tv Book Discussion on The Mirror Test CSPAN August 24, 2016 11:56pm-1:07am EDT
former national park service director and brandon, the former house site manager who will oversee the upcoming year-long restoration of the mansion, headquarters and grounds. today, the 100th anniversary of the national park service live from arlington house at 7 p.m. . eastern on american history tv on c-span. now, a former state department official talks about u.s. foreign policy since the 9/11 attacks. kael weston's book is "the mirror test america at war in iraq and afghanistan." he spoke at politics and prose bookstore in washington. >> well, we are very pleased to have with us this evening kael weston, a diplomat who joined the state department shortly after the september 11 attacks and initially was involved in
u.s. efforts at the security council to freeze and block assets linked to al qaeda. but after the invasion of iraq in 2003, he ended up in baghdad among the first american diplomats sent to the iraqi capital. either in iraq or afghanistan advising u.s. forces and working with them, local authorities and others. there's a medal for heroism that wasn't common not only for the amount of time he was posted in iraq and afghanistan, but also for the rage of his contacts and the depth of his involvement with american troops and local civilians. his new book the mirror test
recount his personal journey and provides a close-up for any emotional portrait of the war that america has been engaged in now for well over a decade. he's very critical of america's failures and conflicts and remind us of the tremendous human cost of conflicts of the dead and wounded troops and of the many civilian casualties. it ended in a helicopter crash killing the marines and one navy command. it remains the single largest casualty incident in iraq or afghanistan and one for which he feels personally responsible. he reminds us from the title of the book through to the last
pages how important it is for all of us as citizens to reflect on what this has meant. his work says his own kind of test for americans compelling us to look and come to terms much as a wounded soldier with a disfigured face views the damage after returning from the war. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming kael weston. [applause] ..
state department. of with plague and to think back our readers it is not an easy book or a quick book but people tell me it is a very heavy book i don't think they should be anything other than all of those adjectives. my point is not to do a monologue by will tell you about myself with the real story bios o cleaned toilets at one point that you can work get dairy queen in to represent the united states of america. tel going to the brief structure and then i care and talked to after but now
is the time for people to continue to write about these wars anyone that they fully appreciate me out in the of the literary world and still think the best war books are yet to be written. if you live in iowa over ohio keep on writing because i tell them there's a lot more good right to know their to mention that we all read it. the mir test is a medical term but i will not repeat that but it is the national test is what i representing to the reader some chapters are easier to read than others but bold journey braises the questions that veterans and specialty iraqi
afghan people deserve to think we're not just any country we are a superpower we overstretched below what we do affects millions of lives obvious i am not anti-war by minnesota tie rod warsaw light tried not to preach i try to be honest whether i succeed or fail is up to you. the curtains that i plaque could give me in trouble especially in a capital like cars but because it was an honest obligation. i was in meetings and in rooms that the veterans were not i tried to be fair i tried not to do would drive by book or any be cheap shots but i think by the end we did.
