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Paths of Dissent
By Timothy Farley (reviewer)
Paths of Dissent: Soldiers Speak Out Against America's Misguided Wars
Edited by Andrew Bacevich and Daniel A. Sjursen
(Metropolitan Books, 2022)
Don't be fooled by skimming through the writers and seeing West Point come up often. I did that and thought it might be repetitious and too much of the same story. It is just the opposite, as I believe the editors have tried hard to provide the reader with a mix of enlisted men, officers, Black men, white men, and one woman, which is among my favorite pieces.
Another favorite was contributed by Jonathan Hutto Sr., a story of encountering racism in the navy, and figuring out how to deal with it effectively. He writes that every GI has the right to contact his congressman, and not go through the chain of command. This is valuable advice, I believe, especially for women encountering a "Good Old Boys" club when talking about sexual harassment or attacks.
Buddhika Jayamaha, born in Sri Lanka, is still in the army, dealing with his dissent with humor and humility. Elliot Woods may be the best in this book at relating the war in a concise matter, but he has others coming in second. Gil Barndollar is a prolific writer, who found his service led to a gradual conviction of the meaningless and wastefulness of our occupations in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Kevin Tillman related the true story of how his brother, Pat, was killed by friendly fire, while a fiction was created for the public to cheer for our troops. Too much time was spent on right-wing radio, as if the sacrifice of a high paid athlete was more important than the sacrifice of young people who had never made much money.
Matthew Hoh is still dealing with being one hundred percent disabled and struggling with his moral injury. Perhaps Daniel Berschinski made the biggest sacrifice in losing both legs. I applaud both heroes for their honesty and sacrifice. Finally, we are led to the best arguments on counter-insurgency from an officer who was part of the problem before studying the history of dealing with a civil war and becoming convinced of its futility.
Space keeps me from mentioning all fifteen stories. Buy the book and find your own unforgettable contributions.
Want a good argument for keeping our military out of wars? This is the right book. If you just want to understand how GIs have dealt with stress and moral injury, leading too often to self-medicating with alcohol and or drugs. This is the right book. Possibly, you just want to give back to the GIs who are truly winter soldiers, from that old quote of Thomas Paine, " The sunshine patriot.... will surely desert his country in time of need." These guys are still sticking around to stick up for us, when it's become a winter of our discontent.
Timothy Farley was with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam from November 1967 to October 1969.