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2003-06-09

A Gulf War Marine and a War Correspondent Speak About the Reality of War

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A discussion with New York Times war correspondent and author of What Every Person Should Know About War, Chris Hedges, and Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford and author of Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles

Military recruiters have just launched a new campaign to recruit the next generation of the U.S. military. And the new target are car racing fans.

According to the Star Ledger of New Jersey, the U.S. military plans to spend $30 million this year on NASCAR sponsorships. For the first time the logos of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and National Guard will appear on race cars.

Major Frederick Rice of the Army’s recruiting command told the Star Ledger:

"The fan base of NASCAR is well suited to the direction we’re going. They’re patriotic and interested in speed, power, technology and teamwork. So are we."

Well, today we are going to have a discussion on the aspects of war the military recruiters may glaze over.

We are joined by Chris Hedges whose first book, War is a Force Which Gives Us Meaning, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award last year. In that book, Hedges reflected on his 15 plus year career as a war correspondent — a profession that feeds off the adrenaline rush of war even as it tries to provide an accurate account of its perils.

Hedges latest book is an unflinching look at the reality of military life. It is titled What Every Person Should Know About War.

Hedges employed a team of researchers to help him uncover the cold, hard facts of life in a modern war zone as it is lived by the men and women who fight and die in America’s wars. The book takes a simple question and answer approach to tackle questions new recruits may have about war. We are also joined by the book’s chief researcher Cabe Franklin, who combed through thousand of pages of documents, books and statistics to help answer the questions in What Every Person Should Know About War.

And we are also joined by Anthony Swofford, who recently published Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles.

Swofford was a young person when he first became enamored of the military life. Swofford was the son of a military family: his Father served in Vietnam and the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 American service personnel made a grave impression on him when he was thirteen. He writes: "I got caught up in the narrative of defending the flag against enemy forces."

He enlisted with the Marines when he was 17 years old, and entered the armed services at 18. During the Gulf War, Swofford was a lance corporal in a United States Marine Corps who saw combat in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He was shot at by both Iraqis and Americans. He considered committing suicide. He once pulled a gun on one of his fellow Marines.

At the end of the war, Swofford hiked for miles through a landscape of incinerated Iraqi soldiers and later was nearly killed in a booby-trapped Iraqi bunker.

  • Chris Hedges, war correspondent and author of War is a Force Which Gives Us Meaning and What Every Person Should Know About War.
  • Cabe Franklin, chief researcher for What Every Person Should Know About War.
  • Anthony Swofford, author creative writing professor at Portland State University

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