War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
    • War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003) by Chris Hedges

In the introduction to his searing portrait of war, Chris Hedges writes, "I have been in ambushes on desolate stretches of Central American roads, shot at in the marshes of southern Iraq, imprisoned in the Sudan, beaten by Saudi military police, deported from Libya and Iran, captured and held for a week by the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Shiite rebellion following the Gulf War, strafed by Russian Mig-21s in Bosnia, fired upon by Serb snipers, and shelled for days in Sarajevo with deafening rounds of heavy artillery that threw out thousands of deadly bits of iron fragments." Hedges has seen war, and its effect upon those who wage it, at close range. And in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, he brings fifteen years of experience reporting from the front lines to bear on the very nature of war itself, its causes and consequences, and the physical, emotional, and moral devastation it leaves in its wake.

Hedges argues that war is both a deadly addiction — a drug that offers an unmatchable intoxication, the thrill of being released from the moral strictures of everyday life — and a unifying force that provides a sense of meaning, purpose, and self-sacrifice that can wash away life's trivial concerns. But the meaningfulness of combat, Hedges suggests, depends upon the myth of war. In reality, no matter what grand cause it is supposed to support, war is simply the basest form of aggression: "organized murder." Once war begins, the moral universe collapses and every manner of atrocity can be justified in the eyes of those who wage it, because the cause is just, the enemy is inhuman, and only war can restore balance to the world. Hedges reveals the hollowness of such thinking and makes an impassioned plea for humility, love, and compassion as the human race's only hope for survival. Only when a nation can accept its share of blame and see its enemy with compassion rather than hatred can war be averted and true peace prevail.

Combining a great erudition of the literature of war — from Homer to Shakespeare to Viktor Frankl — with an unflinching focus on the particular and terrifying reality of combat, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is a sobering book whose relevance could not be more pointed.


Praise for War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning:

"A brilliant, thoughtful, timely and unsettling book.... Abounds with Hedges' harrowing and terribly moving eyewitness accounts.... Powerful and informative." —The New York Times Book Review

"The best kind of war journalism: It is bitterly poetic and ruthlessly philosophical. It sends out a powerful message to people contemplating the escalation of the 'war against terrorism.'" —Los Angeles Times

"Chris Hedges has written a powerful book, one which bears sad witness to what veterans have long understood . . . [A] somber and timely warning to those — in any society — who would evoke the emotions of war for the pursuit of political gain." —General Wesley K. Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and author of Waging Modern War

"[A] powerful chronicle of modern war . . . A persuasive call for humility and realism in the pursuit of national goals by force of arms . . . a potent and eloquent warning." —The New York Times

"No one is in a better position than Hedges to pronounce on the revolting things war does to everyone caught up in it. . .  A confession of rare and frightening honesty." —Slate

    • Chris Hedges
    • Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He was part of The New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism and received the 2002 Amnesty Internati...

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