america today what words do you associate with our nation plaques --? i hope they will think about words that will come to mind any word that comes to mind then i ask what words do you think iraqis' zero or afghans don't associate today? are they that same? we'll ask you to see what words do you associate? and then i would be negligent what does memorial day mean to press the theme
of the book is somewhat complicated white a tapestry by editor and publisher were good bad looks certain way from the far distance and to think about how to write the book complex but readable. it has been 15 years since about 9/11 to think a lot of the warriors got started or how they were fought with that they are still ongoing
i write about things in afghanistan we could feel good about. even though the mayor is cracked. the u.s. power is not the same as influenced you can be powerful but not to influential and those just because you carry a rifle doesn't mean you get your way. but accountability has not led to enough personal or national accountability. but at a time of ongoing warfare and are we doing our job to hold people
accountable? is about reflections of course, my story and my journey but then for our education the value keyboard is that you lead to your other voices speak so by the end of the book i hope you actually learn something and a big part of the audience was students not because i think my book should automatically be assigned but to try to write a book from a student on in the 11 resident teenager or yogurt or the state department because that is all they have known it is iraq and afghanistan the final phase
i will point out this is not us versus them but the instinct is to tell our stories and there has been some good books but my booktv tries to why didn't to meet marines and soldiers and to gather that is the most accurate we can have on the war. in terms of the political and military side of the issue of the fact i have military friends here will attest to the factory did our best. and the tribal well but dash warfare that goes on
undercut us on the ground. >> it is sent us verses them . the people's home front as we read books we should keep that in mind. isn't a picture about but is is a part of the reading experience. with that great team in new york held me go through and then to use three or four department of defense photos. and like all of bill and
but that is the off hardest part of what happens with a humanitarian saturation all at once with bodies on the street and have a deal with that? if those of the department of defense photo whether it is called the hands interrogation or tortured that motivated the five-year project. we get lost in the paper shuffle of what does indians interrogation been? my dad was in the army spending most of the time with the united states marine corps. and at a time along this war in american history has gone on and on.
pet what i will quickly mention i went to the edge george w. bush presidential library and how a president memorializes his own commander in chief. i went there after i left but with that subject in the time of war brings out the worst of the american character. and then ground zero. i feel like little bit of that story.
start and end in america. as a great read but then we looked at the 9/11 boreal together allow me to put things into perspective. i opted not to read part of my book because he did great job to talk about playbook that he began lossy angeles was incredible to go through the audio. i was a very good hands what words to you associate with the united states collects raise your hand.
that work. the worst battle of the work there are still some experiences of positive things. so that indictment would have been easier book to write but i tried to be pretty balanced. i think we have about 40 minutes be. >> somehow does not seem right. >> [inaudible] >> talk about those that was not right for those veterans >> offbeat than millions the
years that served over hundreds of years? what else? >> >> for you it is a very personal family member. i also wrote about my family member. anybody else take a shot at what memorial day means? >> the cemetery of normandy that cherokee iowa i end of the chapter to signal their are few nations in the world of military overseas that is to the power of the
influence equation it talks to the string bass well when neil armstrong passed away. because i did not hear about his death from any american. i have friends and family that my dad was in vietnam. but now busey the drones and then the moon so what star retelling to the world? it means accountability and responsibility. but the commander in chief.
be just because we are six months out from the presidential election, visiting killed then action from iraq for afghanistan and out in colorado and utah were i was before now, it is amazing the other veterans you will see from korea or world war one or world war ii that chart kia that we don't have a memorial for on global. behalf available global morial the national memorial / have a chapter i walk you through the national mall. but this is just me been talking about memorial day.
let me use his book is one of the most important parts but i was like to open that up not just hearing the former state department perspective. those who truly are in the hardest parts of the war. so please come up. as a soldier in the army he will be pretty bland. dave has the story and they try not to hold that against samper co.
but he is a civilian. >> s story from the book my favorite but if you prefer something else greg. >> i will tell you one story from the book. i know why you picked that. but bob -- the story and the book is when that collaboration is an called partnership but it is called collaboration for reason. been so what we tried to do is show the iraqis that
people that stood with us. and then to collaborate with us. and what those successes were. to make a tough decision and added time and just to picture that you have them under age and underdressed to say please help us then you have the henchmen trying to strangle you behind closed doors. untouchable but not forever. but what is a special lead
tragic i put myself in that category. but to see all the special operations forces. and by book gets into that i hope i am fair and honest. but the accumulated defect we made it a lot more dangerous to the point where the ambassador asked me who killed them and i said we did. but there are faces then stories throw cold book. and the stories that have been the bad -- demanded is the iraqi and the afghan stories.
but now i will open this to all of the assembly's come up with the maker from. >> i am old enough to be your mother i was married to a activists and i became a position at the naval hospital by retired recently so i know lots of marines coming from the war. my question it appears as soon as we got into iraq nobody knows who was there or their history. value were in in the state department of long time ago. they don't know what is going on.
