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After 9/11, a young man has an urge to serve; a former correspondent assesses the costs of war

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An Angel from Hell: Real Life on the Front Lines
By Ryan A. Conklin (Caliber/Berkley, $24.95)
April 6
Like many Americans moved to duty in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Ryan Conklin made the bold decision to enlist in the armed forces. He would have to wait a couple of years (he was a high school junior at the time) but the sincerity of his beliefs were reflected when he reported for basic training in September of 2003. From there, the young soldier would take a first tour of Iraq as part of Angel Company and subsequently experience sights and sounds, emotions and horrors that the bulk of the nation could never imagine, and only get inklings of through documentaries and films. If his name sounds familiar, then you’re likely a fan of MTV’s “Real World” series, on which Conklin appeared in 2009 as something of a fan favorite. It was on that Brooklyn-set season that he received a call from the Army summoning him back to service. MTV seized on that opportunity to follow Conklin back to Iraq and another tour of duty, which became the basis of the documentary “Return to Duty.” Whatever you think of that decision (crass?, ratings ploy?, honorable endeavor?), here you can experience Conklin’s journeys in his own words, with scores of photographs.

Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan
By Deepak Tripathi (Potomac, $24.95)
A former BBC correspondent (he opened the network’s Kabul office in the early 1990s), Tripathi has a sound grounding in the politics and myriad cultures that make up the Middle East, not to mention a stellar reputation as a fair-minded journalist. This book, though, is not for the conservative, Bush-ie camp (the title may have given that away already). It takes a thoughtful look at the legacy of two increasingly unpopular wars, focusing especially on the human toll. His thesis, which is arguable -- and many will argue -- is that the cost in terms of human lives lost and the enmity the aggression has sowed in the region will reverberate for generations to come, and perhaps could have been avoided if different choices were made. Whatever your leanings on this subject, one of Tripathi’s statements that seems irrefutable is that these wars will forever be linked with the name of our 43rd president, George W. Bush. For better or worse.

By Christopher Schoppa  |  March 17, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
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