Nick Turse

As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose.

The Obama administration has done it.  In a country where its impossible to get people to agree on anything, 82% of Americans are now united in opposition to the war in Afghanistan. 
(via CNN Poll: Afghanistan war arguably most unpopular in U.S. history – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs)

The Obama administration has done it.  In a country where its impossible to get people to agree on anything, 82% of Americans are now united in opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

(via CNN Poll: Afghanistan war arguably most unpopular in U.S. history – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs)

Bloomberg reports on another Afghan War boondoggle.  This time, it’s 16 broken-down transport planes that cost U.S. taxpayers at least $486 million that are now languishing among the weeds, wooden cargo boxes and old tires at Kabul International Airport, waiting to be destroyed without ever being delivered to the Afghan Air Force.
(via Planes Parked in Weeds in Kabul After $486 Million Spent - Bloomberg)

Bloomberg reports on another Afghan War boondoggle.  This time, it’s 16 broken-down transport planes that cost U.S. taxpayers at least $486 million that are now languishing among the weeds, wooden cargo boxes and old tires at Kabul International Airport, waiting to be destroyed without ever being delivered to the Afghan Air Force.

(via Planes Parked in Weeds in Kabul After $486 Million Spent - Bloomberg)

Congratulations to my good friend Ann Jones! Investigative reporter extraordinaire Jeremy Scahill (whose film Dirty Wars recently made the Oscar Short List in the documentary category) just picked her latest book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars, as his number one book of 2013!
If you don’t already have a copy, I urge you to pick one up.  It’s a beautifully written, devastatingly poignant piece of reportage, and an instant classic on the hidden reverberations of our distant wars.  But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Scahill: “My pick for the best book of 2013 comes from Ann Jones, who shows us a side of America’s wars that we often don’t see. She embeds with the doctors who spend their lives dealing with soldiers who are grievously wounded, psychologically scarred, or killed in combat. She talks to the families of troops who speak of their inability to recognize their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, or mothers and fathers because they have come home so transformed by their experiences in war. It’s a stunning portrait of the psychological and physical effects of war, with which we so rarely reckon. Jones, the daughter of a World War I veteran, brings a real understanding of the gap between the celebrations of our vets and the reality of how they are treated when they return. ‘America’s soldiers return with enough troubles to last the rest of their lives,’ she observes. She also questions the idea that war is inevitable. ‘War is not natural,’ she writes. ‘We have to be trained for it, soldiers and citizens alike. And the “wars of choice” we were trained for, the wars these soldiers took part in, need never have been fought.’”
(via PW’s Top 10 Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2013)

Congratulations to my good friend Ann Jones! Investigative reporter extraordinaire Jeremy Scahill (whose film Dirty Wars recently made the Oscar Short List in the documentary category) just picked her latest book, They Were SoldiersHow the Wounded Return from America’s Wars, as his number one book of 2013!

If you don’t already have a copy, I urge you to pick one up.  It’s a beautifully written, devastatingly poignant piece of reportage, and an instant classic on the hidden reverberations of our distant wars.  But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Scahill:

“My pick for the best book of 2013 comes from Ann Jones, who shows us a side of America’s wars that we often don’t see. She embeds with the doctors who spend their lives dealing with soldiers who are grievously wounded, psychologically scarred, or killed in combat. She talks to the families of troops who speak of their inability to recognize their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, or mothers and fathers because they have come home so transformed by their experiences in war. It’s a stunning portrait of the psychological and physical effects of war, with which we so rarely reckon. Jones, the daughter of a World War I veteran, brings a real understanding of the gap between the celebrations of our vets and the reality of how they are treated when they return. ‘America’s soldiers return with enough troubles to last the rest of their lives,’ she observes. She also questions the idea that war is inevitable. ‘War is not natural,’ she writes. ‘We have to be trained for it, soldiers and citizens alike. And the “wars of choice” we were trained for, the wars these soldiers took part in, need never have been fought.’”

