The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Mirror Test America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan 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 questions about America s wars in Iraq and Afghanist

  • Title: The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Author: J. Kael Weston
  • ISBN: 9780385351126
  • Page: 160
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 questions about America s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan J Kael Weston spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan working for the State Department The U.S government sent him to some of the most dangerous frontliA 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 questions about America s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan J Kael Weston spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan working for the State Department The U.S 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 end How will they be remembered and memorialized What lessons can we learn from them Questions with no quick answers, but perhaps ones that might lead to a shared reckoning worthy 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 Iraq, 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, Iraqi 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 title 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 Iraqi, 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 Iraq 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 itself.

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    1 thought on “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan”

    1. The mood that is presented in J. Kael Weston’s powerful new book, THE MIRROR TEST: AMERICA AT WAR IN IRAQ 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, [...]

    2. J. Kael Weston spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan working for the State Department. He saw up close and personal what it cost; the U.S. lack of national policy has cost our country in terms of treasure, international standing and most of all in lives. Iraqi lives, Afghan lives and our brave service members. This is an accounting of his experiences and a plea to evaluate and remember the longest war. Do we recognize the country that we have become? And how does the world see [...]

    3. Some books you read are mirrors, causing you to reflect. Some are windows into other worlds, cultures, time periods. This book is both. In its capacity as a window, the book offers readers a view of Afghanistan and Iraq at war as seen through the eyes of a U.S. State Department official: battlefields, forward operating bases, a civilian help center, a potato factory turned morgue, meetings with tribal leaders, in convoys, across deserts, in schools, homes. Weston spent seven consecutive years th [...]

    4. 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 Iraq 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 Iraq for? What sort of meaning can [...]

    5. DIdn't like this book quite as much as I expected. It's an account by a State Department official who served in Iraq and Afghanistan for a total of 7 years. There are a lot of remarkable moments and anecdotes in this book, but there's also an excessive amount of reckoning about America's actions in the past 15 years and griping about politicians and generals. The book could have been a lot tighter. He also develops a number of points about these conflicts to about 40% of an argument. I would hav [...]

    6. A Deeply felt, sincere account of war time in Iraq & Afghanistan. Detailed and intense with subtleties that had me rereading passages several times. A scathing review of our nation's foreign policy with both parties subject to fair criticism. A difficult but enlightening read.

    7. An eloquent and heartfelt memoir of a diplomat turned warrior. And a humble warrior who is dismissive of his work and deeds. Weston served as the Department of State (DOS) rep in some of the most violent places in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not the typical posting for a young DOS employee. He interfaced with the big decision makers as well as the lance corporal on patrol and the average Afghan or Iraqi. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to make it better. His decisions led to the deaths of th [...]

    8. The Mirror Test is different from other current "war" books. Based upon Kael Weston's seven consecutive years served mostly in front-line environments while attached as a State Department Representative to Marine Infantry units, he brings a wealth of first hand experience. Mr. Weston's strategic placement and duration of service offers a depth of experiences available to no other author. He deals almost daily with decision makers representing both sides of the wars Marine generals, Iraqi & [...]

    9. A solid first hand account of a diplomat working on the battlefronts of Iraq and Afghanistan. He gives us great detail and a sense of place of the quagmires of both countries' struggle between American soldiers and their enemies. His criticism of American policy and strategy is based on his experience, but lacks a sense of history. He worked closely with Iraqi and Afghan troops and leaders, yet I gained little insight into their perspectives and desires for their country. The writer never learne [...]

    10. A new view of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Mirror Test offers a view of the wars from a diplomat’s view rather than a military view. The author, Weston, identifies the Iraq War as the "wrong war," (a construct of the Bush administration), and the Afghanistan War, the "right war," where the Taliban really existed and were (are) trained. He suggests that Al Qaida and Taliban forces were not largely in Iraq prior to the War there. A good read, especially for those of us who have read the [...]

    11. Wow. Everyone in this country should read this book. Now. I saw the author speak on c-span and wanted to learn more and ordered the book. I was blown away by the writing and experiences that he had and how he was able to incorporate so many points of view on the countries, the wars, the local people and their struggles, as well as local Americans and military families. Absolutely outstanding.

    12. This book wasn't bad, but it was disappointing. Weston worked for the State Department - but he wasn't based in an office in Washington DC. He spent the better part of a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even in those places, he was often in the worst spots - for example spending three years as the State Department's only representative in Fallujah. He opposed the war in Iraq, but felt it was his duty to serve to try to make it work. He supported the war in Afghanistan. The book's sections on thes [...]

