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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 27, 2012 12:00pm-1:00pm EDT

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>> visit >> up next, james wright, president emeritus of dartmouth university and a former marine, talks about the experiences of u.s. veterans going back to the revolutionary war. he's the author of "those who have borne the battle: a history of america's wars and be those who have fought them."
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this is just under an hour. >> good evening, and on behalf of the marines memorial association, i would like to welcome you to tonight's program on the book "those who have borne the battle." the author is dr. jim wright, and dr. wright is an american historian, the president emeritus of dartmouth college and a marine. my name is bucky peterson, and i'm a director emeritus on the marines memorial association board of directors. before we begin, a few quick words about the marines memorial. the marines memorial association is a nonprofit veterans organization chartered to honor the memory of and commemorate the valor of members of the
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united states armed forces who were killed, lost or who died in military service. among its list of duties, amongst the list of duties for marines memorial association is we're responsible for maintaining this extraordinary club, the marines memorial club, as a living memorial to those who have gone before and to pay tribute to those who carry on. to learn more about our organization, visit our web site at and before we begin, please, take a moment to turn off your cell phones as i just did and any other noisemakers that you may have.
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and while you're doing that, i'd like to take this opportunity to announce that on the 9th of may, this wednesday, ms. paula broadwell will speak on her book, "all in: the education of general david petraeus." mrs. broadwell is a west point graduate who was embedded in general petraeus' staff in afghanistan. she draws on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with general petraeus and his top officers and soldiers to tell the inside story of this commander's development and leadership in the war from every vantage point. the event starts, as it is this evening, at 6 p.m. so that's 6 p.m. this coming wednesday. lastly, you've got question cards, um, on each of your seats, and i would encourage you
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to make use of these blue question cards early on as questions pop up in your mind. that's how we'll handle the q&a tonight. um, and, please, hand them in to the staff once you've noted your question, and the staff will be mingling amongst you. audience questions then will be posed to dr. wright by me during the second half of the program based on your questions. it's now my great pleasure to introduce this evening's distinguished guest, dr. jim wright. dr. wright is the son of a world war ii veteran, and dr. wright himself joined the marine corps at the age of 17. he's from galena, illinois, originally, a small town near
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dubuque, iowa, where i went to school. and if the college president, my college president, dr. couchman -- who is now deceased -- knew i was with dr. wright, because i graduated with only the slimmest of margins. [laughter] from the university of dubuque. he'd be rolling over in his grave about 5,000 rpms. so, dr. wright, please, allow me to continue. after his tour in the marine corps, he went to college, university of wisconsin, and eventually became a history professor at dartmouth. in 969. 1969. he served as the president of dartmouth from 1998 to 2009, and since 2005 he has visited most of our military hospitals and has encouraged support for the
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wounded veterans in those hospitals. he is a director on the board of injured marines' semper fi fund, one of the ten top charities recently rated by charity navigator. his writings have been featured in "the new york times," boston globe, christian science monitor, npr just to name a few, and he is recognized by the education field, the veteran field and other service organizations as one of the foremost spokespeople for our young veterans today. ladies and gentlemen, please, join me in welcoming dr. jim wright. [applause] >> thank you, bucky. it's, it's an honor for me to be introduced by you. i have admired so much your work
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on behalf of veterans with the california state university system particularly. as i've told you, you and chancellor reid are really models for individuals who are pushing hard to make available opportunities for veterans. and i was down at the marine corps recruit depot last friday, and i was the parade review officer for graduation of a boot camp class. it was the first time i've been back on that base since i finished boot camp in 1957. and like bucky, i had a drill instructor who surely would roll over in his grave if he knew that i was the parade reviewing officer on that, on the grinder down there. [laughter] and i would be very happy to see him roll over in his grave, as a matter of fact. [laughter] i'm very grateful to general mike myett for inviting me to speak here. i admire general myett very much. i serve with him on the board of the semper fi fund.
