A Q&A with Elliot Ackerman, author of ‘Places and Names’

A Q&A with Elliot Ackerman, author of ‘Places and Names’

Elliot Ackerman’s meditative memoir “Places and Names” distills his experiences during and after five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with the Marines. Since leaving the military, the Silver Star recipient has traveled to Iraq, Syria, and Turkey as a journalist, seeking deeper insight into his own and America’s role in its “forever wars.” In this email interview, Ackerman – nominated for the National Book Award for his 2017 novel “Dark at the Crossing” – discusses finding meaning in war and his post-military search for purpose and peace of mind. Q: After leaving the Marines, you met a former al-Qaeda jihadist in Turkey who fought in Iraq at the same time as you. He tells you “I regret none of the war.” You say, “I don’t regret my choice, but maybe I regret being asked to choose.” Have your questions about U.S. war policy affected how you see your combat experience? When I reflect on the war, the U.S. cause isn’t central to how I feel. I didn’t join the Marines because I agreed with one set or another of U.S. policies. I joined because I wanted to serve my country. I did that and feel no regret about it. Actually, I feel a lot of pride about it. I feel pride for how my friends and I took care of each other in the wars. As a citizen, I regret that our leaders didn’t come up with better policies. I think every American at this point wishes we hadn’t gone into Iraq. Q: You write of friends lost in war, “I hope they’d think what we did for each other was worth it.” Does the absence of resolution in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars complicate the question of whether what occurred was “worth it”? Perhaps it is difficult for […]

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