it is not a good idea to support the unpopular government. i remember taking tea 24 the third time? bond dash falujah for the third time? so what did you hear? did they know what they we're doing? >> read my next book i will tackle some of those questions. to make connections in vietnam. when richard holbrooke was criticized a think that was
unfortunate. we did not know lot. i did not know lot i am not just here to point fingers that my government they could have fired me bet i have to go back to 9/11 and we were fearful. and what was it that fdr said? fear can become what makes us do things we wouldn't ordinarily do. and at the height of our power economically and with the american buying and and richard holbrooke was on the
supporting was the bigger problem and i will end with this chapter that was the hardest for me to do is when the senators talk and the question about the military together. i also felt for our veterans and families they are owed an insight into members of congress particularly that come to the war zone, some of whom voted for the war and others against. what they actually do and what they actually say. >> i have to be honest they at least showed up because a lot of the colleagues didn't show up. so that part of the book required multiple edits because i didn't want it to be what i easily could have written which is the most ridiculous things we heard in the conference room that i focus on the congressman raising dental readiness.
revenge on the -- then john warner. and whether republican or democrat older generation coming younger generation or not. john warner comes across a. also the learning curve because they represented in my mind someone who understood when the iraq war wasn't going well he didn't just shut his mouth and i know the bush white house was very worried when john warner started to say timeouts so i will point you to that chapter. but afterwards i hope we have time because you have some questions. did we learn anything from the
affection for this man i served as a marine with another in the back. we served together and there was this unusual fellow that i saw on the military base who kept getting excluded. occasionally he would threaten to remind people the state department was the lead agency and then he would smile because he wasn't fit to be fair but he wathere but hewas trained to ine perspectives from the lowest level as it's doing now and i worked with him in afghanistan as well. >> it's a good thing i have no problem speaking in front of people because i wasn't supposed
to be doing this at this time. i met him going to school at utah state one of his former associates was my professor who came out to speak and he was talking about shenanigans we had in the middle east for lack of a better term. we talked afterwards and i kept a journal when i was in iraq. depending on the mission i wouldn't keep it for various reasons but i was involved in a mission he was writing about took place. i had no idea at the time.
it was an e-mail sent to him a couple years ago at this point and -- >> tell about the gerbil. >> i wrote about whatever was happening. i was young when i enlisted and i've never been to the war before so i thought whatever i will write about it. i've never gone through and reread it. it's sitting on the computer on my hard drive. the only parts i revisited is picking out parts to send to him and when he sent me a copy of
the book a few weeks ago so there was no plan. you can see there is no attempt to keep the grammar of the language clean or anything like that. he will probably have to read through it a couple of times. the writing is what i consider to be pure in wanting to make it more perfect. but i think it really highlights the world war will never get into the books. his journal is the war. what makes it powerful is the grammar and spelling. are you sure you don't want to change that?
no, he's explaining what daily life is like and that's what makes the book so powerful and proceeds to family and friends talk about the reckoning that will last as long as i live and the decision i would take back as long as i could in an instant i can't. there are family and this online humanizing the troops and their sons and brothers who were killed in a helicopter crash. there is a reflection going on and he was kind enough to let me use it and sell a few books and hopefully do you want to come up and introduce yourself as well >> we have held much more time? >> i've known him since 2004 even though he doesn't remember the first meeting we met in
falluja when we had the first city council meeting we tried to bring back together the tribal leaders and city officials that wanted to come back after we finished doing what needed to be done at the time where we needed to begin rebuilding and bringing everybody back. they said in 2006 you don't know volusia until -- for every year that you are in falluja you don't know what's going on so i think that is pretty accurate. can i say that on c-span?
it's entirely accurate and it didn't matter how many books you've read if you understood the history of iraq going back to the 1920s and even before that there's post-world war i but at the same time they know it's a going on for the other individuals that were collaborators. >> if there were one they came to love the most it's not me it is dave meadows and shows you the value of an american in uniform where they spoke the language and my first impression
wasn't very good. i made up for it in other ways maybe that's my first impression wasn't what the state department should be doing working with colonels and generals. i told another story to the captain in eastern afghanistan. when i got there, one of the most difficult districts could basically saying who is this but there's a reason why he was legendary in eastern afghanistan they said bring him back and wherever he is bring him back because i could see how one had such a positive effect.
