I am in awe of Dexter Filkins' nonfiction book, The Forever War. The story of his experiences in Iraq (and a little in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan) pulls you in and doesn't let go. My dad gave it to me to read this summer but I ran out of time so I set to read it over this break. Filkins is an American journalist who covered Iraq and Afghanistan for the New York Times. Filkins, through "gut-wrenching and touching vignettes," reveals the human side of war in his book. His book is "not about finger pointing. Nor is it about policy failures or prescriptions. [It] portrays and sympathizes with the men and women facing impossible challenges in Iraq." (x)
He writes about Iraq it in such a blunt manner, but it evokes his situation so clearly. There are so many unbelievable stories in this book, but the most poignant parts come from when he was with the Bravo Company in Falluja (a city in Iraq that was controlled by jihadists) in 2004. He opens the book in Falluja, on the brink of death, with chants of "Allahu Akbar" (god is great) ringing from the mosqus and "Hells Bells" by AC/DC pouring through the marines' loudspeakers. In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company "men had about a one-in-four chance of being wounded or killed in little more than a week." (x) Filkins traveled with Bravo Company with Ashley Gilbertson, an Australian photographer (I've included some of his pictures from Falluja after the break) (who also wrote a book on the Iraq War - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War that I hope to read in the future). One of the many chapters on Falluja is one called Mogadishu, three pages long, and it is a legal advisor briefing marines before the assault on Falluja begins. Filkins presents what he says with no commentary, which makes it so much more powerful. "'Okay, guys, these are going to be the rules of engagement,' the adviser, Captain Matt Nodine, said. He looked across the room. It's going to be slightly different this time, so everybody listen up..." (186)
But the entire book is definitely not just about Falluja; it is about Iraq. It is about Sunnis, Shiites, suicide bombers, insurgents, marines, soldiers, journalists, Abu Ghraib, the Green Zone... The extent to which Americans ignore Iraq is astounding. And that needs to change. But what I loved about The Forever War was that it didn't comment on this fact - it didn't criticize politicians, or campaign for antiwar causes - it simply reported the facts. It gave the readers the story, and let them draw their own conclusions. I don't know Filkins' perspective on the war, but does it matter? His stories helped form mine, which is truly awe-inspiring journalism. Rating: ★★★★★
more pictures and links after the break...
It is unbelievable to me that this book blog has been running for two years now. I've changed so much, and this blog has changed with me. I appreciate everyone that reads it, and I hope to continue working. At the moment, there haven't been as many updates because I have been immersed in my AP English project on Charles Dickens. So I wish everyone Happy Reading over the holidays (a best of 2012 is possibly coming soon) as I continue to get lost in Victorian England!