bowe bergdahl, who walked away from Omelas

Despite all the time and spilled pixels, it feels like we know less about Bergdahl than we did when he was still a Taliban prisoner and we had only Michael Hastings’ vivid 2012 Rolling Stone portrait. What we have instead is speculation, and the understandable anger from members of the unit he walked away from, never to return, and measured words from his parents and his attorneys.

yet another mash note to Dexter Filkins

I’ve been impressed with the work of Dexter Filkins since long before I started on my own zig-zag path to this book. When I made the Iraq war the theme of a writing class I was teaching at La Guardia Community College in 2004, I found Filkins’ reporting from Iraq essential reading, and even assignedContinue reading “yet another mash note to Dexter Filkins”

in defense of channeling voices

In praise of Harvard’a Jill Lepore — including one book that goes down like an insomniac bedtime story, with endnotes nearly as mesmerizing as the text, and another about Ben Franklin’s sister, whose story is no less than his a biography of America.

PTSD in 1945: let there be truth

I was excited to see Paula Span’s piece today in the Times, “No End to Trauma for Some Older Veterans.” She follows one 80-something vet in his struggles and notes that seeking help wasn’t popular in his war: “The prevailing medical advice — even for someone like Mr. Perna, who had fought in North Africa,Continue reading “PTSD in 1945: let there be truth”

Why Bradley Manning belongs here

 I’m already getting assailed for including in my title Bradley Manning, who so many have already branded a traitor — even some vets who are themselves in the book draw the line at what he’s done. But as mesmerized as I am by the case, I’m even more mesmerized by the way it’s galvanized soContinue reading “Why Bradley Manning belongs here”

“Hollywood’s conscientious objector.” The subtitle wrote itself.

I’ve been reading a lot of biographies of late. These days, most are marvels of narrative nonfiction. I just finished Jean Harvey Baker’s  work on Mary Todd Lincoln,  (via Michelle Dean at the New Yorker), which taught me that the much-reviled First Lady was less a loon than a feminist that coulda been. And sometimes Continue reading ““Hollywood’s conscientious objector.” The subtitle wrote itself.”

Iraq and a hard place

All this Manning talk has distracted me from writing about this amazing mural, powered by the singular organization Warrior Writers. They’re poets, essayists, performers and visual artists of all stripes, mostly from what their director calls “veterans who’ve served since September 11.” Together with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program,  they produced this testimonial a half-mileContinue reading “Iraq and a hard place”