A Marine's Reaction to a Children's Book Prompts an Apology From the Publisher
New York Times
C. J. Chivers
November 30, 2018
In an article for the Times, a former Marine criticized a “choose your own adventure” children’s book set in Afghanistan. A week later, the book’s publisher wrote to him with an apology.
“The choose-your-adventure format,” he wrote, “felt breezy and cavalier, recklessly presenting a bloody contest between the Taliban and the Marines in a manner largely devoid of consequences. I know what the book did not say. My friends and I killed in Marjah, and Marines in my rifle company lost limbs and lives. No notional exercise in choice will erase the fact that both my battalion and the battalion to our north killed many civilians in the opening days of Operation Moshtarak, when American high-explosive rockets struck occupied Afghan homes. Then, in the end, American plans for the area failed. Today Marjah is again under of the control of the Taliban and warlords.”At War is a newsletter about the experiences and costs of war with stories from Times reporters and outside voices.
Earlier this month, Zachary Bell, a former Marine rifleman and infantry squad leader, received an unsolicited email from the head of Capstone, a publisher of children’s books in Minnesota.
The New York Times Magazine had just published Bell’s first article for the At War channel, in which he had detailed his reaction this summer to observing his two daughters, ages 8 and 10, reading “War in Afghanistan: An Interactive Modern History Adventure,” a book in Capstone’s You Choose series. The book included a chapter on an operation in 2010 in Marjah, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, in which Bell participated. He watched and listened as they confronted the text’s notional choices, including how to navigate the perilous landscape and whether to fire upon Afghan men who might be snipers — at risk of committing a war crime.
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