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I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  268 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
They’re on the shoulder of all military personnel: patches that symbolize what their unit does. But what if that’s top secret?

“A fresh approach to secret government. It shows that these secret programs have their own culture, vocabulary and even sense of humor.”
—Steven Aftergood, The Federation of American Scientists

In a work that combines ingenious journalism and bizarrel
Hardcover, 136 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Melville House (first published January 28th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 561)
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Jul 20, 2008 R. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
In high school art class, I silk screen T-shirts with that said MAJESTIC 12 UFO RESCUE SQUAD...with a flying saucer hovering over an upside down triangle. I got a B- and ignored by the cheerleaders. If you want to be popular, don't seek the truth, kids.


Update: Not truly the blackest of ops, here. More off-white, gray or brown: test flights, satellites; to me, black-ops signals X-Files, reverse-engineered alien technology and secret moonbase operations.

May 04, 2008 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A nicely designed but short collection of uniform patches collected from classified military projects. The author tries to interpret the patches to derive information about the nature of the projects. For example, a lot of them have six stars on them, which he suggests refers Area 51 (5+1, get it?) in Nevada. I don't buy all of his speculations but I do respect that there are a few of the patches on which he just admits he doesn't know what the hell they are for. A perfect little book to thumb t ...more
David Gallin-Parisi
Jul 26, 2013 David Gallin-Parisi rated it it was amazing
You should read this for the explanation of the title alone. Not sure why it took me so long to get this because I'm already familiar with Paglen's other works. Recommended for artists, patch collectors, true metal heads, military science buffs, and people who live for UFO sightings. Here is the covered-up colors that military personnel wear while working on black op projects.
Dec 31, 2009 Ryan rated it liked it
Cool book for the coffee table, a conversation piece, nothing more. If you're into secret gov. programs these are nothing new. But if you enjoy seeing them put into a collection with a small description next to each, the book is worth having.
Jan 04, 2011 Deni rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, weirdo
Intriguing, totally weird, little book. There's even a patch featuring a wraith from an ICP album cover.
Seizure Romero

I really can't talk about it.
Robert Beveridge
Trevor Paglen, I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World (Melville House Press, 2007)

As is usual, I haven't read reviews for this book before I started writing this one, but I'd be willing to make you a small bet given (a) what I know about the reviews of Trevor Paglen's other books and (b) what I know of Amazon reviewers in general: there are going to be a sizable minority of reviews of this book that are going to complain, perhaps a
Melville House Publishing
Feb 12, 2008 Melville House Publishing rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Shown here for the first time, these seventy-five 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, ...more
Apr 16, 2009 Kayleen rated it liked it
The book summary listed does not describe this book. It is some publisher's hype, but not accurate. What this book does contain is a smattering of about 40 black world (or not) patches. The projects were not code named "None of your F-ing Business" as the synopsis states...those were just unofficial mottoes on some of the patches.
The author admits this is a very haphazard sampling of some patches, heavy on Area 51 projects. Not comprehensive. Not a historical record. Not even necessarily accura
Daniel Rhodes
Jan 08, 2015 Daniel Rhodes rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting read and the emblems are even more interesting to sit and study, some of them are real works of art. I took the patch off of the cover and had it sewn on to my faveorite jacket. Looks killer!
Feb 03, 2010 Jason rated it liked it
Not what I expected, but interesting. This book is a series of images of Black-ops patches from the uniforms of those involved in different black projects. Each image is accompanied by a short description, but there's not a lot of background about the projects themselves.

From a heraldry perspective, it was interesting to see some of the modern interpretations of ancient devices. Dragons are a great example, having been present on the shields of many European warriors, they're still present but
Larry Rochelle
Nov 07, 2012 Larry Rochelle rated it really liked it
Trevor Paglen is an artist, an investigator and a provocateur. His book presents USA military patches used by the special foces or black ops troops. The patches are photographed and highlighted, their purpose and symbolism explained. Many of these patches were shown to him by black ops troops. The secrets these patches contain are fascinating. And, on another level, they wake us up to the fact that millions of dollars are spent on black ops and these secret troops now number 860,000, all on top ...more
Dec 12, 2011 oliviasbooks marked it as on-shelf-to-comment-on  ·  review of another edition
I have just catalogued this book for my library. But my brain is still in processing mode, because ...
1. I marvel again and again that there seems to be no subject too peculiar to publish a book on.
2. I immediately thought of Alex and of Lila's brother in Hunting Lila. Maybe no fictional special unit is truely only fictional .... What do you think, Sarah Alderson?
Haleigh Love
Mar 29, 2015 Haleigh Love rated it it was amazing
Its good
Marc Andrew
Sep 30, 2014 Marc Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
Oct 12, 2012 Schnaucl rated it liked it
This was an interesting book. Most of the patches had the kind of logos you would expect, apex predators and references to violence but some actually had cute animals (those were generally the patches for support for black ops).

