Every Man in this Village is a Liar by Megan Stack


What is Every Man in This Village Is a Liar about?

A few weeks after the planes crashed into the World Trade Centre on 9/11, journalist Megan Stack, a 25-year-old national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was thrust into Afghanistan and Pakistan, dodging gunmen and prodding warlords for information.  From there, she travelled to war-ravaged Iraq and Lebanon and to other countries scarred by violence, including Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, witnessing the changes that swept the Muslim world, and striving to tell its stories.

Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is Megan Stack’s unique and breathtaking account of what she saw in the combat zones and beyond.  It is her memoir about the wars of the 21st century.  She relates her initial wild excitement and her slow disillusionment as the cost of violence outweighs the elusive promise of freedom and democracy.  She reports from under bombardment in Lebanon; documents the growth of unusual friendships; records the raw pain of suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq; and, one by one, marks the deaths and disappearances of those she interviews.

The Prologue in Every Man in this Village is a Liar

The Prologue is Megan’s way of looking back on 10 years of killing and dying.  She says that “… the first thing I knew about war was also the truest, and maybe it’s as true for nations as for individuals: You can survive and not survive, both at the same time” [p.4].  Megan reflects that the US determination in the wake of the September 11 attacks to go out and ‘tame all the wilderness of the world’ was an instinctive response.  With the benefit of retrospect Megan surveyed the damage this folly has done to the US, to the affected nations in the Middle East and to her.  In the end she judged that September 11 was the beginning of a ‘disastrous reaction’.

The Quote “Every man in this village is a liar”

Megan realises that in the new reality of the war on terror, truth is no longer an absolute but the servant of political necessity.  In Pakistan someone said to Megan, “Every man in this village is a liar” [p.9].  She explains it as “… one of the world’s oldest logic problems … If he’s telling the truth, he’s lying.  If he’s lying, he’s telling the truth.  That was Afghanistan after September 11” [p.9].

Conflict in the Text

The text is primarily concerned with Megan’s encounters with violent military conflicts in the Middle East.  It does also deal with conflict on many levels.  Not only does it examine deadly force used by countries at war it also considers how people subjected to this invasion or assault live with the constant fear of arrest, torture or death.

Megan also contemplates her own survival of what covering these wars has done to her as a person.  In effect she documents the political and also moral price of the war on terror for America.  She speaks about ‘sacrifice’ in chapter 8 [p.96] in countries that have historical conflict that stretches back over centuries.  As a result Megan asserts that “Violence is a reprint of itself, an endless copy” [p.96].

Ways to Look at Conflict

Have a look carefully at this brilliant Conflict Flowchart to see what light it might shed for you on the ideas connected with the Context ‘Encountering Conflict’ and the text Every Man in this Village is a Liarconflict flow chart

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