These 17 photos from 'The Mirror Test' capture the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in vivid detail

41LhdkwummL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_“Kael Weston’s The Mirror Test is essential reading for anyone seeking to come to terms with our endless wars…. A riveting, on-the- ground look at American policy and its aftermath.” – Phil Klay, author of Redeployment

John Kael Weston spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003-2010) as a State Department political advisor to Marine Corps generals. From Sadr City and Fallujah in Iraq to the Khost and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan, Weston was often the only non-military presence alongside our armed forces.

After returning home, he grappled with the aftermath of these wars. How, and when, will they end? How will they be remembered? And how do we memorialize the American, Iraqi and Afghan lives that have been lost and changed by more than a decade and a half of war, while reckoning with the unpopularity of the conflicts themselves?

In “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Knopf, May 24), Weston recounts his travels from Twentynine Palms in California to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the American hometowns of Marines who fell during his watch. Along the way, he introduces American troops, Iraqi truck drivers, Afghan teachers, imams, mullahs and former Taliban fighters, all while grappling with the larger questions these wars pose.

Hailed as “the conscience of our wars” (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post), Weston weaves together these American, Iraqi and Afghan stories and offers them as a national mirror, asking us to take an unflinching look at these wars and where they leave America today. As he writes, “It’s past time for this kind of shared reckoning … When we look into that mirror, as uncomfortable as it may be, let’s not turn away.”

one

Cpl. Sharadan Reetz (left), 21, from Indianola, Iowa, and Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, 21, from Millingport, N.C., an assaultman and a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, rest next to Blue, an improvised explosive device detection dog, after clearing compounds with Afghan National Army soldiers during Operation Winter Offensive in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

two

Lance Cpl. Tom Morton, a team leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment hands an Afghan child a toy during a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 25, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

3

An Afghan boy petitions Lance Cpl. Christopher Bones, a rifleman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment for candy after receiving a water bottle from another Marine during a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 28, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

4

Cpl. Garrett Carnes (in wheelchair), a squad leader with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, jokes with Sgt. Kenney Clark (right), a fellow India Co. squad leader, during a motivational run on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, May 29, 2012. Carnes lost his legs in an improvised explosive device attack Feb. 19, 2012 while supporting combat operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

5

Lance Cpl. Kyle Niro, a scout sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment places the dog tag of fallen Pfc. Heath D. Warner on a battlefield cross following a memorial run on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, June 1, 2012. The run was held to honor the sacrifices of 116 men from 3rd Marines who died during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Warner, a 19-year-old native of Canton, Ohio, died Nov. 22, 2006, while conducting combat operations with 2/3 in Al Anbar province, Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

6

Lance Cpl. Phil Schiffman, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment waves to Afghan men on a motorcycle after searching them at a vehicle checkpoint in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 28, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

7

A Marine Corps mortuary affairs team using a grappling hook to ensure dead bodies are not booby-trapped, Fallujah. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

8

Marines scanning the irises of Fallujans returning to the city after Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

9

Fallujah city center during Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

10

Marines paying displaced civilians $200 as they return to Fallujah. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

11

Dilawar of Yakubi. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

12

Kuchi (nomad) children along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

13

PRT project, near Pakistan border, Khost. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

14

Memorial for 31 Angels, Anbar, February 2, 2005. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

15

U.S. KIA, Fallujah, 2006–2007. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

16

Gravesite of Brian D. Bland, KIA, Newcastle, Wyoming. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

17

Family home of Nick Palmer, KIA, Leadville, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

See more about “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” here.

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