REVIEW ↠ The Mirror Test

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A powerfully written firsthand account of the human costs of conflict The Mirror Test asks that we as a nation look in the mirror and address hard uestions about America's wars in Ira and Afghanistan J Kael Weston spent seven years on the ground in Ira and Afghanistan working for the State Department The US government sent him to some of the most dangerous frontline locations Upon his return home traveling the country to pay respect to the killed and wounded he asked himself How and when will these wars The Mirror Kindle end How will they be remembered and memorialized What lessons can we learn from them uestions with no uick answers but perhaps ones that might lead to a shared reckoning. The mood that is presented in J Kael Weston’s powerful new book THE MIRROR TEST AMERICA AT WAR IN IRA AND AFGHANISTAN is one of horror empathy skepticism anger and little hope that the American government has learned its lessons in dealing with cultures that are in many ways the antithesis of our own Weston immediately explains how he arrived at the title THE MIRROR TEST by describing the reaction of an American Marine who is unwrapping his bandages following a horrific burn injury and is looking at himself in a mirror for the first time For Weston the American people should look at themselves in the mirror as they have supported in one way or another fifteen years of war since 911 Weston was a State Department official who served over seven years in some of the most dangerous spots for a “diplomat” in Ira and Afghanistan The majority of his time was spent in Fallujah in Anbar province in Ira the remainder in Khost and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan Because of the calamitous injuries suffered by US Marines the author has witnessed he finally comes to the realization that he has seen too much Our country has demanded so much from so few and it seems that we as a people have forgotten about the sacrifices these men and women have made In the latter part of the narrative Weston describes his journey throughout the United States as he tries to visit the families memorials and grave sites of the thirty one soldiers who perished in a helicopter crash on January 26 2005 in the Anbar Desert an operation that the author orderedWeston who worked at the United Nations as part of the American delegation volunteered to serve in Ira even though he opposed the war He became a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority whose job was to oversee the occupation of Ira From the beginning Weston believed the United States was in over its head and thirteen years later that belief has not changed He describes the invasion of Ira as “mission impossible” due to our ignorance and unrealistic expectations Weston believed it was important to go beyond the “Green Zone” and learn the truth about Ira and its people Working with Irai truckers who had their uniue version of “teamsters;” visiting schools Madrassas Irai religious leaders and the homes of Irai citizens where he gained insights and knowledge that made him one of the most respected and knowledgeable Americans in the country Weston observed an “imperialistic disconnect” between the local populations and Americans that has not changed since the war’s outsetWeston integrates the history of the war that has been repeated elsewhere by numerous journalists and historians but what separates his account is how he intersperses his personal experiences relationships and evaluation of events as the narrative progresses He has done a great deal of research in formulating his opinions and provides numerous vignettes throughout the book One of the most interesting was the discussion of the Jewish Academy that existed in Fallujah the Sunni stronghold where the Talmud was supposedly written during the Babylonian era As the book evolves the reader acuires the “feel of war” that existed in Anbar and all the areas that Weston was posted For Weston American policymakers should have followed the advice of the Chinese general military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu who wrote in ART OF WAR; “In the art of war the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy is not good” It has been proven that Donald Rumsfeld Dick Cheney and the rest of Bush’s cadre of neocons never took into account the opinions of others who had greater experience in war and the Middle East region in generalWeston describes the malfeasance that highlights US policies in Ira and Afghanistan a malfeasance that US Marines had to work around and for many pay with their lives Weston touches on things that most writers do not ie his interactions and the role of Mortuary Affairs crews; visits to the “potato factory” or mortuary building; coping methods of people who worked there; accompanying Marines on body recovery missions and dealing with booby trapped bodies; and dealing with the burial process that would assuage Irai religious beliefs Weston includes the names and hometowns of each Marine that have been killed in Ira that he was aware of What is abundantly clear in