Cover Image: War Made Invisible

War Made Invisible

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Member Reviews

Finally finished this. It was so good, but also so deeply distressing that I needed to take a break and come back. I’ve always prided myself on being aware of current affairs - reading newspapers from around the world, listening to other voices, supporting independent journalists - and even I was surprised at the level of depravity we have come to as a nation. His assertion that the war has become invisible is apt. 1% of the population fights, and few outside really know what’s happening on the ground (or in the air). 

For centuries, wars were fought and ended because of the high casualties in both sides on the ground, but now we have weapons of war that requires no human risk — at least on one side. But what happens when we assume no risk, only victory? We get a 20 year War that saw 100 to 1 ratio of casualties of American servicemen to Afghani civilians - not combatants, civilians. 

This is the new age of east, where we can have a war that lasts forever since there’s no assumed risk. They even call it “humane” since it’s not Americans dying. The American military brass has lost its soul. This book and the stories within will haunt me for a long time to come. 

Excellent reporting. Five stars.
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We're now 20 years removed from the US invasion of Iraq and the start of our ForeverWar, and though it's been a decade since I've left, it seems to me that popular opinion on the war has shifted. War Made Invisible shouldn't be revolutionary in it's topic - namely the real human, moral, and financial cost of maintaining our military industrial complex and supporting it's adventures in the Middle East. Rather, it should serve to deepen our understanding of it's scope. An essential read, and what should be a wake-up call for anyone thinking that we are right and righteous in our acts (though I doubt in this climate that such a person would pick this book up. A pity.)

Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the digital advance copy of this book given to me in exchange for my honest opinion.
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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher The New Press for this look at America and how the forever war is the new normal for American foreign policy, the complacency or many and how this is effecting our society. 

America has always had a problem with the truth, and its own history. This has always helped those in power because nothing unites a people than the other, the different and what one group would considered the not like me. So America has a war on terror, and goes to war with a country that has nothing to do with the attack that has lead to the war on terror. This can be sold to the American people as revenge, getting back at those that made us feel weak. And the fact that the country, Iraq has oil, and there is a lot of money involved, well that is icing on the cake. Money flows in defense spending bills, each president not wanting to look weak to the electorate and add more money, and more money. And the forever war rolls on. Normon Solomon, journalist, advocate and media critic looks at this growth in the American war budget in his book War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, and the lives that it has cost both in distant countries and hear at home. 

Solomon begins the book with all the many voices almost clamoring for war. And no group of people clambered for war more than those who appeared on America's Op-Ed pages. That is what strikes the reader so early, even those of us who remember Desert Storm, how American media, the fourth estate that is supposed to keep an eye on the hen house, actively campaigned and rode along with the foxes talking about how great the bombs were falling, the helicopters were flying, and all the bad guys that were dying. There were a few reports about civilian deaths, but most of this was ignored, or considered as part of cost of war. Looking at moderns eyes what was part of the price of war in Iraq, is held to a different standard during the current Ukraine War, as Russia uses many of the same tactics, and even the same equipment, as in cluster bombs that America used in Afghanistan, and Iraq. Solomon looks at all this, and the many actions that are taking place in Africa, missions that are sill considered classified, and really are not known to the American public. 

This is a rough read, but a necessary one. As citizens, we allow to many things to be done in our name, allow too much money to go to cluster bombs and defense contractors, while children live without healthcare, decent water or the ability to not be afraid going to school. All this control is helped by the media who seems to look at ratings more than the public good. Solomon is a very good writer, able to cut through the fog of war, and as to quote Churchill the bodyguard of lies, that is an establishment who likes the control, the power and the money. Solomon uses their own words an quotes to lay bare the truth, and is able to follow these quotes up with facts and figures. Also, Solomon gives voice to those civilians who have been damaged by war. Drone pilots who dropped bombs, but know not where, or who talk about looking at the world while squinting through a straw, as being a drone pilot removes one from see the damage. Civilians who will be maimed for life, by clean safe killing from above. A very powerful read, and one that is very important especially in these times. 

