On this Memorial Day 2020, I reflect on the lives cut short in America’s never-ending wars of terror across the Middle East, following our invasion of Iraq in 2003. I share with you an insightful realization, born of lived experience of war, from the opening chapter of the novel, The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers (USA, 2012).
Al Tafar, Nineveh Province, Iraq
The war tried to kill us in the spring….Narrative voice of twenty-one-year-old Private John Bartle of the USA Army from the novel, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, published by Little, Brown and Company, USA, 2012, pp 3-4.
Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all color from the plains…. The war would take what it could get. It was patient. It didn’t care about objectives, or boundaries, whether you were loved by many or not at all. While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on. And I knew the war would have its way.
Described in these terms, humanity’s wars operate much like the deadly COVID-19 let loose among Earth’s populations. What will it take to end the spread of viral human warfare? When will we stop losing our loved ones on the frontlines? When will we stop killing vulnerable civilians—women, children, and the elderly—exposed to the virulence of our wars?
KEVIN POWERS was born and raised in Richmond Virginia, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. He served in the U.S. Army in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, where he was deployed as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. The Yellow Birds is his first novel.