The basic similarity between MASH and this brilliant new book, "Mass Casualties" by Michael Anthony, is disturbing to consider. These are two episodes from different corners of an empire of bases, wars, and occupations spanning multiple generations and continents. Unless the United States shuts down its empire or is forced to do so, similar accounts will be possible in endless times and places for years to come.
The novel on which the MASH movie and television show were based was written by an Army surgeon, but written as fiction. "Mass Casualties" is presented as nonfiction, although written with the touch of a good fiction writer. This new story is packed with adultery, drug abuse, corruption scandals, blackmail, depression, insomnia, suicide, emailed sex photos, and other elements that are not exact parallels to MASH. But the overriding theme, the straight-man to the pranks and dark humor, is the familiar and powerful force of military stupidity.
The military stupidity in this tale includes bureaucratic unaccountability, and -- in the background -- the general cluelessness as to what the whole point is of being in Iraq. But the dominant dimwittedness is found in some of the individual characters, whose names have been changed but who are supposedly presented as they really were. These include a superior officer so angry and abusive that Anthony's unit bonds over its members' common hatred for this man.
"Mass Casualties" is a book I would recommend to any young person being targeted by military recruiters, to any person opposed to war, to any person in favor of war, and in fact to anyone with an interest in humanity and the enjoyment of an uproarious story about a bunch of ordinary people put through outrageous hardships who for the most part make no attempt whatsoever to come through with any dignity intact.
David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book.