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NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The definitive account of America's conflict with Islamic fundamentalism and a searing exploration of its human costs—an instant classic of war reporting from the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.
Through the eyes of Dexter Filkins, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, we witness the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, the aftermath of the attack on New York on September 11th, and the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Filkins is the only American journalist to have reported on all these events, and his experiences are conveyed in a riveting narrative filled with unforgettable characters and astonishing scenes.
Brilliant and fearless, The Forever War is not just about America's wars after 9/11, but about the nature of war itself.
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD • A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
One of the Best Books of the Year: Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Boston Globe, and Time
“Stunning. . . . This unforgettable narrative represents . . . a haunting spiritual witness that will make this volume a part of this awful war's history.” —Robert Stone, The New York Times Book Review
“Filkins makes us see, with almost hallucinogenic immediacy, the true human meaning and consequences of the “war on terror.” —The New York Times
“Unflinching. . . . Filkins confronts the absurdity of war head-on. . . . This is a page-turner, and one of the most astounding books yet written about the war in Iraq.” —Time
“Thanks to one reporter's heroic act of witness and brilliant recitation of what he saw, we can see the war as it is, and for ourselves.” —Los Angeles Times
“Not since Michael Herr in Dispatches . . . has a reporter written as vividly about combat as Filkins does from Afghanistan and Iraq.” —USA Today 10 Best Books of 2008
“The Forever War . . . achieves a gripping, raw immediacy.” —The Boston Globe’s Year’s Best Books
“Splendid.” —Washington Post Book World Best Nonfiction of 2008
“Dexter Filkins has seen the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan; he has stood in the ruins of the World Trade Center; he has been in the heat of battle in Iraq; indeed, no one else has been closer to the action than this courageous and thoughtful observer. This is a sensational book in the best sense.” —Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
“Dexter Filkins's The Forever Waris the best piece of war journalism I've ever read. He paints a portrait of war that is so nuanced, so filled with absurdities and heartbreak and unexpected heroes and villains, that it makes most of what we see and hear about Iraq and Afghanistan seem shrill and two-dimensional by comparison. And yet, as tragic as the events he describes are, the book manages to be a thing of towering beauty.” —Dave Eggers, Guardian Best Books of the Year
"The Forever War is already a classic–it has the timeless feel of all great war literature. Dexter Filkins’s combination of courage and sensitivity is so rare that books like his come along only once every major war. This one is ours." —George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq
“Dexter Filkins is the preeminent war correspondent of my generation, fearless, compassionate, and brutally honest. The Forever War is his astonishing story. It is one of the best books about war that I have ever read. It will stay with me forever.” —Jeffrey Goldberg, author of Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide
"Stunning ... it is not facetious to speak of work like that of Dexter Filkins as defining the 'culture' of a war...This unforgettable narrative [represents] ... a haunting spiritual witness that will make this volume a part of this awful war's history." —Robert Stone, on the front page of The New York Times Book Review
“Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War, brutally intimate, compassionate, often poetic accounts of the battle against Islamic fundamentalism, is destined to become a classic.” —Vanity Fair
“Extraordinary. . . . if what Michael Herr brought back from Vietnam in Dispatches was a sort of Jackson Pollock–streaks of blood, trickles of dread, splattershot of hard rock and harder drugs–The Forever War is like a pointillist Seurat, a neo-Impressionist juxtaposition of spots of pure color with black holes and open wounds.” —John Leonard, Harper’s
“The definitive–and heartbreakingly humanizing–report from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . The Forever War [is] about all wars, everywhere–and a book that will be read fifty years from now.” —Andrew Corsello, GQ
“Dexter Filkins is one of war writings’ modern marvels, a writer of tremendous gifts and appropriate grit to go where others will not.” —Henry C. Jackson,Associated Press
