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 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 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 more 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. Download and start listening now!