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i admire him for his service to this country and to those who have served the country, and his service did not end when he retired. he's really just a remarkably energetic figure who tries to make a difference and does headache a difference. and, of course -- make a difference. and, of course, i'm grateful to my dartmouth friends in the bay area for acknowledging my visit, for publicizing it and for joining us here tonight. san francisco is a special place for me in all sorts of ways. i've spoken at this club a number of times representing dartmouth. we've held events here. but more importantly, it -- i shipped out of treasure island here in 1958. of course, we really shipped out of oakland, but i was -- we were at treasure island preparing to ship out. i went on the cape esperance and a jeep carrier, and then i came back here on a troop carrier in the spring of 1960, and i was
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discharged at treasure island just 52 years ago, late april of 1960. my story tonight and the story in this book is not a personal one, but it's surely informed by my background experience. i think most of us who write books write things that are informed by our own background experience, and can this one explicitly is for me. i grew up in galena, illinois, as bucky said, general grant's hometown when the civil war began. i was a world war ii baby. i was born in 1939, and i remember my father going off to war, and i remember at the end of the war it seemed like everyone's father, so many people came home in this town of roughly 4100 people at that time, 18 did not come home from the war. it was a town where people did serve, and they served in some very difficult places. and i grew up playing among the cannons in grant park, and i
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talk about that in the introductory chapter of this book and then joined the marines at age 17. and it was a time, those of my generation, of my age know going into the service was simply something that was expected of us. you could wait to be drafted in the army, or as we did, we joined the marines. there were 25 boys in my high school graduating class. five of us joined the marines, another half dozen went into the army or the navy or the air force, and i think three or four went to college, and that was basically the breakdown at that time in the community where i grew up. but after i got out of the marines, i decided to go to school, and once i started, i never stopped, and i haven't stopped yet going to school because this is so much to learn, and there's so much to do. while at the university of wisconsin in the 1960s, clearly, i went through a disengagement from the military. the vietnam war was something that increasingly troubled me.
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not the kids who were fighting there, i worried about them a lot, wondered if i knew them, and i'm sure i did know some. but it was a difficult time. and can then i came to dart -- and then i came to dartmouth, the campus closed down in my first spring because of protests over the war expansion into cambodia. and then there was a major fight over rotc. but i reengaged with the marine corps and the military beginning in 2005. i've been really affected by accounts of the battle at fallujah in november of 2004, and i spoke to a friend, and he encouraged me to go down to the hospital, and i did beginning in the summer of 2005. went down to bethesda and talked to some marines there, and i've continued that. i was just down a week, a week and a half ago to bethesda. i've been down somewhere between 25 and 30 times, i guess, over the last several years.
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i generally walk the floor and talk to people bed to bed and chat with them about their own experiences. i ask them how they were injured, and it's really quite a tale. but i guess i could reflect on all of the 300-plus kids i've probably spoken to and what happened to them and how did it happen to them. this led me to other involvement with veterans. i work with a couple of other old marines, senator webb and warner, when they're promoting the post-9/11 g.i. bill. i had a meeting with the two of them in february of 2008 urging them to include opportunities for veterans to go to private colleges, and we developed in senator warner's office the basic principle of what became the yellow ribbon program which is a terribly important part of the g.i. bill. for the jefferson lecture at berkeley in 2010 provided me an
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opportunity to reflect on some of these issues, and i thought i would just pick up a book or two and sort of immerse myself in america and its veterans, and i realized there wasn't a book there, and i started complaining about this, and a friend said quit complaining and write it yourself. and that's, basically, how this book started. [laughter] for me it has been a reimmersion into american history. i loved american history, i loved teaching american history, but i've been away from it, away from my field for some 20 years while i was serving in administration. but this provided an opportunity for me to become reimmersed in it. and the book is an overview of the subject of america's wars and those who have fought them. it's a narrative, but it's also a meditation on my part, a reflection. and i have some observations on the current state of affairs. i have a number of observations on the current state of affairs and what we think about war and what we think about those who fight our wars.
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some major themes that i pulled out as i thought about american history was the idea of the citizen soldier. dating back to the american revolution. the concept that americans would leave their farms and their factories and their shops when the republic is threatened, and they'll go off to war. and as soon as the war was over, they would hurry home because they are not professional soldiers. i've come to realize its declining value as a description of those who serve and particularly is since world war ii as the military forces have become less and less representative of the population as a whole. world war ii was the most representative of any of our wars, and beginning with korea the military was less and less representative of crosssections of the society. and part of that because of exemptions that were offered for college students beginning with korea and certainly in vietnam and then today with the all-volunteer army.
