Elliot Ackerman’s ‘Green on Blue’ is a remedy for the “glory” of war


If you don’t like war stories but know that they must be told – in fiction as well as in fact – then perhaps Green on Blue is for you.

If you know that stories are an effective way to understand conflict but are worried that Clint Eastwood is the only one willing to tell conflict stories then perhaps Green on Blue is for you.

If you understand that to “the enemy” you are “the enemy” then perhaps Green on Blue is for you.

Some points of order first. A green on blue attack is when an Afghan police officer or solider fires upon coalition forces.

Elliot Ackerman, the book’s author, is a decorated American veteran of the Iraq and Afghan wars. As a civilian he has chosen to remain in the middle east to write about Syria.

Green on Blue is about the forces that conspire to drive a young Afghani man to join a US-funded militia and fight in the conflict. It is not about enemies or heroes but about humans and difficult choices. Ackerman’s lead character Aziz is barely more than a child when the novel begins and hardly a man when it ends and yet he is who many Americans would consider “the enemy” in that conflict.

The New Yorker has a long piece about conflict in the middle east in just about every issue. I skip reading it 75% of the time. Not because I don’t wish to be informed and not because I don’t have empathy for the people caught up in the conflicts but because I have war-exhaustion. And I don’t even live in a country that is a primary player in these conflicts. These wars have been a reality of my entire adult life and yet, with the exception of airport delays, they haven’t affected that life at all. Books like Ackerman’s are necessary if people like me are going to understand, care, and seek further information about these never-ending conflicts. War is terrifying and complex but in the end it is fought by people who are not evil but are products of their circumstances. That is what Ackerman’s novel conveys beautifully.


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