Jon Krakauer’s Latest: Men, Testosterone, Machismo and Tragedy


I have to be in a certain mood to want to read a Jon Krakauer book.  Usually, that mood is not a good one.  I greatly admire his work which include:  Into the Wild9780385522267[1]; Into Thin Air; and Under the Banner of Heaven.  Krakauer’s latest:  Where Men Win Glory:  The Odyssey of Pat Tillman was definitely worthy of this author’s attention and talents.  As I see it, the beat that Krakauer works is the intersection of Men, machismo, and testosterone and the likely result  of the collision of these  forces is – Tragedy.  There could be no better places to mine these ores than in the NFL and the disaster currently called Afghanistan.

In his own machismo struggle, Krakauer took the photo that graces the cover of this latest.

The story follows the divergent timelines of unrelated events.  For examples:  1) when Tillman was in highschool, Ramzi Yousef was doing this; 2) when Tillman was in college, Osama bin Laden was doing this. 

The forces eventually meet.  And predictably not to a good end.

This book troubled me almost as much as the Under the Banner of Heaven did. The intentional deceit perpetrated by our government about Tillman’s death in its unique way made the tragedy worse than in the earlier book. 

And… the criminals in this latest book have not been held accountable.



Filed under Afghanistan, Book Reviews

28 responses to “Jon Krakauer’s Latest: Men, Testosterone, Machismo and Tragedy

  1. Krakauer is a Hemingway type writer – he has to go out and experience the essence of what he is writing about. I really admire him. But his books depress the crap out of me – to be completely honest.

  2. This book also brought up for me the campaign trap that Obama got himself into – i.e. the Iraq war is bad (which it is) and the Afghanistan war is good (which it clearly is not!, in my humble opinion).

    Tell me what you all think…

  3. I think ‘campaign trap’ is an excellent description, whether we need to continue military engagement in Afghanistan or not. On that question, I decline to state an opinion for the obvious reason that I am too highly prejudiced against war.

    Back to President Obama talking about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I remember him comparing the two and talking about one being unjustified while there was justification for the other. Yes, I remember him saying we needed to get our attention focused back on the war that was justified. I remember him talking about what could have been done if America had kept their eye on the ball of the war in Afghanistan instead of diverting resources to Iraq.

    I don’t remember much of what I hear attributed to him. So, is it my memory that is in error?

    I also take into account how much was kept hidden by the bush administration, how few details were given Obama the candidate (or anyone outside that secretive circle of jerks). {Pun intended.} You state, “Krakauer is a Hemingway type writer – he has to go out and experience the essence of what he is writing about.” I say President Obama is that same type person. He came into a presidency with many challenges and is carefully making decisions after he knows the essence, the facts, the risks and potential benefits.

  4. lilacluvr

    I think Obama is a political consensus builder. I think that is why so many of his supporters are frustrated with him now.

    When I think that the Democrats have total control of Congress and White House but yet Obama seems reluctant to use that power to bash some heads in. And I have asked myself why several times. I keep coming back to this – he is a consensus builder. He plays the part of the peacemaker most of the time.

    I wonder if it has something to do with his being biracial? Did he grow up thinking that he had to somehow make peace with both ethnic groups? Do biracial people feel that they have to be the peacemakers?

    I’m not trying to be inflammatory by asking this racially toned question – I am sincerely asking for an answer from someone.

    But, then, I wonder if the same could be asked about some child born to parents of two differing religions – Jewish and Christian, for example.

    Is that child also thrown into the peacemaker role?

    I, for one, am glad Obama is taking his time to make the decision about more troops to Afghanistan. We need something other than a cowboy in his daddy’s boots pretending he is some big bad ass dude.

    We’ve had enough of that nonsense and that thinking has probably set us back years from any resolution to our foreign policies.

    • In my book, what he is was once called a patriot, and we are in such short supply of these types today we can’t even remember when that was the way governing was conducted.

      • lilacluvr

        Go clean your mouth out with soap – you KNOW the tea partiers are the only true patriots we have today.


      • They seem a lot like grumpy, angry people to me. If they could form a cohesive complaint and express it, I might have a better understanding of what in the world they’re even protesting. They didn’t begin their protests when bush the lesser sunk our country in unjustified war, ignored all warning signs of financial collapse, made sure those who bought his presidency were paid back tenfold, bailed out AIG, passed TARP which bailed out the banks. Nope, they began protesting whatever it is they’re protesting about the time necessary moves to protect Americans were started. Their transparency is easy to see through!

        Here’s what their protests say: “We lost and we’re mad, put Republicans back in charge, change nothing else and everything will be fine with my world.”

        That doesn’t make any sense and therefore I hold them in low esteem!

  5. lilacluvr

    Did anyone here watch 60 minutes last night? They did this report on how our electrical grid and our entire banking system is vulnerable to terrorist attack.

