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Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians [Paperback]

Chris Hedges , Laila Al-Arian , Eugene Richards
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Mar 2009
Collateral Damage brings together testimony from the largest number of on the record, named, combat veterans who reveal the disturbing, daily reality of war and occupation in Iraq. Through their eyes, we learn how the mechanics of war lead to the abuse and frequent killing of innocents. They describe convoys of vehicles roaring down roads, smashing into cars, and hitting Iraqi civilians. They detail raids that leave families shot dead in the mayhem. And they describe a battlefield in which troops, untrained to distinguish between combatants and civilians, are authorized to shoot whenever they feel threatened.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; Reprint edition (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584164
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584164
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.8 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,283,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A brilliant, thoughtful, timely and unsettling book.... Abounds with Hedges' harrowing and terribly moving eyewitness accounts.... Powerful and informative."

About the Author

Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges is the author of several books, including War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Laila Al-Arian has written for The Nation, United Press International, and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In this book, journalist and author Chris Hedges uses eye-witness accounts by US soldiers to give a picture of ‘the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter unleashed in Iraq’.

In horrifying detail, he presents accounts of torture, murders, detentions, home raids, and killings at checkpoints, and on convoys and patrols.

As he sums up, “the invasion and the occupation have been a catastrophe.”
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of former NY Times Foreign Correspondent Chris Hedges and if you want an American point of view on current affairs, particularly those relating to the Middle East, that isn't all Stars & Stripes and patriotism at the expense of common sense/truth you really should watch his lectures and read some of his books. This book however, is pure journalism. It's a really good read if you don't want your [anecdotal] evidence embellished with any literary garnish. Much of the book is comprised of the accounts of US soldiers who fought in Iraq and who were/are completely disillusioned with their reasons for being there. Reading the accounts of these often scarred and haunted professional soldiers and some of the atrocities and war crimes they witnessed, and in some cases colluded with, provides a powerful insight into the folly of our ventures into other peoples' countries for profit and/or domination.

At times whilst reading this book I was furious at how there is so little reporting in mainstream media of the slaughter of innocent civilians (many of them women and children). In the eyes of the soldiers who were interviewed for this book everyone in Iraq eventually became a potential threat. I understand this, but it also reiterates the hypochrisy of western "civilisation" - we collectively mourn the loss of a US or UK soldier (depending on where you live) who made a decision to adopt their profession knowing the risks, but there is seldom any mention of the death toll for people indigenous to the places we invade - in fact it doesn't even seem that anyone is seriously keeping track of foreign casualties. This book reinforces the idea that this is because foreign victims of our Wars don't enjoy the status of Human Beings which you or I enjoy.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poweful and insightful. 26 Jun 2008
By J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book divided into 4 parts, (checkpoints, raids, convoys and detentions) gives you a daily life front row seat for what it's really like in Iraq. I kept lowering the book and saying to myself "We'll never be able to make it up to them. NEVER". (Soldiers and civilians). Can you imagine being innocent and no one understands what you're saying? Not able to stop the car at a check point because the brakes don't work? Having your dog shot in front of you? Having your friends killed because they couldn't avoid a convoy? This book gives you many accounts on what it's really like over there. I highly recommend it.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must reading for every American citizen 22 July 2008
By Mary F. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book deals in the ugly civilian deaths in Iraq which resulted from our invasion. The authors, who are scholars, carefully document their work. They honestly present the viewpoint of the American soldier and the Iraqi citizen. It becomes clear in the course of their treatise that while civilian deaths may be inevitable (that alone should be a powerful deterrent to invading a country!), in Iraq bad military planning and preparation and a lack of concern for the civilian population we are supposed to be serving have made the situation much, much worse. I came away feeling some empathy with the troops, fury at the military leadership, and much sadness for the Iraqis.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shows the reader mentally, emotionally and physically the pathology of war. 24 Jun 2008
By Ken - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book really shows how true evil masks itself behind such high sounding words as `honor,' `glory,' `dignity', `patriotism', `for god and country', 'victory', and so on; words that may have inspired a young man or woman to join the military (although many others may do so for other reasons such as economic necessity) only for many of them to later find that they have been duped and diabolically deceived by those so called `responsible' politicians who had sent them over there along with those other cowardly politicians who only pretend that they want them to come back home.

It's only too late when these young soldiers realize that they are simply the tools of a greedy power elite who only seek profit from human butchery, slaughter and misery and these people could care less about the Iraqi people or for that matter, they could care less about the American soldiers who are used as sacrificial cannon fodder to serve some sick pathological agenda to `occupy' (read: conquer and rape) another culture. In fact, it's even beyond sick as to what goes on in Iraq. It's just plain evil.

