• John Tirman, a principal research scientist and executive director at the MIT Center for International Studies

    John Tirman, a principal research scientist and executive director at the MIT Center for International Studies

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  • 'The Deaths of Others' by John Tirman

    'The Deaths of Others' by John Tirman

    Image courtesy of Oxford University Press

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'Deaths of Others' in America's Wars

John Tirman, a principal research scientist and executive director at the MIT Center for International Studies

A book about the fate of civilians of those we fight and those we fight for

Americans are greatly concerned about the number of our troops killed in battle — 100,000 dead in World War I; 300,000 in World War II; 33,000 in the Korean War; 58,000 in Vietnam; 4,500 in Iraq; more than 1,000 in Afghanistan — and rightly so. But why are we so indifferent, often oblivious, to the far greater number of casualties suffered by those we fight and those we fight for?

This is the compelling, largely unasked question that John Tirman, a principal research scientist and executive director at the MIT Center for International Studies, answers in The Deaths of Others. The book, published by Oxford University Press, is available now.

Between six and seven million people died in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq alone, the majority of them civilians. And yet Americans devote little attention to these deaths. Other countries, however, do pay attention, and Tirman argues that if we want to understand why there is so much anti-Americanism around the world, the first place to look is how we conduct war. We understandably strive to protect our own troops, but our rules of engagement with the enemy are another matter. From atomic weapons and carpet bombing in World War II to napalm and daisy cutters in Vietnam and beyond, we have used our weapons intentionally to kill large numbers of civilians and terrorize our adversaries into surrender. Americans, however, are mostly ignorant of these facts, believing that U.S.-driven wars are essentially just, necessary and "good." Tirman investigates the history of casualties caused by U.S. forces in order to explain why the United States remains so unpopular and why U.S. armed forces operate the way they do.

Trenchant and passionate, The Deaths of Others forces readers to consider the tragic consequences of American military action not just for Americans, but especially for those we fight.

Features include: a passionate and sweeping account of the impact of U.S. wars on U.S. opponents; a critical account of the American way of war will be very controversial; and a highly readable narrative history that covers all of the United States's modern wars.

"This sad and gripping record of crimes we dare not face, and the probing analysis of the roots of indifference and denial, tell us all too much about ourselves. It should be read, and pondered," said MIT Institute Professor Noam Chomsky.

"John Tirman has not only written a profoundly important, revelatory work about something that most people in this country ignore; he has looked deep into our history and the American mind to see why we ignore it. I wish I could give this highly readable book to everyone, from general to private to the civilian bureaucrats who send them off to kill, who shares the illusion that war mainly involves soldiers," said Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars.

Topics: Afghanistan, Books and authors, Center for International Studies, Security studies and military, Iraq


I do not agree with the premise that Americans are heartless and unconcerned about collateral damage in Afghanistan. The use of UAVs as force multipliers may be inappropriate at times but it is the best arrow in our quiver. If we pull out without leaving a stable democracy, the country will fall back into darkness and another nation will step in and subjugate this iron-age culture. We don't need their narcotics. We don't need access to the Indian Ocean. We don't need to proselytize them into Later Day Saints. Our methods could be better and we should not encourage corruption. We need regional stability and our military sacrifices much to try and achieve this laudable goal.

The theme has been quite relevant for in the case of Afghanistan the very significant challenge had been to define the enemy, unlike in Iraq or any of the previous of the wars. The reason being that there always been grey area of Othering every time the US strategy to defeat the insurgents went into unwinding alleys of Afghan mountains.

The 'Not so Others' have been those groups whom the US relied upon to cooperate and every time found disillusioned by them and every time kept coming at them with the hell fire. Thus, the Othering is one of the self-deceiving thing.

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