presenting these lists is that the majority of American casualties were in there early twenties and where from small town across America the towns that bore the uneual burden of these wars Weston is extremely perceptive in his views and they explain why we will never be successful in Ira and Afghanistan First by keeping ourselves separate from the Irai people we make enemies Second the perception we give off is that our lives are deemed valuable than theirs Our way of dealing with a crisis be it collateral damage errors or just plain stupidity on the part of military planners is to pay the aggrieved families money – we even had a scale of what a life was worth – at times 2000 per life or 6000 referred to as “martyr payments”Weston’s approach in Ira and Afghanistan was very hands on and taking risks that he felt would enhance America’s relationship with local people Whether dealing with poor villagers Imans or Mullahs Islamic students Taliban leaders regional officials warlords and any group or person deemed important Weston’s approach was “out of the box” and designed to further trust and reduce tensions surrounding the US presence He worked hard to alter the views of the locals that the United States was out to take over the Muslim world For example he recommended increased funding for Madrassas students which he hoped would stem the flow of students into northwest Pakistan were they would be further radicalized In many cases these were dangerous missions that military officials opposed What drove Weston to distraction was the disconnect between regular Marines and US Special Forces who could conduct operations that detracted from what the Marines were trying to achieve with no accountability Two good examples were the kidnapping of Sara al Jumaili that led to the murder of one of Weston’s allies Sheik Hamza with no explanation or accountability on the part of the Special Forces; and the torturing to death of Dilwar of Yakubi in Bagram prison Unlike visiting politicians who dropped in for a photo op ie former Senators Jon Kyle Arizona and Sam Brownback Kansas or Senator Mitch McConnell Kentucky who the author singles out Weston believed in laying the groundwork of trust to establish working relationships that would be so important for any success but the actions of others created to many road blocks Weston presents a number of individuals who cooperated with his work many of whom would be killed by al aeda extremists in Fallujah and the Taliban in Helmand provinceWhen Weston leaves Fallujah after three years and moves on to Khost and Helmand in Afghanistan he is suffering from a crisis of confidence When people approach him and ask “did you kill anyone” He knows he did not do so physically but he is fully cognizant that a number of his policy decisions led to the deaths of many Irais and Americans Weston learned that “the wrong words could be dangerous to human life than rounds fired from rifles” Perhaps the war would have gone differently had Washington policymakers asked the same uestion did you kill anyone” Weston worked to get ex Taliban leaders to support the Kabul government and reintegrate former Taliban fighters back into Afghan society This was almost impossible with the attitude and corruption that existed in Kabul From Weston’s perspective President Obama’s “surge” policy in 2010 was another example of wasting America’s resources as it was bound to fail For Weston the name of Thomas Ricks’ book FIASCO is the best way to sum up what occurred and is still reoccurring in Ira and AfghanistanWeston tells many heart rendering stories His chapter dealing with “dignified transfers” describing how American bodies were gathered prepared and shipped back to the United States is eye opening His recounting of stories concerning the reuniting of wounded veterans with their service dogs is touching Presenting amputee veterans skiing in the Sierras provides hope Operation Mend a private program to assist disfigured Marines needs further support His meetings with families as he travels across the United States is a form of personal therapy once he returns from the region for good Weston writes with a degree of sincerity that is missing in many other accounts of the war His approach allows the reader to get to know his subjects at times intimately as he shares their life stories in a warm and positive manner particularly during his travels visiting the families of those who have fallen overseas and those families whose offspring have had difficulty readapting to civilian life after returning home Despite the gravity of Weston’s topic he maintains a sense of humorous sarcasm throughout the book My favorite is his summary of his visit to the George W Bush Presidential Library where his narration of the exhibits that discuss the war in Ira are seen through the lens of his five and half years in Baghdad and Fallujah the other year and a half were spent in Khost and Helmand These are just a few of the many topics that Weston explores that should make this book reuired reading for anyone who has studied US foreign policy during the last fifteen years and who will make policy in the future