By reading the personal testimonial accounts of those soldiers who have been deeply traumatized from their experiences in Iraq, this book really gives the reader a feel for the reality of the horrors of war. The accounts given by the soldiers regarding their experiences traveling in the moving convoys is simply horrific and it's clearly a living nightmarish hell for not only the unfortunate innocent Iraqi's who are butchered from these convoys but for the American soldiers themselves who actually think that they are fighting for some greater `cause.' Any politician that can read about the things that go on over in Iraq and not be so deeply affected as to immediately put an end to this campaign of terror is simply not human.

This is an excellent book and it does what it's supposed to do, which is to bring awareness to the reader; mentally, emotionally and physically, of the pathology of war.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Citizens in the Middle 15 Jun 2008
By W. Fargo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book focuses on the damage done to the Iraqi citizenry by the fighting in Iraq. The suffering of Iraqis is made plain. It has it's slow points but the book ultimately succeeds by effectively describing the horror of war and the plight of innocents who find themselves trapped in it.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading, if you support the troops 12 Oct 2010
By Dienne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If the title weren't already taken, this book should have been called "A Million Little Pieces" because our invasion of Iraq has shattered both Iraq and our soldiers who served there.

In this slim volume, Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian have written a devastating expose for all those who think there is or was anything honorable or benevolent about the Iraq War. We stumbled into a country we knew little about with soldiers, supplies and equipment ill prepared to cope with the reality they encountered. Thrown into this chaos, soldiers have had to improvise to survive. The resulting anger and sense of betrayal has led to frequent acts of hostility and atrocity as soldiers often lash out at the only people they can: Iraqi civilians.

Chris Hedges' introduction alone is worth the price of the book. He confronts the reality of war against the noble and heroic vision that Americans back home hold dear. He discusses the sense of betrayal soldiers experience when they realize the bill of goods they've been sold by their own country. He describes how the frustration of being put in impossible situation with little guidance or support from above leads to rage and hate that inevitably become directed against a dehumanized "other" - the Iraqi people, the very people that they are supposedly fighting to liberate.

The book itself is organized into four chapters that describe the types of situations in which soldiers, facing an impossible situation, may lash out at innocent civilians: guarding supply convoys as the maneuver along roads and highways trying to avoid IEDs and ambushes by insurgents; manning checkpoints, often hastily erected, and deciding whether or not each approaching person or vehicle presents a threat; conducting house-to-house raids looking for "insurgents", when the insurgents don't wear uniforms and blend into the civilian population; and rounding up and detaining prisoners, trying to decide which are actual fighters, which possess crucial intelligence, and which are merely hapless innocents caught up in the dragnet. In each of these situations, soldiers have already been primed through training and through experience to believe that their very lives are at stake. In each situation, they may have mere seconds to make a life or death situation. In no case have they been given thorough instruction and training for the reality they face, but they have seen that the military hierarchy tends to look the other way when "stuff happens". Given such reality, soldiers often make the logical conclusion that it's "better to be judged by twelve men than carried by six".

A final chapter explores the difficulty of winning "hearts and minds" in the climate created by the conditions of the Iraq War. There were few Arabic speaking translators available to the troops, who themselves were given only a few words and phrases in Arabic. The troops had little knowledge or training on Iraqi culture and customs, which has resulted in confusion and catastrophe as soldiers try to communicate in sign language. For instance, the gesture soldiers use to indicate "stop", Iraqis often take to mean "approach". What little cultural training there was was often dismissed and ridiculed by military officials and soldiers alike. There was little understanding of the tribal and ethnic divisions and bloody rivalries among Iraqi people which has had devastating consequences and the various rival groups have played the U.S. military against their rivals as the country hovers on the brink of civil war.

It can be argued that the book is somewhat dated. It was published in 2008 just after the "surge" which, supporters say, "worked" in that sectarian and anti-U.S. violence has decreased and most areas of the country have been "secured". Furthermore, President Obama has been drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq and has declared the war over. However, no one can read this book (or any other account of the Iraq War by people who have been there) and think that the problems described have been somehow magically fixed. There is still little improvement in the infrastructure, including basics such as electricity, clean water and sanitation. There is hardly any functioning government - most "governmental" services, including policing, are provided by various tribal lords as the country has been carved (with U.S. help) into small fiefdoms. Centuries old ethnic tension and hatreds continue to boil under the surface. And, perhaps most tellingly, 60,000 U.S. troops remain to occupy Iraq, along with thousands (even tens of thousands) of private "contractors" who serve many of the same "security" functions as U.S. soldiers.

This book is absolutely not anti-soldier. Hedges and al-Arian allow the soldiers to speak for themselves of the difficulty and confusion they faced and the result is a very compassionate portrayal of young men and women caught in an impossible situation. The book isn't even anti-war. Sometimes war is an unfortunate necessity. But because of the inherent destruction and devastation of war, it is important to have a clear understanding of the purpose of the war, a clear plan for achieving such end, and a high level of knowledge of the country, its geography, people, culture, language, etc. before putting the lives of thousands of young men and women on the line. We had no such understanding before we recklessly invaded Iraq, and the Iraqi people and our soldiers have paid the price.
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