    They went on to explain that some foreign powers (they think they know who) has hacked into our systems and they sit there for days just watching. In the case of our military computer systems, they actually dowloaded several things while they were ‘in’ the system.

    Just imagine that? The threat to our military is one thing but just imagine what some foreign powers could do our country if we were suddenly thrown into darkness and no power? What chaos would that cause.

    They also mentioned that Obama referenced some foreign country that had their electrical grid hacked into and they had faced some pretty troubling times. That was Brazil and it happened in 2005 and 2007.

    My question to the Bush Administration would be – on what planet does it make sense to go bomb Iraq and/or Iran when the real threat is to our computerized world we live in?

    Of course, my first thought was that Bush and Gang probably did not know the first thing about how computerized we are and since they don’t know about it, nor do they care, then they brushed it off as no big deal? But they sure believed in strip searching every little old grandma at the airports -didn’t they?

    • tosmarttobegop

      The great black-out of New York city and most of the eastern seaboard was caused by what?
      A single small relay that did not switch when it was suppose to! Overloading the entire system and taking it down for days.

      Yes the Power grid is very old and worn out, it would not take much to destroy it.
      Banking is so depended on the net that simply interrupting it would about kill the banking system.
      Richard Clark warned of this but yet nothing has been done to protect it as a whole.

      • lilacluvr

        Of course, there was also that memo saying that planes would be used in terrorist attacks but did the Bush Administration read it?

        That will be debated for years to come….kinda like the Iran-Contra Scandal. You betcha!

    • I watched 60 Minutes. That was some eye-opening reporting!

    • All during that 60 Minutes program I kept thinking about America being put in the dark, no news of any kind, no way to find out what’s going on. Even if you have batteries the station won’t be able to broadcast. I fear it will be a time when those who are heavily armed and very afraid will react out of their fear and ignorance. They’re itching to anyway! Worse, there will be a mob mentality. The danger is from within.

      • lilacluvr

        And then those just waiting for Armagedon (sp?) will be the first in line with their weapons of choice.

        Self-fulfilling prophecy perhaps or arrogance?

        I remember the Republicans laughing at Obama when he said we need to upgrade and modernize our power grid. I wonder, did these Republicans really think he was only talking about how to tax them on their electrical bills?

        Is that why some people on the radical right are so afraid of Obama – he is a person who is looking ahead down the road and seeing the big picture rather than the narrow version most of these radical righties see through their Reagan rose-colored glasses?

  6. lilacluvr

    I would also like to add – Obama repeatedly said he wants to spend billions to upgrade our elecrtrical grid through the Stimulus bill money and the Republicans scoffed at that idea – remember?

    I think Republicans like to appear they are tough by going in and bombing everyone into to oblivion.

    But isn’t that tactic and strategy like using weapons from the Flinstones Age when we now live in the 21st century?

  7. tosmarttobegop

    Tillman to me was a cosmic warning of this is not going to be good.
    He was the real life of the comic strip hero “Flash Gordon” tall, blond, handsome, muscular and stand alone heroic. The very emblem of what we want in a great American hero, the image of the American Soldier.
    While the actually image is short and everyday on the outside those traits of Flash Gordon are held within.

    When the news of Pat Tillman’s death came it was almost symbolic of the American effort was dying.
    As we now know that in deed was the truth, the effort to get Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda was dead.
    The feeling I had deep inside at the news was just that, this was a cosmic warning sign.

    Yes the efforts in Afghanistan is as the saying goes, “ A day late and a Dollar short!”.
    One of the things that contributed to the invasion of Iraq was Bush’s desire to finish the job started by his father. He lacked the common sense his father had about why he stopped the push to Baghdad in the first Gulf war. G.W. was anger about the voices condemning his father for stopping. Those voices were mainly the Neo-Conservatives.

    Now we are seeming stuck with that same feelings, the job was not done and the compulsion is to finish it.
    But the problem is that that house has already burnt to the ground and we still feel that we need to have the fire department come. I will use the same example again, “Afghanistan is a pothole on the most remote road that no one ever drives down. Even if we repair it, what good is it is still the most remote road that no one drives down!”. Al-Qaeda was living in that pothole but has since moved and not likely to be welcome back to their old pothole.

    It is actually hard for me to say, the people of Afghanistan still live there and are not as well off as they should be. “The only way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing!“
    But there is no point in keep trying to fill the pothole… let’s leave.

    • lilacluvr

      I would like to add one more thing about Bush’s motive for invading Iraq- money for his buddies.

      That war was and is still very profitable for those few in the ‘inner circle’.

  8. lilacluvr

    As for the Afghanistan war, I listened to the US Official that resigned in protest – I can’t remember his name right now – something like Hoh???

