But it is hard to match the bleak vision of war written by Chris Hedges in the online TruthDig. It is hard to match his scathing indictment of senseless wars. And it is hard to match his virulent anti-war fervor.
Hedges, correspondent for the New York Times who covered wars for 10 years, has seen war up close. In the TruthDig account he reveals war as brutal butchery.
Here is Hedges’ biting truth:
“The war in Afghanistan, where the enemy is elusive and rarely seen, where the cultural and linguistic disconnect makes every trip outside the wire a visit to hostile territory, where it is clear that you are losing despite the vast industrial killing machine at your disposal, feeds the culture of atrocity.
“The fear and stress, the anger and hatred, reduce all Afghans to the enemy, including women, children and the elderly.
“Civilians and combatants merge into one detested, nameless, faceless mass. The psychological leap to murder is short.
“Murder happens every day in Afghanistan. It happens in drone strikes, artillery bombardments, airstrikes, missile attacks and the withering fire unleashed in villages from machine guns.
“Military attacks like these in civilian areas make discussion of human rights an absurdity.
“Robert Bales, U.S. Army staff sergeant who wantonly killed 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, is not an anomaly. We kill children nearly every day in Afghanistan.
“To decry the butchery of the Bales case and to defend the wars of occupation we wage is to know nothing about combat.
“If an American soldier had killed or wounded scores of civilians after the ignition of an improvised device against his convoy, it would not have made the news.
“Units do not stick around to count their ‘collateral damage.’ But the Afghans know.
“They hate us for the murderous rampages. They hate us for our hypocrisy.”
But, Hedges continues, the scale of state-sponsored murder is hidden from public view.
“Reporters who travel with military units and become psychologically part of the team spin out what the public and military handlers want, mythic tales of heroism and valor.
“War is seen only through the lens of the occupiers. It is defended as a national virtue.
“This myth allows us to make sense of mayhem and death. It justifies what is usually nothing more than gross cruelty, brutality and stupidity.
“It allows us to believe we have achieved our place in human society because of a long chain of heroic endeavors rather than accept the sad reality that we stumble along a dimly lit corridor of disasters.”
Hedges describes the “constant search in all wars to find new perversities, efforts to ward off the boredom of routine death. This is why during the war in El Salvador the death squads and soldiers would cut off the genitals of those they killed and stuff them in the mouths of the corpses.
“This is why we reporters in Bosnia would find bodies crucified on the sides of barns or decapitated. This is why U.S. Marines have urinated on dead Taliban fighters.
“Those slain in combat are treated as trophies by their killers, turned into grotesque pieces of performance art. It happened in every war I covered.”
“Our so-called nobility is a lie,” Hedges writes. “And it is a lie that combat veterans carry within them. It is why so many commit suicide.”
Hedges writes that he and many war correspondents are consumed by the embrace of Thanatos, the death instinct. A death shadow passes over the correspondents who witness the death of innocent civilians.
“War perverts and destroys you,” Hedges writes. “It pushes you closer to your own annihilation — spiritual, emotional and physical.
“It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems — economic, social, environmental and political — that sustain us as human beings.
“In war we deform ourselves, our essence.”
If war correspondents feel this way it is easy to understand the soldier who has endured three or four combat tours. No wonder post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reaches 30 percent among combat veterans.
Hedges criticizes President Obama for his ordinariness as a leader.
Even in the unlikely event that the president would read the grim Hedges account, he would not be persuaded to pull out of Afghanistan immediately.
Obama is a follower, not a leader.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.