(via PW’s Top 10 Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2013)

Congratulations to my good friend Ann Jones! Investigative reporter extraordinaire Jeremy Scahill (whose film Dirty Wars recently made the Oscar Short List in the documentary category) just picked her latest book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars, as his number one book of 2013! 
If you don’t already have a copy, I urge you to pick one up.  It’s a beautifully written, devastatingly poignant piece of reportage, and an instant classic on the hidden reverberations of our distant wars.  But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Scahill: “My pick for the best book of 2013 comes from Ann Jones, who shows us a side of America’s wars that we often don’t see. She embeds with the doctors who spend their lives dealing with soldiers who are grievously wounded, psychologically scarred, or killed in combat. She talks to the families of troops who speak of their inability to recognize their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, or mothers and fathers because they have come home so transformed by their experiences in war. It’s a stunning portrait of the psychological and physical effects of war, with which we so rarely reckon. Jones, the daughter of a World War I veteran, brings a real understanding of the gap between the celebrations of our vets and the reality of how they are treated when they return. ‘America’s soldiers return with enough troubles to last the rest of their lives,’ she observes. She also questions the idea that war is inevitable. ‘War is not natural,’ she writes. ‘We have to be trained for it, soldiers and citizens alike. And the “wars of choice” we were trained for, the wars these soldiers took part in, need never have been fought.’”
(via PW’s Top 10 Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2013)

Congratulations to my good friend Ann Jones! Investigative reporter extraordinaire Jeremy Scahill (whose film Dirty Wars recently made the Oscar Short List in the documentary category) just picked her latest book, They Were SoldiersHow the Wounded Return from America’s Wars, as his number one book of 2013!

If you don’t already have a copy, I urge you to pick one up.  It’s a beautifully written, devastatingly poignant piece of reportage, and an instant classic on the hidden reverberations of our distant wars.  But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Scahill:

“My pick for the best book of 2013 comes from Ann Jones, who shows us a side of America’s wars that we often don’t see. She embeds with the doctors who spend their lives dealing with soldiers who are grievously wounded, psychologically scarred, or killed in combat. She talks to the families of troops who speak of their inability to recognize their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, or mothers and fathers because they have come home so transformed by their experiences in war. It’s a stunning portrait of the psychological and physical effects of war, with which we so rarely reckon. Jones, the daughter of a World War I veteran, brings a real understanding of the gap between the celebrations of our vets and the reality of how they are treated when they return. ‘America’s soldiers return with enough troubles to last the rest of their lives,’ she observes. She also questions the idea that war is inevitable. ‘War is not natural,’ she writes. ‘We have to be trained for it, soldiers and citizens alike. And the “wars of choice” we were trained for, the wars these soldiers took part in, need never have been fought.’”

(via PW’s Top 10 Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2013)

You have more disseminated ground-level fighting than you’ve had before, and this has come as a result of a change of tactics by handing over the fighting to the Afghan national security forces. So civilian casualties have increased dramatically this year, so obviously you’re seeing more widespread displacement of people as well.

Mark Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations in Afghanistan, on the increasing danger for civilians, including aid workers, in that country.

Through November, Bowden told the New York Times, there were 237 attacks on Afghanistan’s aid workers, with 36 people killed, 46 wounded and 96 detained or abducted. Last year, there were 175 attacks, with 11 people killed, 26 wounded and 44 detained or abducted.

Attacks on Aid Workers Rise in Afghanistan, U.N. Says - NYTimes.com

There were pieces of my family all over the road… I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them. Do the American people want to spend their money this way, on drones that kill our women and children?

Miya Jan, a 28-year-old farmer who found the the burning frame of his cousin’s blue pickup truck after a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan. 

Inside, he said, he recognized the mangled remains of his brother, his brother’s wife and their 18-month-old son. Jan and other villagers say 14 people were killed in the attack; U.S. and Afghan officials place the toll at 11.

