War Dogs: Inside a US Soldier Brain

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A Book Review : The Yellow Birds

Author: Kevin Powers

Deep, heart wrenching, captivating and a lasting story of comradeship and truest tales of war.

“There is a sharp distinction between what is remembered, what is told and what is true.”

Not being a sparkling student, unable to perform up to the mark and having difficulty at getting enrollment in the college, Kevin Powers found it adventurous and a safe exit to join military at the age of seventeen. Having a clear perception to get a stipend and college fees paid by military after the due service, Powers whole heartedly put on the military boots. Being appointed as a machine gunner during Iraq war, he gave his services for about two years. After coming back to US, he resumed his education and at the age of thirty one published his debut novel “The Yellow Birds”

“We were not destined to survive. The fact is, we were not destined at all. The war would take what it could get.”

The Yellow Birds is also the military cadence of US force and it kept moving in author’s mind during his stay in Iraq. It was a time when US had launched her full force in Iraq, a war on resources. Victimizer and the victim both were clueless about the war and the only thing was to obey the orders, given by THEM. The point to ponder is that both the people and the military suffer during wars. The soldiers who fight leaving their loved ones behind have only one thing ahead and that is an order. Many soldiers after coming back from combat have declared that they had been on a useless and aimless mission. The only thing after coming back to their homes is the horrors of war and haunting memories of their comrades. One can say that this story is the reflection of author’s own experiences in Iraq. The characters of the story are fictional but the details of events are based on truest frightful accounts of war.

“We’d had small lives, populated by a longing for something more substantial than dirt roads and small dreams.”

The story is based on the comradeship of young bloods Bartle and Murphy, twenty one and eighteen years old. Being unable to take war seriously at Iraq, they promise each other to protect and shield no matter what. This delusion demands heavy cost. The lives they have left back in US are turned opposite and all left ahead is death, the inevitable. Murphy dies, brutally tortured and the promise done to his mother by Bartle, grows into guilt and agony inside him. Unable to face his mother and narrating the whole event of Murphy’s death, Bartle tries to escape from all colors of life.

“I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside out and I can’t tell anyone what’s going on…”

Entangled in trauma and unable to remove his self created guilt, finally he comes to terms with Murphy’s mother in the end, seeking forgiveness. The burden to live is even worse than death itself. But no matter what, man dies alone; own private death. So in the end Bartle tries to reconnect to his life, as it used to be in the past.

Indeed “Life is pain.”

This concise novel is a kind of a must read for the people who want to explore on Iraq invasions by United Sates, and who want to get inside of a soldier’s brain. It narrates war through the perspective of a soldier and enlists numerous instances where obeying orders blindly, only crushes and shatters the inside human of a soldier.

is an MS Scholar, English Literature and Linguistics at Air University Islamabad. Her areas of interest incline towards contemporary war literature, their contributions and the impact of the modern wars on post-colonial literature.

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