The other perspective
July 5, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a book which gives a perspective of the occupying military force in a conflict zone?

I have been reading articles & books on perspectives from the people who are suffering due to military force occupation. I want to understand the other perspective. E.g. Khmer Rouge perspective of Killing Fields . How did the soldiers feel while committing war atrocities? Didn't their humanity kick in at any point? What would be their thoughts during the entire conflict.

Am looking for non fiction perspectives.
posted by manny_calavera to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Somewhat metaphorically: Orwell's Shooting an Elephant is a classic text about the mixture of emotions felt by a colonizer. You might also enjoy Battle Of Algiers, which is a stellar film about the last days of the French occupation of Algeria; a large segment of the film concerns the legitimacy of torture in attempting to control a subjugated population.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ordinary Men is exactly the book you're looking for. It's also a book everyone should read.
posted by kavasa at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

A little bit different than what you're asking for, but I recently started reading Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland about The Troubles.

It's excellent - Boston College put together a series of oral interviews of people on both sides of the conflict, and gained their trust and willingness to participate by promising to archive everything privately until the individual in question was dead (for many, many individuals). Two of the earliest participants to die were Brendan Hughes of the Provisional IRA and David Ervine of the Ulster Volunteer Force; both men played central roles in the conflict, and both were involved in atrocities.

I haven't gotten to Ervine's part yet, but Hughes certainly expresses a mixture of feelings ranging from "it was war, we were targeting those we saw as the enemy, collateral damage happens" to "we were far too cavalier with civilian lives, including those we saw as our own people" to outright admissions that their behavior included war crimes and crimes against human rights.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:57 PM on July 5, 2012

There's been a lot of discussion of the effect of being an occupying power on Israel, including Gershom Gorenberg’s recent book The Unmaking of Israel. Slate ran a series of excerpts last November.
posted by mediareport at 5:09 PM on July 5, 2012

Spike Milligan's war memoirs (which are mostly non-fiction) have plenty of material on his time as part of the Allied forces occupying Italy. I think most of it is in Mussolini: His Part In My Downfall.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:18 PM on July 5, 2012

Vejas Lieulevicius, War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I looks at the way that being in the occupation forces on the Eastern Front in WWI (much of Poland, Ukraine, Baltic lands) influenced the German soldiers during and after the war.
posted by dhens at 8:37 PM on July 5, 2012

Just a note: The "occupation" of Italy by US forces during WWII isn't really an occupation in the traditional sense of the word. In Fall 1943 the king of Italy dismissed Mussolini and Italy joined the Allies. Now, granted, Mussolini did form a rival government (the Italian Social Republic) under the tutelage of the Germans, but victories of the US against Mussolini were also seen as victories for the Kingdom of Italy.
posted by dhens at 8:40 PM on July 5, 2012

manny_calavera: Check your MeFi mail.
posted by dhens at 8:45 PM on July 5, 2012

Waltz With Bashir is an animated autobiographical movie by Ari Folman. After an old friend mentions having nightmares about their time serving in the Israeli Army during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Folman realizes he has amnesia about that time in his life. He knows he was in the army in 1982, he served in Lebanon, but can remember no details

So he goes an interviews other people who were there with him, or in Lebanon at the same time, and pieces together what happened, what he saw and did, and what his mind doesn't want to remember.

Not a book, and while it's animated, the interviews are largely of real people talking about their real experiences.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:10 AM on September 3, 2012

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