War Words is a work of documentary theatre by award-winning playwright and Atlantic Council nonresident senior fellow Michelle Kholos Brooks, based on her interviews with the men and women who fought the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Directed by Sarah Norris and produced by Atlantic Council senior fellow Steven Grundman, it was performed in a workshop production over eight evenings from December 5-15, 2019, at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

General David Petraeus and playwright Michelle Brooks with the cast and production crew of War Words.

In this work, we hear the soldiers’ true stories of heroism, pathos, and villainy, but also share the exhilaration, sorrow, and regret of their experience. The play colors the popular understanding of this conflict with personal perspectives of how the wars changed or mattered to the lives of the men and women in the Armed Forces. The Atlantic Council hopes War Words will cultivate a greater sense of affinity with the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who embody one expression of America’s role in the world.

Program of the Atlantic Council’s workshop production of War Words at the Pacific Resident Theatre, December 5-15, 2019.

After the December 12th performance of War Words, the Atlantic Council hosted a reception with retired General David Petraeus, former commander of US Central Command (USCENTCOM) and of the coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. At this reception, General Petraeus joined Atlantic Council senior fellow and War Words executive producer Steven Grundman for a conversation reflecting on the play, on the general’s own experiences leading the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on the relationship of Americans to US foreign and defense policy. As he wrote in a Linkedin post the following day, General Petraeus commended the work for conveying “vividly the intensity of the relationships of those in the brotherhood of the close fight” as well as other experiences of men and women at war.

Michelle Kholos Brooks

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security

Forward Defense Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security

Steven Grundman

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security

Forward Defense Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security