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george washington believed that all americans had an obligation as citizens of this republic to serve when the republic was threatened, to be in the militia, to be available to be called up. and he also believed that we all had to contribute our treasure to support those who serve. but his, his -- he also recognized that his own experience was fairly negative. washington for all of the talk about the importance of citizen soldiers and the militia did not like the militia. he wanted a regular army. he wanted people that would when he said let's go down to virginia, they would go to virginia with him rather than say, no, it's time for us to be planting the spring crops. sorry, general, we have to go home. so he wanted, he wanted full-time soldiers, and he got them finally in the continue innocental army. continental army. i've also looked at the way that america has viewed its veterans
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and the obligations we have to them historically. and from the very beginning there was a sense that because it was an obligation, a contract almost of those who are part of this republic to serve, there should be nothing given to those who are healthy. and beginning with the revolution, healthy meant if you had all your limbs, you were healthy, and you should not expect any support from the government. and this continued to be the principle although, obviously, at various wars -- in all of our wars -- we started giving pensions to you would everily veterans -- elderly veterans. this changed dramatically in 2002 when the g.i. bill provided opportunities for all of the veterans to go to school, to take out loans, to start businesses, and this has been the pattern ever since then. interestingly, during the 1920s and '30s and not just presidents hoover and coolidge insisted that there should be no payment to healthy veterans, but even franklin roosevelt insisted the same thing.
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healthy veterans are not entitled to anything from the republic for simply doing their duty. he changed his mind during the second world war, fortunately. i've also reflected on the composition of the military today. when the all-volunteer force was approved in 1973, there was really a great fear on the part of many that the military would become a force composed of the poor and the minorities. this really has not happened today. but it's not a representative force either. it's more rural than urban, it's more southern and western, small town west than it is northern and eastern. there are very few college-educated people serving in the military. and it's my strong impression, although there's no evidence that i can get on this, that it's also more generational. many of the people serving today are sons or daughters of people who have served in the military.
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and that sort of continues the demographic pattern that we've seen. it is more black and white than population as a whole reflecting, perhaps, the southern influence. but it is not representative in terms of hispanic or asian-american population. we give our veterans today great rhetorical, even emotional support. i'm struck by the comparison with the war in vietnam. the war in vietnam was, obviously, as unpopular as the wars are today, as the wars have been looking at public opinion polls, and yet we're not blaming those who are fighting today. we're crediting them. there's tremendous applause for them. but i worry a bit about this applause, because the applause will stop, and i do think that there is very little understanding of who these young men and young women are who are serving. there's very little understanding of what it is that
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they have been doing on our behalf. these wars are misbe tier crouse. they're impersonal. -- mysterious. they're impersonal. there are very few news media that are covering the war in detail and, quite frankly, there's not a lot to cover most of the time. there are no major battles, there's not really been major battles for several years. there were a few in iraq, but there are not major battles that they can grab for front page headlines or for a lead story in the evening news. there's some human interest stories, there's some stories of tragedy, of heroism, but there's no real understanding of what it is day by day that these, that these young men and young women do. i think that we're fighting defensive wars against unclear enemies, and this is not what the american military is best trained to do. in the play that was on broadway
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last year called "ajaques in iraq -- ajax in iraq," there was one line one soldier so frustrated, he said we're the only ones in uniform, you know? how do we know who it is to fight? we're the only ones in uniform. last summer when i was visiting the bethesda hospital, it was following the spring and summer battles, and marines were involved over in afghanistan. and if late july one day when i was there, there were 45 in the ward that were suffering from combat-related injuries. one of them had been injured by a mortar round, three of them had been injured by gunshot wounds, in each case from sniper fire someplace, and 41 had been injured by explosives. none of these people saw the person who detonated the explosive that injured them. it's a different sort of war.
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it's a defensive sort of war. last, ten days ago when i was down at bethesda, there were fewer people in the ward, and i actually met a young marine who had gunshot wounds from a fire fight. that's the first time i'd talked to anybody who'd been in a fire fight in a couple of years, and it's really just, again, quite different. we're saving more casualties on the battlefield, about 10% of the combat casualties in afghanistan and iraq have died. in vietnam it was more than a third of the combat battle casualties that died. it has to do with a number of factors. it has to do with the armor that they wear today that protects vital organs, it has to do with the helmets that they wear that protects them, it has to do with battlefield medicine which is incredibly sophisticated, with medevac where they can get most
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of these kids out within 30 minutes to a field hospital. and it also has to do, quite frankly, with explosives which maim these young servicemen and women terribly, but gunshot wounds are more lethal. gunshot wounds are more carefully placed, and more people die. there's a higher death rate from gunshot wounds. the same was true in vietnam as it is in the wars today. so we have new types of injuries. a lot of amputations. when i go through the hospital ward, it's commonplace to see somebody missing one or more limbs due to an explosion. there are a lot of more face and head injuries due to the explosions. i mention in the book one of the most poignant and memorable things i saw was when they were showing me a new ward in the hospital at bethesda for people who were suffering from head
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injuries. and in all of the bathrooms there were no mirrors because they didn't want these young people to see their reflection in a mirror without somebody being with them to be able to help them through this experience. it's, it's just a different sort of war. we know that there's a greater incidence of ptsd. we can't really compare it with previous wars because we're far better now at diagnosing and identifying this than we were in vietnam. we only started identifying this, basically, eight or nine years after the troops had pulled out of vietnam and the other wars it wasn't identified at all. but, clearly, there is, there's more of it, and we're also understanding that mild traumatic brain injury can cause ptsd, and the military and the national football league are discovering this at about the same time.
