I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Book summary and reviews of I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me by Trevor Paglen

I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me

Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World

By Trevor Paglen

I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2008,
    136 pages.

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Book Summary

They’re on the shoulder of all military personnel: patches that symbolize what a soldier’s unit does. But what happens if it’s top secret?

Shown here for the first time, these sixty patches reveal a secret world of military imagery and jargon, where classified projects are known by peculiar names (“Goat Suckers,” “None of Your Fucking Business,” “Tastes Like Chicken”) and illustrated with occult symbols and ridiculous cartoons. Although the actual projects represented here (such as the notorious Area 51) are classified, these patches—which are worn by military units working on classified missions—are precisely photographed, strangely hinting at a world about which little is known.

By submitting hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, the author has also assembled an extensive and readable guide to the patches included here, making this volume one of the best available surveys of the military’s black world—a $27 billion industry that has quietly grown by almost 50 percent since 9/11.

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"A glimpse of [the Pentagon's] dark world through a revealing lens—patches—the kind worn on military uniforms.... The book offers not only clues into the nature of the secret programs, but also a glimpse of zealous male bonding among the presumed elite of the military-industrial complex. The patches often feel like fraternity pranks gone ballistic." - The New York Times.

"Gives readers a peek into the shadows ... Department of Defense spokesman Bob Mehal told Newsweek that it 'would not be prudent to comment on what patches did or did not represent classified units.' That’s OK. Some mysteries are more fun when they stay unsolved." - Newsweek.

"An art book that presents peculiar shoulder patches created for the weird and top secret programs funded by the Pentagon's black budget... an achievement." - The San Francisco Chronicle.

"I was fascinated... [Paglen] has assembled about 40 colorful patch insignia from secret, military 'black' programs that are hardly ever discussed in public. He has plenty of regalia from the real denizens of Area 51." - The Boston Globe.

"Of course, issuing patches for a covert operation sounds like a joke...but truth be told, these days everything is branded. Military symbols are frequently replete with heraldic imagery—some rooted in history, others based on contemporary popular arts that feature comic characters—but these enigmatic dark-op images, in some cases probably designed by the participants themselves, are more personal, and also more disturbing, than most." - The New York Times Book Review.

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Trevor Paglen is a geographer by training, and an expert on clandestine military installations. He leads expeditions to the secret bases of the American West and is the author, with A.C. Thompson, of Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights

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