>> alex did some things in falluja because he's humble. before the potato factory, alex with the civil affairs team had to deal with the bodies and that was even more difficult than would have and later. so he is mostly humble but he will never tell you that it was critical at that time and i would add on the civil affairs side booths are perceived as being trigger pullers and then there's also the marine in the civil affairs officer or civil affairs nco. a lot of my work involved both sides, the company commanders as well as the officers. i think it is the cleanest that
i've come across it again for all the people watching if you are a veteran living in iowa or illinois, pull out your original journals because i think all have translated into tremendous overtime. are there questions? >> you should come up here. >> it's not what people expect of a state department political adviser, not now and not then.
he was a peculiar animal who was adopted by this tribe. he is unashamed of that but i never thought he was co-opted and never thought he wanted to be a marine. my question to you how did you do that. he would walk into a room and three-star generals would ask them what to do. give us some pointers into that please. >> stick around and if you get to know the neighborhood i think the value of spending as much time as some of us did and believe me i'm not the only one who did this. there were people in the state department who done incredible
work. it's important on the front end to play games. it's by the quality of the generals you have and they were not behind closed hours plotting to kill everyone they had the answers. we were all trying to reach the best implementation we could and i won't name this general but i will remember the general said we don't do this, do we come to just invade countries because we
can? i felt part of these evolved to win the war, fight the war and then come back and tell us how it's going. so the question about the role i come back from the military and deal policies should match the sacrifice. the advantage of being on the ground is that you're all being shot at together and they tend to be the most difficult areas. whether you are a commanding general or corporal, we all have the same objective to try to make them less awful. i think the people in washington have their own challenges and i shouldn't minimize that, but i would rather have been in the
town hall because they didn't know what the state department was. but there were a lot of good team members who fought these faraway. >> what are the lessons that should be applied to the conflict now? >> what lessons could be applied to the challenge of the islamic state that is a topic for another book but it's a good question the cost for the iraqi and afghan people goes on and we open the paper and hear on the news they haven't ended into someone should record it is in falluja. people did not play well together in the capital and
there've been other books that have explored those things. from my perspective i would go back to what carter did in his book which is through the people on the ground that we were partnering with and i think that the arrogance was not too great for us and i think the biggest lesson is we need to invest in those relationships and to show them the american power is not this. it's more a fa more of an endurn the partnership and present and i think we have reached that point in afghanistan to the credit he's acknowledged he's not going to end the longest war in history and the second term and i think that's a very important lesson because the instinct in washington is to say
the war is kind of over when it's really not. i also think it goes to the representative in falluja if you speak half as often your partners will tell you what you need to know and i think that carter more than anyone showed that. i was bad because i couldn't even speak their language, so i was always being filtered and then i think the final point i would say with the islamic state is that the sunnis, and i will narrow it down to part of the map i believe we will partner with the terrorists if they have no future in the country and said, the iraq he government had some concerns about the population.
so my argument to the ambassador at the time is we need anchors in the region just as around the world and i think we are may be starting to put anchors of it more deeply into those that are not over. >> the military family back to my family and there were a lot of them. over a long life bears the inability to notice what happened in the past when we starting to see a non, korea. it seems to be some of these people were at the law school
but they don't seem to notice that something went on and is there any way from your experience you can suggest we look over our shoulder at that point? >> coming from a military background why have we forgotten so much, why is the amnesia automatic? i majored in history. i'm a big believer in reading the roll material and the stories. i will go back to what happened on 9/11 is enable 9/11 it enablk decisions to happen when the checks and balances were out of whack.
