Telling the Truth: American Soldier & Iraq

The topic of truth-telling seems to keep coming up. And I’m not the only person who’s talking about it. Lots of the writers I read (all of the writers I read??) are truth-tellers, one way & another.

In a culture that seems rife with, dare I say, bullshit & even outright lies (e.g., more is always better, “he who dies with the most toys wins,” buying things brings us happiness, etc.), it gets so that very few of us seem to be able to be really honest. Deception sets in early in our culture.

I was heartened to hear the other day of Shannon P. Meehan, a former U.S. Army lieutenant who fought in Iraq & who has now published a book called Beyond Duty: Life on the Front Line in Iraq.

I caught part of an interview with Lt. Meehan on the CBC. (I’ve said it before & I’m saying it again now; CBC – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – Radio is one of Canada’s greatest national treasures!)

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the entire broadcast, but what I heard was plenty compelling.

Lt. Meehan was seriously emotionally damaged by his part in the Iraq war – particularly by (I understand) a particular offensive on a particular day. He remains deeply haunted by its personal emotional aftermath.

Meehan is now retired from the U.S. Army (for medical reasons, I believe he said) and has written a book that tells the truth about some of the emotional/moral challenges/dilemmas faced by soldiers. Needless to say, these are the very sorts of truths the military bigshots almost certainly do not want us hearing about.

Interestingly, Meehan has no ideological axe to grind. He doesn’t say we must stop fighting wars. He does say let’s be a little more honest & truthful about what war really consists of & what its real impacts are.

I haven’t read his book, but it sounds as though it would be a mighty interesting read.

If you want to listen to the CBC interview, go here Scroll down to near the bottom, to Part 3 of that day’s broadcast (paragraph 3).

I can’t help but think that hearing a man who is a retired U.S. Army Captain articulate his thoughts & conflicting emotions (pain, confusion, guilt, etc.) is bound to be a potentially life-changing experience for many of us. Not all of us soldiers, either. Lots of us have problems understanding our emotions. Most of us can use a little help.

Telling the truth, says Joanna Macy, is like “making oxygen.”

Hear, hear, say I. Bring on the oxygen!


P.S. Related blog post: 'Making Waves: Even soldiers are doing it.'

P.P.S. Another blog post that may interest you is Telling the Truth or, Too Many Elephants in the Room? Oh, & Bullshit!

P.P.P.S. Thinking of all this is reminding me of the Stephen Fearing song “Man O’ War.” It’s on his excellent ‘Industrial Lullaby’ CD. Very interesting lyrics about war &…here they are!

Man O’ War 
Stephen Fearing – 1996 ©

The war was nearly over when the general came

To tour the wounded soldiers in their beds

And he walked among the suffering and the amputees

Like he was an angel

Most of us were innocent until we heard his name

Too young for pints and Whisky in The Jar

But we were soaked in the tradition of the open flame

We were just sparks in the darkness of the man o’ war


The man o’ war painting ancient battles

See the farmers in the trenches where the cowherds are the cattle

Every generation wipes the blood off of the saddle

For the man o’war.

How many thousand years since the start of time

Has the general led his people by the nose?

Corporate inspiration and a bloody mind

That’s how this game goes

And he took me from the playground showing me photographs

Corpses stacked like cordwood on a floor

He said “Your father and his father and on down the line

You’re all indispensable to the man o’ war”


Oh the cheap broken china of civilians

And the anguish of a father breaking down

The long line of people and possessions

Searching for a child amongst the crowd

And the eyes just dry out if you don’t close them

And the heart becomes immune to the sounds

I lost my religion to a rifle

But I’ll talk to any deity now

The war was nearly over when the general came

To tour the wounded soldiers in their beds

And he walked among the suffering and the amputees

Like he was an angel

Some kind of angel.

Great song. Fearing is a wonderful singer (& song-writer).

‘Quote for the Day’ with this post: “It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show