What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars

David Wood was raised a Quaker, did civilian service during the Vietnam War, and became a war journalist after his first assignment to a war zone in 1977. He has been a war reporter for 30 years. In his first book, What Have We Done, Wood argues that we have failed to prepare our military troops adequately for the moral shocks and dissonance of war, not supported them during their service and neglected to care for them when they return.

"Moral injury" describes the emotional reactions that come with reflection after someone returns from war to safety. "Sorrow, remorse, grief, shame, bitterness and moral confusion--What is right?--signal moral injury, while flashbacks, loss of memory, fear, and a startle complex seem to characterize PTSD." Wood focuses on the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because they were our first major conflicts fought entirely with an "all-volunteer" military, which "meant that those who chose to stay home mostly remained ignorant of who served and why." Rates of mental illness, suicide and violent crime among active troops and veterans have soared during these wars.

These matters are not a problem only for our military, however. "What is the accountability of those who engineered the wars? Of the politicians who pushed for and funded the fighting year after year? Of those of us who silently accepted the rationales for war, voted for those in power, and paid our taxes? ...Perhaps we are morally injured as well and, like so many combat veterans, are reluctant to peer into that darkness." What Have We Done offers readers the chance to do so. --Sara Catterall 

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