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A Review/Essay

LOSING TIM: A Mother Unravels Her Military Son's Suicide

By the end of the memoir, we know an awful lot about Tim and the Burroway family, but we have not gained any absolute certainty about his suicide. The point is, no one will ever know for certain why Tim Eysselinck, a man seemingly on top of the world, decided to shoot himself.

Burroway would like to see greater awareness for the conundrums of the private contractor. Beyond the good salaries, for-profit corporations have no social incentive to place any greater value on their lives. William Langewiesche wrote about this in an April Vanity Fair article called “The Chaos Company” about G4S, a huge corporation headquartered in London that contracts for de-mining and other military and security tasks. Langewiesche says, while the majority of its employees are unarmed, G4S is three-times the size of the British military and generates $12 billion in revenue a year. “Enterprises such as G4S are now a part of the international order, more permanent than some nation-states, more wealthy than many, more efficient than most.” The growth of western civilian contractors in war zones around the world can be seen as another sign of the break-down of the nation-state system into global networks of power. At the point of this spear is the secret world of surveillance, special operations and cyber warfare.

The evidence is indisputable that the rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer in the United States. There seems little relief in sight for this reality. The nation’s much-vaunted middle class is shrinking. Workers’ unions have been crushed. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court and other institutions keep firming up the foundations of this social Darwinian dynamic. The free market is sacred and profit always matters most. The notion that people might be motivated by ethics and social concerns other than money gets lost in the hoopla or is dismissed as naïve.

I see an idealistic Tim Eysselinck -- like many, a man on a perennial search for good fatherly authority -- running head-on into the corrupt capital-obsessed cesspool that was the war zone called Iraq.

But that’s my reading. Burroway knows absolute certainty is the stuff out of which wars are made. Her book is more art than polemic. In an epigram, she quotes Anne Carson: “In every story I tell comes a point where I can see no further.” Still, she does not shy from making an eloquent cry from the heart advocating for humanity and compassion as a trump to the kind of rigid militarist thinking that led to her son’s suicide. She closes the book by telling us that -- as I’ve heard combat veterans say of dead comrades -- she still talks with Tim.

“Tim is no further from me than he was in Africa, and in some ways nearer. …I make him up.” She takes comfort in the legacy of his clearing mines: “…all over the world is a slender web in space and time, of people whose lives were changed, or who were born at all, because my son who loved weapons went, by the hazard of history, into the odd profession of getting rid of them.”

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