Conflict & Justice

Iraq in Retrospect: Kevin Powers' Novel 'The Yellow Birds'

The slim work of fiction, "The Yellow Birds" by author Kevin Powers is showing up on lots of "Best of 2012"³ book lists.

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Like the narrator of his story, Powers was a soldier in Iraq. He served in the US Army in 2004 and 2005, in Tal Afar, and in Mosul where he worked with bomb disposal squads and as a machine gunner.

Powers' novel examines the bond between two privates, and the traumas the two men suffer in battle. He's not interested in romanticizing combat.

"We really can't hide behind this vision of war as this kind of glorious, heroic endeavor, because we just have more information," Powers says. "It's sort of undeniable what it really is."

Soldiers' ideas of what war will be like, rarely match their actual experience, according to Powers.

"And of course you're trained and the training is effective to a certain point. But it's just one of those things, that until you're actually in that situation, the effect that it has on you emotionally isn't something that you can be prepared for," Powers adds. "The kind of double-edged sword of being a human being is we do have this capacity to adapt to almost any environment, even if that environment is essentially the worst thing that human beings can participate in, which is war.

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