Recommended for those who want an idea how the history of this era will be told. Also for those who want change in this country, it helps to see what one is up against. A very neccessary book, one that is not fun reading, but one that makes a person want to work for change.
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Another reminder of how far the War on Terror has spread, far beyond the general mindset of the population at large. It is also a look at the machinations of those in power who do their best to make sure the war stays out of sight and out of mind.
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Russia : Ukraine :: United States : Afghanistan (and Iraq). This is the point that Solomon makes over and over and over in various forms, looking at varying facets of the same simple refrain. Not a long book at just 240 pages, 28% of which (at least in ARC form) was documentation - which is on the higher end of "normal" in my experience - a truly in-depth analysis, this book is not. But the point it makes, and the bias it openly stakes, is in stark and balancing contrast to the dominant narrative through US media - which is its very point.

Basically, Solomon's entire point comes down to the fact that in focusing on cruise missile bombing - not even as many actual bomber planes, certainly relative to prior generations of American war as recently as Vietnam - and, more recently and perhaps even more ubiquitously, drone bombings, the US Department of Defense has shifted the conversation about war away from the dangers faced by soldiers on the ground. Complicit with this is an American media that even when showing atrocities, also "reminds" people of the tragedy of 9/11 - without ever noting that the US DoD commits a 9/11 seemingly every few days, and the constant terror of hearing a drone hover around can be even worse, psychologically. (This is particularly clear in one passage in particular where he discusses speaking directly with Afghan citizens in the southern provinces, away from US media coverage.) A generation later, with Russia invading Ukraine on just as flimsy a pretext, suddenly the American media is hyping up every remotely-connected-to-Russia instance of civilian suffering in the affected region... because suddenly, the invader is not the US itself, but an enemy of the US.

Solomon even takes square aim at Samuel Moyn's September 2021 book Humane, where Moyn posits that the US use of drones has made modern warfare "more humane", with some valid points here. (Though to be clear, I also believe Moyn has some valid points from his side as well, and stated so in my review of that book.)

I made it a point to read this book on Medal of Honor day, and it is a truly fascinating - and needed, for Americans - book any day of the year. It brings a refreshing balance to overall US discourse about war and its repercussions, it certainly can open eyes that are willing to be opened, and it will strengthen the views of those who are already "in the know" of this subject. Very much recommended.
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Books on America’s failures in the Middle East tend to focus on either strategic/tactical blunders or the toll on American lives and American morale. One such example (though still an excellent book) is Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks. I would position this book as a good counterpart to Fiasco, as it doesn’t provide as in-depth context for the events it discusses as I personally would have liked. I would definitely recommend this book to people who liked Fiasco. 
For me, this book was at its strongest when discussing specific examples of civilian mistreatment. A passage that stuck with me was the author’s interaction with Guljumma and Wakil Tawos Khan, a pair of Afghan refugees and victims of bombing by the US. Reading about the stark reality of their struggle and the lack of help from any channel gave faces to the myriad of statistics cited in this book. I wish there were more firsthand accounts from refugees included in this book. Though this book, at its core, is about the systematic media coverup of civilian suffering in the Middle East at the hands of the American military, parts of this book still feel very America-centric without the voices of its victims included in the discussion. 
Nevertheless, this book raised a lot of important points. My favorite chapter discussed the roles of racism and imperialism in America’s continued military involvement in countries around the world. It raised the important question, “What would an America without endless wars even look like? How much would have to change?” The answer is, of course, a lot, and I hope someone, be it the author of this book or someone else, takes that question and examines it further.
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War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine By Norman Solomon
This book certainly has a bias. But it leans in a direction I am glad to read as there is too much jingoistic media out there about war by America is good and war by other is evil. As Mr. Solomon points out multiple times even the New York Times more often than not does not inform it readers of the loss of life of the other side. An example is the “Shock & Awe” in Bagdad but not the terrible loss of life and well-being of the people. 
It does not hurt to re-emphasize the hand in glove relationship between the major US military industrial companies and the US Government funding everything the military could possibly want.
This book is not balanced but I do not find this a fault, there is too much out there in the main stream fearful of presenting a balanced point of view that might be considered Un-American. 
I do recommend this book.
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