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there's no getting -- getting your bell rung is no longer something to shrug off and to dismiss. the imperative, i guess, my takeaway from this is we need to remember the human face of war. in some profound ways, i don't know if there's anything more human than engaging in war. as ironic and perverse as that may seem, nothing more fundamentally more human than asking somebody to do this. and i think we have to reflect on what it is that we ask these young men and young women to do. all of us bring up our children with a set of principles that we ask them to learn, and among these principles, certainly, in each case would be two. one would be to avoid situations that are dangerous. don't put yourself at risk. and the other is don't harm other people. their personal, their moral, their spiritual and religious,
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their illegal -- there are legal strictures against harming other people. then these 18 and 19-year-olds that we put into the armed forces, we say, well, you have to forget these two rules. you have to be prepared to put yourself at risk and put yourself at risk quite regularly, and you have to be prepared to harm other people. and then they come home, and we say forget, go back to the old lessons and forgetting these things is very, very difficult. one does not forget easily. i followed an account of a young man who had been killed in korea, and i think it sort of summarizes the human face of war as well, and this could be repeated in the any number of wars. late in the afternoon of july 5, 1950, a young soldier huddled in a foxhole in south korea. his unit, the first battalion, 21st infantry regiment of the 24th division, had just arrived reassigned from their occupation
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duty this japan. a north korean tank approached, and when the bazooka team fired, the tank opened up with its machine guns, and the young man, private kenneth shadrick, was shot dead. his team withdrew. shadrick was the first announced american servicemen killed in the korean war. a journalist was present when the team brought his body to a hut that the medics had occupied. she had been a front line correspondent in world war ii and had left her tokyo office of the new york herald tribune to go with the troops to korea. she wrote that this dead young soldier had a look of surprise on his face. quote, the prospect of death had probably seemed as unreal to private shadrick as the entire war still seemed to me. he was very young, indeed. his fair hair and frail build made him look far less than his 19 years.
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the medic standing there said simply, what a place to die. and "the new york times" would write: he died as dough boys usually die n a pelting rain in a foxhole. back in skin fork, west virginia, shadrick's parents learned of their son's death that morning at breakfast when a neighbor rushed in telling them that he had heard it on the radio. mrs. shadrick was devastated by the death of one of her ten children, and she could not discuss it. mr. shadrick, who had worked in the coal mines for 37 years, later talked to reporters who described him as sad but resigned. his son, he said, was the best there was. never caused us a mite of worry. mr. shadrick had accepted his son's interest in joining the army at age 17, had signed the permissions for it. when he was asked by a reporter what he thought about his young
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soldier's assignment to the conflict, he said simply, he was fighting against some kind of government. when a reporter asked him if he knew where korea was, he said, yes, korea was the place where his boy was killed. this sort of story would be repeated many times, 37,000, in that war and in the wars that would follow. we ask our youngsters to go out and do some things that none of us, many of us don't understand, some of you in this room do. i was struck by one young marine that i spoke to that talked about a, being on a patrol in iraq, and their vehicle took some fire from a farmhouse, and they started a fire fight with those who were inside the farmhouse. he noticed that a young boy who was frightened ran off the farmhouse and got caught in the crossfire and fell down in the
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farm yard. the people were in the farmhouse either retreated out the back or were killed, and this young marine jumped out of the vehicle and ran over to the boy. lying there in the dust. and he realized quickly that this boy was dieing, but he was still alive. and he held them. and his sergeant in the vehicle said, come on, it's time for us to go. we gotta get out of here, they're coming back. and he said to me, i was just so torn by that because i knew that my, my unit, my guys, people i cared about a lot were in that vehicle, and they did need to get out of there. and i needed to be there for them to go. but he said, i also thought i don't want this young boy to die without another human being holding him. and so i knelt there in the dust, and the boy finally made a sound and rattled and died, and i put him down resting his body in the dust, and i ran back to the vehicle and got in, and my
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sergeant said i'm going to court-martial you. you put us all at risk. fortunately, nobody court-martialed him. he said they were right, i shouldn't have done that. as a marine, it was my obligation to get back with my unit. and my view on this is that this is, this is, as i said, the most human of things we can do. and what a choice to ask a young 19-year-old to make, to make this sort of decision. but they do it, they do it often. they're remarkably professional in what they do. we talk now about everyone being a hero, and i think of the people who are serving as being so courageous and so remarkable and brave, but there's no longer much use of the word "heroism" in a contemporary sense. this goes back to abraham lincoln at gettysburg in his wonderful, poetic remarks on a battlefield that was still stained by the blood of some 8,000.
