I recently finished reading The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson.
This book wasn't quite what I expected it to be like, mostly because (1) I initially thought it was fiction (2) and I mostly thought it took place in the Middle East.
While it does involve American soldiers fighting in the Middle East, the book is a non-fiction investigative reporting story, and primarily happens at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
The story is interesting, because it essentially revolves around a military program, The First Earth Battalion, which was started in 1979 in the heart of the cold war and covert military action. America was interested in using new methods of gathering intelligence, fighting over seas battles, and exercising American military control.
These methods, as outlined by Ronson through interviews and contact with a variety of people formerly involved with the First Earth Battalion, and Army Intelligence, were often tinged with new age ideology, far-reach psychological ideals, and mystical sci-fi-minded goals. Not to mention Psychic spies.
One of the central "stories" of the book was about Goat Lab at Fort Bragg, and Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon.
Channon is not only is credited with creating the Army slogan ("Be All That You Can Be,") he also created the First Earth Battalion manual, which was to help Army men learn how to be Jedi Warriors who could not only walk through walls, but also stop a goat's heart from beating simply with the power of the mind.
For Jim Channon, being all you could be, was a huge goal, bigger than anyone could have imagined on the surface! And the book even outlines how he secretly met with Bush administration officials following September 11th.
And it is this story of First Earth Battalion that sets the stage for a modern history of military intelligence, and even further connections into later events, including how this culture would go on to breed unique interrogation methods like playing Barney songs ("I love you, you love me") to prisoners, the Heaven's Gate mass murder, and the severe and bizarre range of methods used after 9/11 at Abu Gharib prison.
The cast of characters (and while they're all real people, are certainly "characters") is wide reaching and certainly unique, probably warranting another post, particularly since these characters names are not the same names of characters in the upcoming film version staring George Clooney & Ewan McGregor.
This is certainly an interesting read, especially in a time when the Obama administration wants more transparency and changes in the way military and intelligence gathering operations are handled.