i think that when we were struck certain agendas have an ability to get traction. there were top weighing the governance so that learning curve is still there but it took a long time to get there. i think washington is always a short-term place. the cycle of elections and mon money. it's a long-term challenge in buildinandbuilding partnershipse carter did take time in his little district.
we were never prepared to think long-term because the incentives were short-term. i think they are surge, spend a ton of money, say we are getting out and hand it off. the last part and i should have put it in the chapter is the transfer we were focused on here it's all yours without remembering we invaded not because we were asked that we did. so what's not to use the marathon muscles which are different than that which muscles. >> i'm curious part of the intervention with the military and the development you hear some good things about that and
tremendous waste. >> the question is on the political diplomatic resources and tools these gentlemen represent and defend the development type of work. what we have in the toolbox is the state department like an army soldier is what they told me we want to see the development projects that the money is well-suited for. the problem is it was still active combat zones.
i think we've are always hoping that it didn't require infantry battalions and a division. people forget we had a division headquarters and marine expeditionary headquarters at once. we have to start generals and three-star commanding generals because the force level was so high. they only had me. when the ambassador sent me off he said two things as a legendary diplomat my boss in new york he said remember when you meet the generals told them you work for me and i know why he now said that, the generals used to say they want to choose or direct me in places but he said you are through the
political counselor and then the other thing he said is the careful because in vietnam just like when holbrook was there they were able to get out and about contrary to what's going on in iraq so to the final point, they were getting worse over time, generally speaking of getting better and for the development arm you don't want to be bear hugging the military. one final thing we spend $53 million give or take under dave adams they did an incredible job. $53 million went quite far. of all the schools we've built i want to estimate and put it in the book about half are still functioning which isn't bad.
it's more bang for the buck. the best we have spent his $5,000. of those $5,000 to basically provide taxi fare for the students all across the province to come down from the mountains and go to the host university. make sure the drivers drop them off at the universitie universik them back that was $5,000. it's trying to be one wa lawyere than start. as they get more gray hair i can relate to that. >> it sounds like you did the best you could over there.
i was taken by this one that shows the cereal bowl on display at the white house with a bunch of badges and bracelets. >> you were the first person to ask me about the bush museum photos. i can talk a walk about how we y manage which for those caught in. i went to the museum and saw what i saw. barney was the presidential dog when a city had the annual correspondents dinner and i was in iraq at the time and it made me sick. i was watching the powers that
be. when i went to texas, i didn't know what i was going to see it again, if i succeed in the book it will be i'm trying to measure what i'm doing as a guide. when i got to the main hall there are different cabinets, some gifts from the asian people, so the american people and one covenant entitled gifts from the american people and these other items president george w. bush and perhaps the first lady laura bush decided to put in the cabinet and it did strike me as a hard thing to s see. that's for him to answer. i also want to say president george bush fear was rampant after 9/11 what did he say about muslim americans?
fighters or locals and the potato factory is describing how the marine corps came to terms with what was very challenging after they'd dealt with in the immediate hours. the potential factory i am being asked a lot about to focus on those in midges and rightly so. but the horrors of warhol -- of war are more where i served by we are finished and i appreciate the panel members sharing part of your stories and also i appreciate you for taking time tonight. i have two of my own here and i know politics & prose
does these defense because we all believe in the power of books and also the power where we buy our bucks i am not anti-amazon that while we support the goliath we can also support the david. [applause] >> now you know why he is such a great diplomat last laugh. [laughter] speefive. > imagine and wonder racial
to go get it back cigarettes of u.s. pulls up behind him and he pulls out his pistol orders and into the backseat of the car and he knows if he gets in the car what will happen in black man alabama you know, . >> i am a multiple reader and so sometimes i will finish a book in one sitting but more often and then not for example, what but that i finished reading a short time ago is this great book.