“The best war reportage you are apt to read in a lifetime.” —Joseph C. Goulden, The Washington Times
“Unflinching. . . . Filkins confronts the absurdity of war head-on. . . . This is a page-turner, and one of the most astounding books yet written about the war in Iraq. . . . Filkins doesn’t lecture, he just reports, in great and perfect detail.” —Gilbert Cruz, Time
“[Filkins is] an almost absurdly brave war correspondent . . . his brilliant, sad, unique book . . . may be the most readable book about Iraq. It’s certainly one of the most artful. . . . We’re the better for it.” —Hilary Frey, The New York Observer
“Brilliant. . . . The Forever War . . . deserves to be ranked as a classic . . . and is likely to be regarded as the definitive account of how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were experienced by those who actually waged them. . . . Thanks to one reporter’s heroic act of witness and brilliant recitation of what he saw, we can see the war–as it is, and for ourselves.” —Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
“A kaleidoscope of images and intensity. . . . It is written in finely honed bursts of vibrant color that capture the peculiar culture of the war. . . . It is a raw and riveting account . . . his honesty in portraying the war implicitly exposes the hollowness of the platitudes used in Washington to defend it.” —Chris Hedges, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Splendid. . . . it shines as a work of literature, illuminating the human cost of war.” —Bing West, The Washington Post
“Rich with details both grotesque and sublime. . . . The Forever War is a masterpiece of nuance.” —Matthew B. Stannard, The San Francisco Chronicle
“Gut-wrenching and touching. . . . Mr. Filkins’s stories are those of a writer willing to endure hardship, danger and anguish to paint an accurate picture of war for the American public. . . . His prose is as blunt as it is powerful.” —Lee H. Hamilton, The New York Times
“Filkins . . . is a courageous reporter and an original writer. . . . The narrative holds together through the power of his writing. . . . The Forever War is an astonishingly good book.” —Evan Wright, LA Weekly
“Addictive. . . . [Filkins is] a master of the moment, of the concrete, of texture; where others try to explain, he wants you to know what being there feels like. . . . I couldn’t put this book down.” —Craig Seligman, Bloomberg
“Dexter Filkins . . . is well on his way to becoming the preeminent war reporter of this tumultuous era. . . . His understated prose offers a stiletto-sharp account of places he’s gone and people he’s met.” —John Marshall, Seattle Post Intelligencer
“Wonderfully written and carefully researched. . . . Filkins’s meticulous attention to detail and his bravery . . . [are] evident on every page . . . The Forever War . . . serves as a powerful lesson in what it takes to cover the complexities of war . . . [Dexter Filkins] has put himself in the middle of this madness to deliver a stunning and illuminating story.” —Chuck Leddy, Christian Science Monitor
“[Filkins is] the real deal, a reporter’s reporter . . . his brave and stunning new book . . . pulses with prose so lean–whipsawing between brutality and beauty–that it takes your breath away.” —Paul Grondahl, Times Union
“A chilling and ethereal narrative of loss and the promise of loss.” —Jim Chiavelli, The Boston Globe
“Phenomenal. . . . The Forever War makes the war in Iraq so real, so haunting, that you’ll want to sleep with the book next to your bed and read it in every spare moment until the last page. It does what a great book about war, loss, politics, and sacrifice should–it moves, shocks, entertains, educates, and inspires. The Forever War is peerless–a classic.” —Genvieve Long, The Epoch Times
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B0018QSO0S
- Publisher : Vintage; 1st edition (September 15, 2008)
- Publication date : September 15, 2008
- Language : English
- File size : 1245 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 386 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #300,218 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Before the world learned of the Taliban, Filkins traversed South Asia learning about the force of militant Islam and then later chronicled the Iraq War as the New York Times Baghdad bureau chief. Published in 2009, Filkins’ The Forever Wars captures his detailed report and superb prose. It remains a modern classic of war reporting on the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The fall of Kabul in August 2021 placed a haunting coda on the GWOT, and reexamining Filkins’s work remains relevant for the quality of its writing and reporting.
From documenting the Taliban’s violence in Kabul during the 1990s to the reporting in lower Manhattan as the Twin Towers smoldering to recanting the solemn transfer of the remains of an American service member, Filkins’s The Forever War remains a touchstone in the swelling GWOT canon.
