Like an arrow, this small book hits its target fast and hard, writes photo guru Stephen Mayes about “10 Years After Iraq.” Between the dark green hardcovers, 27 images shot by William Chan on disposable cameras during his tour of duty in Iraq flow together seamlessly with 76 words, like a visual poem. “10 Years After Iraq” isn’t a book you can just flip through. It’s a deep commentary that’s also filled with contradictions, an apology but also a yearning for Chan’s days as a soldier. Perhaps because over 10 years after being deployed, Chan is finally finding peace in these nuances. And with this book, he is ready to discuss them. He spoke with R&K at our offices in Brooklyn.
Roads & Kingdoms: Tell us about being deployed in Iraq.
William Chan: I landed in Kuwait in 2002 and was part of the invasion in March of 2003. For a really long time, I thought I had been part of something great. Maybe I was romanticizing war and what it meant to be American. I’m an immigrant, I might not look like an American per say, not the textbook version at least, but I love this country and I thought serving it was an honorable thing to do. I was hoping that this war would free Iraq from its dictator. I bought into it all. And not necessarily the nuances, I bought into the Twitter version of why we went to war. For a long time I thought the end would justify the means. That it would be worth it if we left that country in a much better place than we found it. But being who we are as a country, that didn’t happen.
R&K: When did your opinion about the war start to change?
Chan: Five or six year after the war started, I knew that we had been wrong. We didn’t make any real effort to think about the people in the region. It was our initiative, our self-interest, our politics. They were always “the others.” I think if we ever have a war with Canada one day, it will be a really considerate war. Or with the UK. It would be the most considerate war possible, because we would take every measure to think about these people. We would consider them our friends. I don’t think we ever thought that the Iraqis were our friends. And yet they didn’t provoke us into war. It’s not like they attacked us. So for us to unilaterally go to that country and attack them, we really had to have good reasons and intentions. I don’t think they were good reasons, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t have good intentions. Once I realized that as a citizen, I thought about how I took part in this too. So I decided to use myself as the story and started working on this book about two years ago.