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when he spoke in the fall, there was no names, there were no exploits, no battle accounts. rather, there was a poignant eulogy for all who sacrificed, and he said they were heroes, all. and we continue to talk about heroes all. certainly, in our wars today there's a focus on our patriotic sacrifice, but there's little room to understand the horror and the cost of war. most people simply do not understand that, and yet we have to recognize that there is a horror, and there is a cost of war. it may be different from vietnam or korea or world war ii, but there surely is a horror, and there is a cost, and all of us need to step up to that. we hear much today in some of the political protests about the 1% and the 99%, the fact that 1% are privileged and entitled, and 99% of us pay the bills for them, and we'll hear more of
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that coming forward. i think that there's also a 99 and a 1% ratio that we don't talk about so much. about 1%, even less than 1% of our population serves in the military today. about 1% of our families have sons or daughters who are serving in the military today, and 99% of us simply are not sacrificing. we're basically unaware of what they do. this is the first sustained war in american history where there's not even been a tax to pay for the war. vietnam it came late, but there was a surtax, and the vietnam war to help pay for the cost of the war. we've had tax cuts at the outset of this war, and nobody dares talk about taxation today. i wrote several senators in congress, men and women last year all of whom i have a first
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name relationship with and said, you know, if you're talking about this, maybe it's time to have a surtax on individual income and corporate income to help pay for this war rather than let these kids come back from the war that their fighting and say now you have to help pay for it. and none of these people with whom i have a first name relationship even answered my letter. there's nobody in washington. a tax, as you know, is the third rail of our politics. and ironically, as much as americans think they're taxed enough and don't want any more, i'm not sure that such a tax couldn't be approved. but it couldn't be and it won't be, and that's the nature of war today. i have been immersed for the last several years trying to understand this, and i'm an old history teacher, and my interest is in having the biggest lectern i can possibly have to talk
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about some of these issues that i think are terribly important. and there is a history lesson here, but it goes beyond a history lesson. there's a civics lesson, there's a lesson in the way that a democracy organizes itself. a lesson in the sacrifices that we ask our citizens to take on. and i'm just delighted to be here tonight. i'll go any place to talk on this subject, and, bucky, i'd be happy to answer the questions that you have now. [applause] >> well, i think i speak for all of us, dr. wright, but thank you for your tremendous capturing of the essence of what the young military man and woman faces today. and the world that they come
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back to. and the first question, you talk about in your book that veterans are portrayed as victims. and what can we do as a society to take that off the description of veterans? >> yeah. i think that the vietnam veterans were often considered veterans. one of your wars, colonel, people were considered victims, and i think that's a condescending term to use. and i don't think, i think in this case when we talk about them as victims, it's also condescending. look, these young men and women signed up. they enlisted. and i think we need to be proud of them rather than thinking of them as some poor souls who have found themselves in a place they didn't want to be. some of them did, have found themselves in places they didn't
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want to be, but that's true in every war, i suspect. but they have signed up. they're not victims, they're quite remarkable young people who are trying to serve their country. >> um, here's a question back on your discussion with your first name friends in washington. there seems to be a sort of duplicity in d.c. these days. national leaders want to reserve the right to engage our military portion -- forces in multiple assignments, yet they do not want to fully fund our active duty forces. the result is repeated deployments of the active, reserve and guard units, and they are not really designed for continuous or repeated tours. >> i think, i think that's, you know, i won't get into the duplicity and washington, but i
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think that is true, that we have not -- we did not mobilize a force sufficient for the wars that we have been fighting over the last decade. and part of that is because a decade or so ago beginning in 2001 in afghanistan nobody predicted, nobody seemed to think that much about how long these wars would take. they didn't think about the cost of these wars. and we should have mobilized a larger military force. there surely should have been more marines, more army infantry and paratroopers mobilized rather than ask some of these people to have deployments of five or six times. and i just, i don't think anyone can go through this, go through combat zones as many times as we've asked these young people to do without suffering significant consequences. 56% of the military today are married. these people are leaving families behind when they go back off for their third or
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their fourth deployment, and i just think it's a tremendous burden that they have taken on. >> several questions have come in on the increasing role of contract employees. and your opinion, your thoughts on how this impacts the military. >> yeah. it's interesting, when i was down, i was down at mcrd in san diego at camp pend pendleton, ai asked somebody what about the mess hall, and they said that's all contract. i said, what's happened to my mess haul? i was on mess duty all the time. [laughter] but i think that's good. i peeled potatoes in japan, i worked in a skull ri on an r srx t, i -- lst, i worked on a pot check, i've done it all. and i think it's good they're not asked to do that now. but more seriously, of course, the people who are on guard duty, who are serving other
