“Only a writer as skillful as Haldeman could use war’s dark glamour to lure the reader in and then deploy that same fascination to show the effect of this orchestrated barbarism on the human soul.”

This is a back-cover blurb by Peter F. Hamilton for Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War” (which, by the way, is an extraordinary book).

The words of particular interest here are “glamour” and “war”. They’re words we see put together frighteningly often, in varying contexts. Video games and movies are accused of glamorising war, books draw on it, newspapers suck every last drop of spilled blood out of it. And for the vast majority of us–those who don’t have cause to worry about friends, family, lovers serving in it, or caught on the margins of it–war is a strange and distant thing. No wonder it gets glamorised. We simply don’t see it for what it is.

Until we see this.

It used to be a car, one that was destroyed in a street bombing in Baghdad in 2007. Just think about that for a second: that mess used to be a car, just like you or your mother or your daughter or your little brother drive.

38 people died in that attack, which happened not at a security checkpoint, or in a combat zone–but at a market.

Artist Jeremy Deller has brought the car over to the Imperial War Museum as part of an installation highlighting the rocketing number of civilian casualties in warfare. A century ago, civilians accounted for 10% of war victims. Now the number has rocketed, with some sources claiming it’s closer to 90%.

Take a good look at that car, and tell me where the glamour is–because with that thing staring back at me, I sure as hell can’t see it.


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