16 July 2012


Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer, 2010, Excerpts

If the United States’ involvement in future wars is inevitable, so, too, is it inevitable that American soldiers will fall victim to friendly fire in those conflicts, for the simple reason that fratricide is part and parcel of every war. While acknowledging that the statistical dimensions of the friendly fire problem have yet to be defined; reliable data are simply not available in most cases. The Oxford Companion to American Military History estimates that between 2 percent and 25 percent of the casualties in America’s wars are attributable to friendly fire. Whatever the statistical likelihood of being killed or wounded by friendly fire, it seems to deter few men and women from enlisting in the Armed Forces. When one talks to soldiers on the front lines, most of them accept that fratricide occasionally comes with the territory; they view it as just one of many occupational hazards in their line of work.

Military investigations of friendly-fire incidents have a well-documented history of obscuring the truth more often than revealing it. If fratricide is an untoward but inevitable aspect of warfare, so, too, is the tendency by military commanders to sweep such tragedies under the rug. The temptation among generals and politicians to control how the press portrays their military campaigns all too often leads them to misrepresent the truth in order to bolster public support for the war of the moment. What is alarming is the scale and sophistication of these recent propaganda efforts, and the unabashedness of their executors. The Strategic Command is authorized to engage in “military deception” – defined as “presenting false information, images, or statements”. Never before in history has such an extensive secret network been established to shape the entire world’s perception of the Global War on Terror.

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