Chris Hedges’s July 2012 essay “War Is Betrayal: Persistent Myths of Combat” generated an enormous amount of commentary, both supportive and critical.
To keep the discussion going and to honor Veterans Day, we asked several writers, some of whom are veterans, to respond to Hedges’s piece. Their replies are below.
The complexities of the war literature Hedges cites don’t offer easy support for his argument.
Veterans often recite their military branch’s honor code with as much pride as irony.
The overwhelming majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are neither heroes nor victims.
Whatever is said by the jingoistic fringe, the reasonable majority understand that war should never be pursued lightly.
Popular beliefs have conditioned men of all classes to accept the costs of combat.
We condition the poor and the working class to go to war. We promise them honor, status, glory, and adventure. We promise boys they will become men. We hold these promises up against the dead-end jobs of small-town life, the financial dislocations, credit card debt, bad marriages, lack of health insurance, and dread of unemployment. The military is the call of the Sirens, the enticement that has for generations seduced young Americans working in fast food restaurants or behind the counters of Walmarts to fight and die for war profiteers and elites.
From Chris Hedges’s “War Is Betrayal,” the cover story of our July/August issue.