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roles at the bases in afghanistan and iraq, and i don't know if i want to say there's too much of it. that's a harder question to deal with. if they can relieve the military of certain obligations, that's good. but what does can happen is that we don't have to account for this. they're not military, and so there's a different, there's a different accounting system. and the numbers of people who have been over there have really been quite significant, and only when there's a significant incident like some of the killing and hanging of those bodies in flew ya in the -- fallujah in the spring of '04 do we realize just how many there are over there, and i think there needs to be a fuller accounting and understanding of this. >> several questions have come in regarding posttraumatic stress and psychological support. so, first, how are we doing in the area of post traumatic
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stress, and can -- and secondly, is there enough psychological support outside of the post traumatic stress? are the young veterans open to counseling, or do they consider it to be weak and the observation of the second part. i'm not sure that they are open to counseling. it's hard for them to come forward. as i said to a group of the first marines that came to dartmouth to go to school, i said there's nothing harder for a 22 or a 23-year-old guy, particularly one who's a marine who has served in iraq or afghanistan, to come forward and say i'm scared, i'm nervous, i'm angry. i can't sleep, i'm apprehensive. i said you have to be willing to do that, and i don't think that we do that very well. there needs to be a, i think, just more of an openness of encouraging them to do that. and finally, the va just recently expanded significantly the number of mental health counselors that it has trying to
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understand that it's time to step up and to be able to provide support more quickly. there are more suicides in the military in 2009 than there were people killed in combat zones in iraq and afghanistan. it's just, we need to do a better job. but i've been struck by the way that jim amos, the commandant of the marine corps, general chi rell la was active as chief of staff in the army in trying to break through this and get people to understand that if somebody says i'm apprehensive, i'm concerned, that you don't say, you know, in language that i won't use in this company -- [laughter] come on, you know? don't be, don't be a sissy or don't be a, don't be afraid. you got to go forward. and we're working through that. but i just talked to a young guy recently who was supposed to go back to iraq with his unit, and he had been identified with ptsd, and his sergeant really
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reamed him out. he said, you did this just to avoid serving with us. this guy had been over three times, he was set to go again. you know, you've got to get down to the nco ranks, as we all know, to really makes a difference. and i think it comes from the top. the military really is hierarchical. people do try to follow orders, but this is a cultural thing, a value thing that's just harder to break through. >> there's a couple questions on the all-volunteer force. your views on the all-volunteer force, has it strengthened the country, or has it caused weakness to pop up? >> well, i think that the all-volunteer force, as i've suggested, is not representative, and i think that's unfortunate. so people often say, well, let's have a draft. and there are often people urging a draft. and i'm not one of those people who would urge a draft. i think that the military is,
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does have a very professional force today and, certainly, if you talk to any of the major branches of the service, they'd rather have people who have enlisted who want to be there. but more profoundly, i think in 2010 there were 4.4 million 18-year-olds in the united states, and that year the military force's accession, as they put it, about 165,000 people. that's about, that's less than 4% of the 18-year-olds that were asked, that served, that signed up because they're all volunteering that year. now, we could move away from volunteer and have a draft, and you could have a lottery, i guess, but what 4% would it be, would be the question. and i think most people would say it might as well with those who would prefer to be there rather than somebody who's dragged into the military service and does not want to be there. and, certainly, those in his command would just as soon he
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wasn't there. so it is a difficult thing to do that. and i don't know -- there's not an easy answer, but it's not representative. we have to make, we have to represent the military were bet. we have to understand who they are, we have to understand better what it is that we're asking them to do. many people say we need a draft because people in washington, people who make decisions on war will be far more cautious about making those decisions if their own son or daughter were likely to be called up to go to this war. and i believe that that is such a cynical view of democracy. i refuse to accept that. if we have people in washington who are sensitive about sending young americans off to war only if their own children are involved or they would be indifferent or not care as much if somebody else's children are involved, they should not be in washington. we should never have people in public office who are functioning this way. >> a great question, would you make comments regarding a recent
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dartmouth grad, nathaniel thicke, and his book, "one bullet away"? >> nate thicke is somebody i'm very proud of, and i've become a good friend with. i was in washington talking about his book a couple weeks ago, as a matter of fact. he's a great example of a liberal arts graduate going into the marine corps. his unit was involved, he was in afghanistan first, then it was involved in the, in the invasion of iraq in march of 2003. the book, "generation kill," and the hbo film really dealt with nate thicke's unit, and this classics major at dartmouth, once they got up to baghdad, he wanted to take his la tune down to -- platoon down to see babylon and see the ancient ruins of iraq. i liked that.
