The Fog of War Writing
Two accounts of conflict play up shock value at the expense of context
Greetings From Afghanistan, Send More Ammo:
Dispatches from Taliban Country
by Benjamin Tupper
$24.95 List Price
Two new war memoirs, one from a reporter and one from a former army officer, describe close to nothing at all but do so with urgency. Violent images flash by, lives are shattered, the end. You might be inclined to wonder about the difference between observer and participant reports on war, but those distinctions evaporate on the page. Prosecuting strategically senseless war with a muddled premise in an unfamiliar social and political landscape seems to make everyone—even soldiers in the field—into oddly detached observers. In these disjointed accounts, people are just pulling the trigger and watching what happens next.
In Greetings from Afghanistan, Send More Ammo, Benjamin Tupper's erratic chronicle of the Afghan field of battle, he's "in the middle of a slow, frustrating meeting" when another soldier runs into the room and shouts: "We're rolling! There's been an explosion in the bazaar!" They go, see body parts, feel the strange sense that nothing more is happening in a place where dramatic things have just happened. "A cold, silent street remained, devoid of people, activity, and life. Shadows slowly crawled across the blast site like ghosts looking for something they left behind." The shadows of what? Don't ask—there's no answer.
Meanwhile, in Every Man in This Village Is a Liar, Megan Stack's account of her apprenticeship as a war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, she's "sitting around the bureau in Baghdad when the stringer in Mosul called" to report a suicide bombing. "Twenty wasn't very many dead, not as bombings went, but it was enough. We peeled off into