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Nick Turse for In search of balanced books on the Afghan war

Julie McCarroll13 October 2010

Nick Turse, author of The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan, surveys recent books on the Afghan war today for TomDispatch, and finds a disturbing lack of analysis: "A marketplace filled with books by former military men devoted to tweaking, enhancing, and improving war-fighting capabilities cries out for some counterbalance."

Between 1962 and 1970, as American involvement in the conflict accelerated and peaked, some 9,430 books were written about the Vietnam War. From 2002 to 2010, less than half as many-4,221 texts of all types-have been written about the Afghan War.

Of course, it didn't help that, from 2003-2008, the Iraq War sucked up all the attention and left Afghanistan largely "forgotten," analytically and otherwise, nor did it help that the Afghan War never had a significant antiwar movement. The vibrant, large-scale movement of the Vietnam years, filled with people eager to learn more about just what they were protesting, proved an engine that drove publishers. Significant numbers of books produced by and for members of that movement investigated aspects of the civilian suffering the American war brought to Indochina. Not surprisingly, the Afghan War has produced many fewer works on the conflict's human fallout, and books like Zinn's, calling for withdrawal, have been few and far between.

Four decades ago, a stream of books was being produced for popular audiences that exposed the nature of war-making and focused readers' attention on the misery caused by U.S. military actions abroad. Today, a startling percentage of the authors who bother to focus on the current conflict are producing works dedicated to waging the seemingly endless American war in Afghanistan better.

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