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although he said a few months later he couldn't have taken his platoon down there unless he had an armored escort and a bigger unit. but there was a time tre, that brief window, when you could do that. he's just coming on the dartmouth board of trustees. he's a remarkable young man. >> this question speaks to the transition program in the military, and the questioner says we go through boot camp where 10 to 12 weeks are taken to transform a young man or woman to become a military person. and there's literally no process to help them when they exit the service. your comments in this area and the importance of a transition program, a solid transition program? >> i think that that's a very good observation. i think there needs to be a
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solid transition program for those who are leaving the service. i know that they're trying to do more at some of the major military insulations where many -- installations where many of the people receive their discharge and go back to civilian life. but i think what's required is just really sort of good personal counseling. we can do that in this country far more effectively than we can today. young veterans have a higher unemployment rate than the population as a whole. there is more homelessness on the part of veterans than there is as a population on the whole. we just need to do better than that. and the way to get at that is finding the sort of individual support and counseling. there are not massive, across-the-board programs. you've got to understand what it is, where the problems are and what it is you can do to deal with them. and i really worry about counseling for our injured veterans. they, you know, we have, as i said, just some horrible
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injuries today, and, you know, if you bring a young soldier in a wheelchair over to a ball game at at&t park, there'd be a standing ovation. everyone would cheer, they'd be teary-eyed, and that's a good thing. but my concern is that the music is going to stop. these guys are rock stars right now, but the music is going to stop. the last world war i veteran just died in the last year. presumably, the last veteran of these current wars will die maybe 2105 or something like that. and given the nature of these injuries, these guys deserve to be better than wards of the state. we need to find ways to look after them. we need to find ways to encourage them to enlarge their own dreams, and then we need to find ways to help them meet their dreams. and this can be done, but it's just going to take time and effort, and i think the personal touch that is very hard to find today at discharge centers or in the veterans administration.
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they're just so overwhelmed by the numbers. >> in the past we had john wayne, audie murphy and others who made major impacts on the military through the movie industry. now we've got the act of valor and hurt locker. your views on the impact of these movies on young men and women today? >> yeah. i don't know what the impact is on young men and women. i think that they show some of the experiences that the actual people who are serving in the field have. you know, there are just fewer heroes, quote, in these wars today. the medals of honor, i think there are 10 or 11 now in these wars. and, you know, but audie murphy could actually assault a machine gun nest and take 50 or 60
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prisoners. john wayne could pretend to assault the beach at iwo jima. [laughter] and be a hero. there are no opportunities in these wars for that sort of traditional concept of heroism. we, you know, we try to make jessica lynch who endured tremendous pain and discomfort as a prisoner, or pat tillman, a remarkably courageous young american. we try to make traditional heroes out of them. it doesn't work. if you look at the medals of honor in the current wars, i think only a couple of them have gone to people who survived. most of them have gone to people for -- not for assaulting an enemy force, but primarily for saving someone's life, you know, for jumping on a hand grenade to save others. just remarkably heroic and courageous action. it's just overwhelming. but we don't though how to
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handle these wars, we don't know 40 how to define the heroes of these wars. but everyone who steps out of a gate is being heroic over there, as far as i'm concerned. >> last question, sir. in past conflicts the civilian leadership has had military experience. today the civilian leadership is shrinking to almost a microscopic level of those who have served. how does that impact on the civilian decisions made for the military forces? >> yeah. it's an interesting question. you know, the congress today, for example, has a far lower percentage of veterans than it's had anytime since maybe 1940, i guess. and it's declined significantly just in the last 20 years. and i think this is not a good thing, but maybe in some ways that may seem a little ironic.