    13. While serving as a State Department adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan, J. Kael Weston instigated a military mission that resulted the death of 31 service members. His memoir revisits the tragedy of war along with many other tragedies. It is a memoir, "The Mirror Test," hoping that we the readers will take a look at ourselves in the mirror of our collective actions and inactions regarding these 2 wars. Weston served seven consecutive years as a State Department adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan. He r [...]

    14. Fact#1: I am not a US Citizen neither am I Afghan or Iraqui Fact#2: I live and always lived in Central AmericaFact#3: Im not a big non fiction readerWhy those facts? I put them here because If one of those were the contraire I would be a logical and potential reader of «The Mirror Test». As it is not the case, I have to say marvelous situations brought me to this book, so I bought an e-copy from and started it.J. Kael Weston wrote a marvelous book, the book is divided in three big sections an [...]

    15. This isn't an easy book to read, for both it's subject matter and the writing style. I'm glad I read it, there is lots of information about these wars. The author feels that the Iraq was is the wrong war and the Afghani war is the right war. I'm not sure I agree with him on the latter. The book probably should have been edited more, but still worth it.

    16. The Mirror Test offers a "fly on the wall/fly buzzing around the RPGs" view of America's two longest wars, the War in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, from the author J. Kael Weston, who served in the United States State Department as a field operative in both Iraq (Anbar Province, Fallujah) and Afghanistan. Weston does not hide his opinion that the War in Afghanistan, justified, suffered from lack of attention from the American policymakers and public and, therefore, strategic miscalcul [...]

    17. This is part enduring memoir of a State Department official on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and part polemic against what he believes were the wrong decisions he had to live with and sometimes in force. In spite of the persistence of the latter, the warmth of the former comes to the foreground. The author's positive regard for the people he meets outweighs his political distaste and makes this definitely worth reading.

    18. A must-read for any veteran. The years Kael Weston committed to his nation in combat and the love and relationships he developed with Marines, Soldiers, and locals he worked with is a story worth your time.

    19. Over the past few weeks it has become unambiguously clear to me that I need to revisit military and geopolitical issues related to Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, China - and perhaps other areas. It is likely that there will be new and vigorous discussions of these areas before long. The trouble in finding good books on these issues, especially military issues, is the difficulty in finding authors with the necessary perspectives. I have not had experience in combat, nor am I likely to ever have any. [...]

    20. An important insight into the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Mirror Test is not an easy read. While humor colors some of the stories, much of what J. Kael Weston has to say is stuff we'd rather not know. Some of it, in fact, is horrifying. I would argue that average citizens NEED to know what war is really like, however, if we are going to hold politicians accountable for being judicious in the use of force around the world. Take your time reading The Mirror Test. Give yourself time [...]

    21. The book's name draws from when a soldier has returned from war and has sustained a grievous wound to the face. Perhaps one of the most important moments in the recovery process is when this soldier must look in the mirror and come to terms with what he or she sees.When America looks in the mirror after a decade and a half in both Iraq and Afghanistan, what does it see? This brutally honest State Department attache's account confronts all the ugliness of these wars. Not only did the book provide [...]

    22. A fascinating look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of a State Department official deployed to both locations (many forget that other government agencies deploy as well, not just the military.) Having read many memoirs from the perspective of the members of various military members, it was very refreshing to read from the perspective of a civilian working to rebuild the two nations after major military actions had already transpired. Mr. Weston offers his unfiltered opini [...]

    23. Hands down, one of the most surreal, sobering, human accounts of two wars gone terribly wrong. This story isn't missing the gruesome details and terrifying isolation that often accompanies war-from children being blown to pieces by IEDs, to the hundreds of thousands of marooned Iraqi and Afghanistani people who became the byproduct of two poorly managed and executed wars. Kael, a civil diplomat between two wars, for a total combined time of seven years doesn't fall short in delivering a critical [...]

    24. I appreciated the author's willingness to contribute to the crucial conversation of "why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?"Extremely detailed narrative of his experiences "on the ground" for about 10 years with the Marines.Thought provoking, and I feel that it has earned a place among some of the best books written thus far on this issue.

    25. This was an exceptional war report/story. The author put you at the scene in Iraq and Afghanistan; adding insight and commentary regarding the politics of war - and the sad loss of life - for?

    26. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Truly powerful and wonderfully written. Just read it.

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