Collateral America

The Mirror Test is John Kael Weston’s testament and witness to seven years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Weston worked as a State Department political officer alongside U.S. Marines and Army soldiers in some of the most dangerous areas of both countries, advising—and sometimes overruling—American military commanders in what became political nation-building operations growing out of George W. Bush’s “War on Terror,” by definition an endless war.  Weston admired and identified with the troops he worked alongside, sharing their often harsh living conditions and always dangerous duty, dodging sniper rounds, suicide bombers, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mourning the loss of friends—American, Iraqi, and Afghan—and growing disillusioned with both “the wrong war” in Iraq and the conduct of “the right war” in Afghanistan.  In Fallujah, Iraq, he watched a city be destroyed in order to save it.  In Khost Province, Afghanistan, he worked earnestly to win “hearts and minds” (with libraries, education, medical aid, and other nation-building programs) among a people he was sometimes unsure wanted American “help.”

At the end of the book, Weston’s “mirror test”—asking whether the conduct of those wars (drone strikes, torture as official policy, rendition, “black sites,” warrantless...

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