I still find the idea that black ops have patches somewhat problematic but I think Paglen gave a reasonable explanation for the psychology behind it.

My favorite motto: Doing God's work with other people's money.
Aug 06, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-comix-design
I read about this book in the NY Times
and boy is it exciting. I just love how weird/adolescent/heavy metal these patches are, juxtaposed with the presumably pretty serious/scary world of black military ops. It also reminds me of my weird pog collection from the 90s...trying to decipher what these odd little circles might mean.
Oct 30, 2008 Walter rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
This book shows the emblems from various classified military projects and explains some of the symbology behind them. Unfortunately, all the projects seem to be Air Force projects. As an Army vet living in a Navy time, I would have liked to see the other branches represented.

The title of the book is magnificently awkward but it is inspired by one of the emblems so it is appropriate.
Tom Schulte
Sep 14, 2013 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it
A beautiful collection of US military black ops and departments patches. They represent units, events/tests, technologies, and the like with Latin, dragos, symbolism, stars, ETs and more from Area 51 and mostly other American southwest organizations. Paglen presents each in a full plate with a page of text recto discussing, interpreting, or merely surmising on the stitched mysteries.
Aug 29, 2008 BiL rated it liked it
A friend bought me this as a present for me letting her stay at my house. It's a great coffee table book that shows and explains military patches from secret missions like Area-51 and stuff like that. This book will have you looking over your should after reading it out of fear that you just found out something you weren't supposed to about the government.
Mar 24, 2012 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, may
Absolutely fascinating look at the secret world of patches in the military. Paglen did an amazing amount of investigation and work to uncover these patches, and, more importantly, the world they represent. This book -- with its title on the cover on a real patch -- is fascinating even if you don't care at all about patches, the military, secret operations...
Jun 03, 2011 Lucas rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A collection of over 70 military patches tied to secret government operations. Some are explained, some are still technically classified and are eerily vague, like the one with an alien's head over a strange symbol with the message written in Latin "Let them hate so long as they fear."

Great little book, highly recommended.
Les Gehman
Mar 13, 2010 Les Gehman rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very short book containing photographs of patches from secret projects and attempts to correlate the patch to particular secret projects. Obviously, there is not a lot to go on here besides conjecture. It's still a very interesting book worth a look.
Thomas Kolodziejczak
I never knew about these patches, so this was a fun book. The author never got into a lot of detail on even a few of the patches though, which is a shame because the patches are quite interesting.
Mar 09, 2008 Holly rated it really liked it
Not a challenge to read or anything, but this was fun. An amateur, not at all professional look at the possible meanings behind black ops badges that the military uses. Fun.
Jan 09, 2011 Courtney rated it it was ok
Mostly joke patches or patches belonging to test and evaluation units. Most if not all patches belong to aerospace projects, and not to infantry or other ground units.
Leonard Pierce
Jun 07, 2008 Leonard Pierce rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Delightful little book about the semiology of patches worn by civilian contractors working on Pentagon "black budget" projects. Alternately funny and disturbing.
Sep 26, 2014 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun
The subject matter of this book really appealed to me. The sense of humor in some of these black program patches is great and the book is a fun, quick read.
May 26, 2010 Daniel rated it it was amazing
learned alot about the hidden meanings of symbols on top secret military project patches and as well as historical now declassified projects.
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Trevor Paglen is an artist, writer, and experimental geographer whose work deliberately blurs lines between social science, contemporary art, journalism, and other disciplines to construct unfamiliar, yet meticulously researched ways to see and interpret the world around us.

Paglen's visual work has been exhibited at Transmediale Festival, Berlin; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Institute of Co
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