CHARACTERS The Mirror Test

The Mirror TestItle is taken centers on soldiers who have received a grievous wound to the face There is a moment during their recovery when they must look upon their reconstructed appearance for the first time This is known as the mirror test Here like grains of sand Weston gathers these voices and stories Irai Afghan and American and polishes them into a sheet of glass one he offers to us as a national mirror What Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie did for Vietnam The Mirror Test does for Ira and Afghanistan An unflinching and deep examination of the interplay between warfare and diplomacy it is an essential book a crucial look at America now how it is viewed in the world and how the nation views itsel. A frustrating safe book Frankly by 2016 it wasn't all that shocking to say the Ira War was a bad idea and to hear that American hubris was largely to blame for its failure The book does alright through talking with people about their experiences what makes this frustrating is that this meandering self congratulatory book desperately needed a editor and a compass The first two thirds of the book are worth reading but by 2016 there's nothing new here the last third feels like it was a way to write off some travel expenses as the author traveled around America and decided to or less go off on tangents wherein the voice gets weirdly regaled with trivia about say Leadville Colorado while pointing out he got a medal but he's no hero this is the second book I've read where someone attached to a Marine Corps unit writes in a way approximating that they were in the Marine Corps The Silence of War was another and gushing creepily about the Marine Corps

J. Kael Weston ç 9 REVIEW

REVIEW ↠ The Mirror Test ´ ➲ [Read] ➭ The Mirror Test By J. Kael Weston ➽ – Gym-apparel.co.uk A powerfully written firsthand account of the human costs of conflict The Mirror Test asks that we as a nation look in the mirror and address hard uestions about America's wars in Ira and Afghanistan A powerfully written firsthand accWorthy of the sacrifices of those troops and civilians alike whose lives have been changed by than a decade and a half of war With a novelist's eye Weston takes us from Twenty Nine Palms in California to Fallujah in Ira Khost to Helmand in Afghanistan Maryland to Colorado Wyoming to New York City as well as to out of the way places in Iowa and Texas We meet generals corporals and captains senators and ambassadors NATO allies Irai truck drivers city councils imams and mullahs Afghan schoolteachers madrassa and college students former Taliban fighters and ex Guantanamo Prison detainees a torture victim SEAL and Delta Force teams and many Marines The overall frame for the book from which the t. Almost 16 years after they started America has yet to have any kind of reckoning with its wars in the Greater Middle East particularly the invasions of Ira and Afghanistan In part this is because the wars are still raging despite the fact that most people have tuned them out But it is also because it is hard to think of a way to fit these conflicts within a comforting national mythos What were any of these wars for What in particular what was the war in Ira for What sort of meaning can be taken out so much unimaginable suffering and destruction that has given no clear benefit to anyone including AmericansKael Weston was a State Department official who served seven straight years in both wars embedded on the front lines of Anbar Province in Ira and Khost in Afghanistan The books that he's written about this time is one of the best books I've read about war generally and undoubtedly the best I've read about America's current conflicts Unlike a lot of American military writers Weston actually cares about the perspective of the Irais and Afghans and includes them as eual parts of the human drama of the war never failing to mention that they have suffered and continue to suffer most of all He also is a sincere admirer of the US forces he is embedded with many of whom tried to live up American ideals despite their young ages and difficult circumstances Weston is generous and compassionate towards all those he writes about and seems genuinely tormented by the suffering of both the civilians he befriended as well as the soldiers he embedded with As a State Department civilian he did not carry a gun but needed as much luck as any soldier to survive living on the frontlines in Fallujah and Khost and being shot at nearly everyday His book is remarkably humane and the only hatred he expresses is reserved for the neoconservatives and Bush administration officials whom he blames for destroying the lives of millions as a result of these conflicts His recollection of being unable to answer Irais again and again when they asked him 'what Ira had to do with 911' seemed to have planted the seed of this anger as well as the unnecessary suffering he saw on all sides along with thatThe writing in the book is very heartfelt and compelling and I breezed through the 500 pages in just a few days But part of this was also due to the author himself who comes across as a very admirable and fair minded person Weston is a sincere believer in America's professed higher values and is also painfully aware of the crimes that have caused cracks in the mirror of America's sense of self His writing provides invaluable firsthand reporting from his time as a political officer embedded in Fallujah and Khost and gives a voice to the local people and individual soldiers whose stories are rarely mentioned in the larger histories of the wars His deep admiration for the US Marine Corps was uite moving and made me want to learn about the Marines as well He is a real humanitarian which is rare There have been many wars in modern history including many that have been bloodier than Ira and Afghanistan But what is uniuely painful about these conflicts is that so few people in America seem to even care or notice what is going on nor do they notice much the suffering of others over the past decade or even their own countrymen who served as soldiers As such Americans are generally mystified about where ISIS or Donald Trump came from not bothering to see the connection between reckless and cruel events in the past that have not ended and their current malaise In this book Weston holds up the mirror to the United States over these wars In doing so he helps provide the first step towards an honest and accurate reflection on everything that has been wrought over the past decade and a half good and bad The resulting book is a really uniue accomplishment one of the most heroic pieces of firsthand writing I've ever read I sincerely believe that if there were Americans like Weston who sincerely believed in their national ideals and strove to live up to them things would have ended up so terribly over the past few years