Afghans describe relatives’ deaths in recent U.S. drone strike - latimes.com

This attack shows that American forces are not respecting the life and safety of Afghan people’s houses… For years, our innocent people have become victims of the war under the name of terrorism, and they have had no safety in their homes.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaking after a Thanksgiving Day U.S. drone attack killed a 2-year-old child.  For the full story, see “Karzai says U.S. drone strike killed child, won’t sign security deal if similar attacks continue” The Washington Post

In 2010, I arrived at Harvard University with a mess of a manuscript — 10 years worth of research on American war crimes in Vietnam patchworked together in such a way that it was comprehensible to only one person on the planet: me. But I was lucky. I had a year to do something about it, and by something, I mean write the book again. From scratch. It was a daunting task, but the alternative was to declare the project a lost cause — and I wasn’t ready to do that.

At the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, I was given an office, financial support, access to one of the world’s great libraries, and everything else that comes with a fellowship at an elite institution like Harvard. I couldn’t have asked for more, but as it happened, I needed more. I needed help, direction, advice. I needed a sounding board. I needed the counsel of someone with an intimate knowledge of war, of violence, of atrocity. Presumably, there was someone at Harvard with such credentials. But where among the brick and ivy, could I find such a person?

It turned out that she was indeed at Harvard — and conveniently located in an office about three feet distant from mine. Radcliffe, in its infinite wisdom, had made Ann Jones my neighbor for the year and her guidance helped transform that mess of a manuscript into my book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.

Day after day, I would flop into a chair in her office and we would talk through various quandaries I faced: how to write up a particular incident, where to locate a key chapter, how to convey the horror I’d uncovered without traumatizing the reader. In the midst of this, she began to share snippets of her latest interviews with damaged war veterans, their family members, and the American military personnel tasked with mitigating their physical injuries and psychological issues. In the midst of our mutual fellowship stays, Ann borrowed some body armor and jetted off to Afghanistan to bear witness to the wounded and the work of the men and women who attempted to save them. From there, she flew to Germany with the grievously injured and finally back to the U.S. where she began to keep tabs on their recovery and what has become of them.

As I listened to Ann, as I watched her office fill up with articles on combat, killing, and post-traumatic stress, as I saw her bookshelves strain under the weight of innumerable volumes on war, military training, and veterans’ issues, as I began to grasp just where her interviews and research were taking her, as we talked about all of this in detail, I became ever more certain that hers would be a special, even unprecedented volume, an “untold story” in the recent annals of American war. I knew that, as she was helping me, she was also writing a book which anyone interested in understanding the cost of war for soldiers and veterans, as well as their families and those who treat them, would need to read. I knew that her book would change the way we understand America’s recent wars.

I had no idea, at the time, however, that I would eventually have the opportunity to play a role in bringing They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — The Untold Story into being. It’s a beautifully written, devastatingly poignant piece of reportage, and an instant classic on the hidden reverberations of our distant wars — from triage that goes on unseen behind hospital doors to the long, private struggles that occur anonymously in suburban neighborhoods and rehabilitation centers across the U.S. As with so many works that are ahead of their time, They Were Soldiers had difficulty finding a home. I was delighted then that Tom Engelhardt and I had a fledgling imprint, with Haymarket Books behind us, that last week made Ann’s book a reality.

My role in They Were Soldiers has been modest. Ann did the heavy lifting and it was, indeed, heavy. At 73, she strapped on body armor and headed to war so you didn’t have to. She watched the sort of “meatball surgery” that would have left you doubled over and retching. She asked the hard questions of soldiers, veterans, and their family members that you never could. And she wrote it all up with passion, eloquence, and unsparing clarity.

I spent the last 10 years interviewing veterans and intensely studying war and I still find They Were Soldiers to be revelatory. Just as our conversations did at Harvard, now her book has altered my outlook on American war and its aftermath. Today, she’s offering to do the same for you. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to pick up a copy of They Were Soldiers. It’s the next best thing to having Ann as your neighbor.

I can’t say exactly when the U.S. military brought that swagger to Kabul. But by 2004 the Americans were there behind the walls of fortified urban bases, behind concrete barriers and gigantic sandbags at armed checkpoints, blocking traffic, and closing thoroughfares. Their convoys were racing at top speed through city streets with machine-gunners on alert in the turrets of their armored vehicles. Women half-blind under their burqas brought their children to guide them across suddenly dangerous streets.