunnels
Letters from Vietnam   Mickey Andrews     92
Women at War: What It Is Like to Be a Female Soldier in Iraq   Helen Benedict     101
Wordsmith at War$da miliblog by Lee Kelley     118
In Order to SeeBeauty in Life, I Had to See Hell$dan interview with Staff Sergeant David Bellavia     136
Tough   Joel Turnipseed     141
A Survivor's Tale$da Nagasaki memoir by Fumiko Miura     148
The Aftermath of War
Killing Flies$da one-act play by Rita Williams-Garcia     155
Heads$da story by Margo Lanagan     172
Further Reading     196
Copyright Acknowledgments     200

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