When I started working on this book, its subtitle was Soldiers Who Dissent: From George Washington to John Murtha, the latter name because back then, in 2006, it wasn’t that long since the late Rep. Murtha first spoke against the war in Iraq. I was originally scheduled to deliver a manuscript in 2008.
That was, of course, awhile ago. George W. Bush would still be president. In that time, the U.S. war in Iraq has ended under a new president, who expanded that in Afghanistan and commenced an unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers, which is why the subtitle has changed to focus on one such whistleblower — who as I write this is undergoing pre-trial proceedings at Fort Meade.
For most of that time I was also working as a reporter and a Web editor, which limited the time I could devote to the ms. — just as the amount of material I had to cover seemed only to expand. There was a lot to do:
Doing right by the past. Since my explicit focus is on both servicemembers and veterans, the fruits of my reporting showed a far deeper bench of dissenters from earlier eras: rather than the one-big-pre-WWI chapter evinced in the proposal, there’s now five. Even the 1980s deserved their own chapter.
For so long it’s been a work-in-progress; this site, and its associated Facebook page, a way to keep up with current affairs and share my building page count. And it still is: it’s out to outside readers who are just getting back to me, and will be revised yet again before it goes to the typesetter. But the process has begun: it’ll be in the fall 2012 catalog for University of California Press. (When I’m down, I go to the site at that link and envision myself in its New Releases box.) And while I revise and wait, I’ll hold onto the good words of some who’ve read it so far. My editor, Naomi Schneider, said that I was “a fabulous writer” with “a wonderfully evocative, self-deprecating style that really pulls the reader in.” Another told me it read like “a lyrical essay.” Others have been a little less enthusiastic, but that’s starting to prepare me for the cold world of actual book reviews.
The first change made by Naomi was a change in the subtitle: from “Soldiers Who Dissent, from George Washington to John Murtha” to “…to Bradley Manning.” And if I get to cover Manning’s trial, that may be the very last revision we make — or a web-only special.
The web extras already include numerous stories I had to cut from the book for space — including the recently-deceased Geronimo Pratt. There are so many more than we can fit. Which do you think is irreplaceable?
And to keep the self-promotion to a single post, I wanted to mention that On The Issues invited me to contribute to their summer issue on Women and War. The lede is adapted from a piece of my World War II chapter:
In 1944 Dorothy Hanson was a 20-year old Army lieutenant, a nurse, stationed in a Staten Island hospital when a corporal “put something in my drink,” she explained 50 years later. “He hit my head with a rock. I was beaten and kicked.” After a few days of concussion-induced amnesia, Hanson realized what her subordinate had done, she said. “He said: say anything and you’re dead.” Hanson would ultimately become one of the oldest living survivors to be granted disability compensation from the VA for sexual trauma experienced while on active duty.
The issue also includes some other people also in the book, like the iconic Cora Weiss (whose husband Peter is one of my WWII vets) as well as women peacemakers worth checking out. Go look, if you like!