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i think that there is an inclination on the part of many be people in congress if somebody says this is for the military or this is for the veterans, they say, oh, i'll vote for it. i'm for the military, and i'm for the veterans. and, you know, i think you need to get a few more old lance corporals there. you know, we'd be more than happy to ask tough questions of people in braid on that. but somebody who's never been in the military may not want to ask tough questions. it is interesting if you look at presidential elections, the last several presidential elections, clinton beat a war hero, he beat a second war hero in dole in '96. his bush, george bush, the second president bush, had been in the national guard, but he beat, he beat al gore who had served in vietnam, and kerry was defeated by bush the second time. mccain was defeated by obama. i don't think that being a war veteran or a war hero is not
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helpful, but it obviously doesn't put people over the top anymore. and that's an interesting situation. but with fewer people serving in the military, with less than 1% serving, we just have to recognize we're going to have a smaller and smaller proportion of veterans in almost every area of american life, including our politics. we have to find ways to deal with that. >> on behalf of the marines memorial, sir, and for your guests here tonight, thank you. >> thank you, bucky. >> for coming here to share your views. [applause] >> thank you. >> booktv is on c-span2 with your favorite book programs throughout the day. our in depth programs, originally airing live the first sunday
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>> just as i entered here, some guy said to me, i didn't know america failed. and i said, stick around, you know? stick around. um, i also wanted just to locate this particular talk, um, in terms of the stuff i've been
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writing. this is, "why america failed" is the third in a trillion i have on the american empire -- trilogy on the american empire. the first one was "the twilight of american culture," which was published in 2000. and this came out about a month ago, "why america failed." there was, however, um, a collection of essays that i published about a year ago, so that came between book two and book three. about half the essays are about the united states, and i kind of want to encourage you the to --o have a look at that book. it's called "a question of values." and the reason that's important is there's material in there that's not in the other books but that deals with the kind of unconscious programming that americans have that leads them to do the things that they do, whether they're the person in the street or the president. and that sort of completes the picture.
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so i just want to, you know, encourage you to have a look at that book. the, um, title of this talk tonight is the way we live today. despite great pressure to conform in the united states, to celebrate the united states as the best system in the world, the nation does not lack for critics. the last two decades have seen numerous works criticizing u.s. foreign policy, u.s. domestic policy -- in particular economic policy -- the american educational system, the court system, the military, the media, corporate influence over american life and so on. most of this is very astute, and i have learned much from reading these studies. but two things in particular are lacking, in my opinion. and have a very hard time making it into the public eye. partly because americans are not trained to think in a holistic or synthetic fashion, and partly because the sort of analysis i have in mind is too close to the
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bone. it's very difficult for americans to hear it. hence, somebody would say, i didn't know it failed, you know? the first ting that these works lack is an integration of the various factors that have done the country in. these studies tend to be institution-specific as though the institution under examination existed in a kind of vacuum and could really be understood apart from other institutions. the second thing i find lacking is the relationship to the culture at large, to the values and behaviors that americans man on a daily basis. as a result, these critiques are finely superficial. they don't really go to the root of the problem, and this avoidance enables them to be optimistic which, in fact, places them in the american mainstream. the authors often conclude these studies with practical recommendations as to how the particular institutional dysfunctions they've identified can be rectified. they are, as a result, not much
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of a threat. it's usually mechanical analysis with a mechanical solution. if the authors were to realize a these problems do not exist in a vacuum but are related to all the other problems and are finely rooted in the nature of american culture itself, in its dna so to speak, the prognosis would not be so rosy. for it would become clear that there similarly is no way out, that turning things around is not really an option at this point. to take just two examples, michael moore and noam chomsky. i admire them greatly. they've done a lot to raise awareness in the united states, to show that both foreign and domestic policy as currently pursued are dead ends or worse. yet both of these men assume that the problem is coming from the top, from the pentagon and the corporations. which is partly true, of course. the problem is that this rests on a theory of false consciousness, that is the belief that these institutions have pulled the wool over the
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eyes of the average american citizen who is ultimately rational and well intentioned. i would say to them, get out and talk to some people, you know? find out how accurate that is. so for them the solution is one of education. um, pull the wool away from the eyes, and the citizenry will spontaneously awaken and commit itself to some sort of populist or democratic social vision. is that happening now with occupy wall street? it's an important question, and i think we should talk about it afterwards in the q&a. my point is, what if it turns out that the wool is the eyes? the so-called average citizen really does want, as janis joplin famously put it, a mercedes benz, you know? and probably not much else. that he or she is grateful to the corporations for supplying us with oceans of


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