12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
From a veteran's perspective, 25 Jun 2013
Many vets will tell you that if you have never seen war, you couldn't possibly understand it and, therefore, you have no right to speak about it. Before I joined the US Marine Corps, I never questioned these silencing tactics. But now, as a veteran of the occupation of Iraq, it is very clear to me that the men on the front lines do not possess any sort of special knowledge about the conflict that they are a part of. In fact, veterans, whether they are on the front lines or not, are often the most uninformed or misinformed about the conflict that they are taking part in. Anyone, civilian or special forces warrior, is capable of understanding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, if they are willing to do enough reading. There are mountains of condemning evidence that show the brutal and immoral manner in which these wars and occupations have been conducted, and it is available to all of us.
Joe Glenton's memoir is not a front line account of the occupation of Afghanistan. But the insights that Glenton shares with us do not need to be validated by combat experience or a squeaky clean military record. Instead, his memoir is a vicious critique of the military culture and nationalist attitudes that put soldiers in a box, a Soldier Box, in which they are constrained to think, act, and believe as ordered.
Glenton's experience is unthinkable to many career soldiers, loyal patriots, and conservative zealots. He learned--not from front line experience, but in the same way that anyone is capable of learning--that the occupation of Afghanistan was a waste of resources, a waste of human life, and was fundamentally immortal. His crime was not learning, but thinking, independent thinking, and then acting on his new beliefs. This is what has made him a controversial figure. A soldier who thinks for himself and acts according to his conscience will boil the blood of all those who believe soldiers ought to be mere pawns of war who follow orders and nothing more.
The overarching theme throughout the memoir is liberation. Liberation from the ideologies that constrain us, from the authorities who try to silence us and keep us in line, and liberation from imperial occupation.
This memoir is a must read for all military people. It's a challenge for all of us to morally engage with the policies that we are complicit in, without resorting to jingoism, moralistic notions of duty and obedience, and nationalist sentiments. It's a challenge for us to be a human first and a soldier second, to think and act for ourselves when our conscience compels us to, and to have the courage to step outside the box, the Soldier Box.