    I saw him on Rachel Maddow and he made some pretty valid points. He says there is no real reason for us to be there and we need to pull out now.
    He said the simple logistics of fighting that war is a nightmare. And then with all the corruption in the political scene going on there – who can we trust, really?

    I just wonder what would happen if we just pulled out? If I remember correctly, when the Russians withdrew, we were cheering – weren’t we?

    So, why are we there now in the role the Russians played? Maybe we need to keep out butts at home and strengthen our own homeland against further attacks?

  9. I think it is amazing how the internet can find and automatically refer people to like-opinions. The suggested “related post” is worth a look. I don’t think Krakauer is a “graver robber” per se, but there is a depressingly tragic fate of the main characters he follows in each of his books.

    Under the Banner of Heaven was, for me, the most depressing of his books. It was about the ultra conservative and regressive Mormans in Arizonia/Utah and their brutality toward women – it made me ill in parts, but that also spoke to how well it was done. It has been compared, favorably, to In Cold Blood, but it is not for the weak of heart.

    I remember sending a copy of Under the Banner…. to fnord – I think I must not of known her very well then.

  10. The USSR was bankrupted there. There is no winning there, and there is no coherent there, there – never has been and won’t be for a thousand years, regardless of what anyone does. This book was great in terms of its recent history coverage of Afghanistan.

    • lilacluvr

      You make a good point, iggy. And since we are also bankrupted and seem to be bailing out everybody but the middle class, exactly how much more money are we going to be wasting in Afghanistan?

      As for Bin Laden – I really think that man is in Pakistan somewhere and obviously is well hidden. After all, with the bounty on his head and no one has come forward to claim it?

      But even if Bin Laden was caught, what real change would that bring? Would it just make the radical Muslim world resolve all the more to attack us or would it just be one less radical Muslim leader with 100 ready to take his place?

  11. Instead of trying to “win” any war in Afghanistan or Pakistan, what I suggest we do, would be this: Announce to the leadership of both countries –

    “We don’t think you have the ability to maintain sovereignty over your country; thus we will be monitoring you by sattelite and by spies on the ground. If we detect activity of Al Qaeda, or any other group whose existence is contrary to our safety interests, we will come in bomb the shit out the offending parties. We don’t care if you don’t like it.”

    I am a liberal democrat, but I am reminded of the words of Randy Newman – “Let’s drop the big one, and see what happens…”

    In truth, bombing the people of the tribal areas of Pakistan, or anywhere in Afghanistan, “back to the stone age”, will not mean much of a trip for the bombed parties.

    • lilacluvr

      I’m tempted to agree with you but then if we went in and started bombing – won’t that let our enemies paints us as the bad guys?

      We already have that distinction with those drones we have going overhead and targeting certain areas. We’re already hearing about how those drones literally tear their victims apart piece by piece.

      But targeting Al Queda members with those drones may be one thing but dropping bombs on the entire country is something else.

      And I just don’t know if we want to do that….

      As for winning the long term war with AlQueda and the Taliban, where are our efforts with the future generations of these people – their children? Are we trying to get to their minds and perhaps show them there is a better way than the constant daily life of war and ruin?

      I know – this is a Catch 22 and one of those ‘damned if we do and damned if we don’t’ situations.

  12. There is a cultural tradition in Afghanistan called Pashtunwali, and one component of it is called badal which states that any injustice, no matter how slight, must be avenged. If someone dents one of your fenders, one must reciprocate by denting two of theirs, or maybe by killing them.

    • lilacluvr

      Now that is some road rage, huh?

      But we have so-called religious people here in America who feel the same way – don’t we? Do we allow them to go on and do whatever they deem to be justice?

      We should be a nation that respects laws. And we should be able to show the world that we are a civilized society that does adhere to the principle of laws.

  13. lilacluvr

    “The intentional deceit perpetrated by our goverment about Tillman’s death in its unique way made the tragedy worse than in the earlier book.

    This is what bothered me the most. How can our government be so callous as to make up such a story and then when the truth comes out, to treat as such an unpatriotic act to actually speak the truth about Tillman’s death.

    As a mother, I would be devastated to lose my son in a war but then to know that my government chose to use his death in such a blatant propaganda lie – that would just add salt to the wound.

    And then Bush and Gang wonder why the majority of Americans think they are liars?

  14. No one gets to the top of the military without being a political animal. Colin Powell was an underling who participated in the My Lai Massacre cover-up back in the day. And his walk of shame from the podium at the UN was symbolic of a career spent being the “good soldier.”

    McChrystal’s role in the Tillman cover-up tells us a lot about the man’s approach to military tunnel-vision in Afghanistan.

    I remain convinced Afghanistan is not about Afghanistan; it’s about the only Muslim nuclear arsenal on the planet: in Pakistan.

  15. Clinton’s? Well… I guess not…