The Forever Wars closest analog is Michael Herr’s arresting classic of the Vietnam War, Dispatches. Both Herr and Filkins’ strength in their reporting and writing is not the facts of the conflicts but the way they convey their distinct tone, tenor, feeling, sounds, and emotion. Reading The Forever War’s series of set pieces creates a haunting sense in the reader. Like Herr, Filkins' deft employment of sleep as a motif leaves the reader with a spectral sense. Both Herr and Filkins's scenes and subjects are stark and unsettling. Unlike many books on Iraq and Afghanistan that take a more expansive view of the conflict to draw broad conclusions, Filkins crowds his subjects, mainly U.S. servicemembers and Iraqi Security Forces, into frame.
The Forever War harkens back to an era before social media, when war reporting at major newspapers shaped the world's understanding of the conflict, post-conflict, and developing world. Filkins' words appeared in print, vice a tweet. Print allowed a delay from observation to publication, allowing Filkins's to tone and sharpen his prose and insights. With the distance between action and transmutation evaporated by the smartphone, all participants in modern conflict have a hand in shaping how the world perceives conflict. The flood of videos, memes, and tweets from the Russo-Ukrainian War does not benefit from the narrative distance Filkins’s took full advantage of.
In the final pages of The Forever War, Filkins likens himself to Laika, the Soviet dog who first orbited the Earth. Much like Laika, Filkins sent dispatches back to an interested, yet largely detached, public. The separation and estrangement from America resulted with Filkins's immersion into the conflicts, proving his insights in Iraq and Afghanistan while fragmenting his mind and lowering his horizons. Following the embeds, Filkins describes how the war "flattened" his life, leaving his life in America "silent and slow and heavy and dead." The toll exacted on combatants and correspondence during the wars extended to Filkins himself. He writes, “I fared better than many of the people I wrote about in this book; yet even so, over the course of the events depicted here, I lost the person I cared for most. The war didn't get her; it got me.” Disclosing his personal loss after hundreds of pages of documenting the lives of others strikes the readers as honest and heartfelt.
The episodic structure of The Forever War gives the reader a sense of the disjointed, diffused, and disorienting nature of the GWOT. Due to its length and scope, the GWOT took on a different meaning for combatants. For instance, the March Up to Baghdad in 2003 and the fight in Sadr City in 2008 were two very different experiences. However, each battle and campaign of the GWOT leaves the combatants and civilians with a haunted feeling as if the violence undertaken would result in lasting change. Often the battles and campaigns did not achieve lasting peace, vexing those on the front line with a ticket home and those who lived through the madness with no way to go.
The Forever War remains a stunning achievement of war reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. Filkins's sharp prose and distinct characters remain vibrant over a decade after its initial publication. In August 2021, Kabul fell to the Taliban once again. Not far from the stadium where Filkins documents the Taliban's swift brutality, the Taliban installed its emirate a second time. Filkins continues to write on the Middle East for the New Yorker, liberated from the tyranny of the daily newspaper deadline. Re-reading The Forever War shows Filkins’s considerable talent and courage, complete with its repeated exposure to the psychological and physical demands. The GWOT ended, but The Forever War will endure.
The Shia and the Sunni factions of Islam have fallen on each other like rabid dogs. They don’t just seek to murder each other. That would be far too prosaic. They prefer new forms of torture -the electric drill being one of their favorites. As the author says in one of his quotes, “It’s in their DNA.” And into this hell are injected American forces to help promote “democracy” – a democracy that will transform this region into a fourth century caliph.
The neocons that got us into this war are not stupid. There is veniality in their thinking and an absence of reality. It is great theory. I have read most of their works. It is hard to imagine that thinkers like Francis Fukuyama did not grasp how horrific the enterprise he was promoting would become. As a country we became victims of our own arrogance. We got caught in the riptide of history at a time when our political leadership was both villainous and vain. And into that mix there was this ideology, this doctrine that did not want to deal with facts but which had the clarity of a prophecy. It folded in so nicely with the rapture and the end of times. It worked as the final struggle between good and evil. In so many ways those who produced this hell are no different than their counterparts in Taliban.
A new culture has been imposed on us. We have broken our sword because the only blow we could strike was against the ancient rock of hatred. Our soldiers are randomly mutilated by suicide bombers and road side bombs. This book brings to mind something Tim Welsh told me about his experience in Viet Nam. “When you have to build a 360 degree perimeter you have lost the war”.
The following is part of a review from the New Times Book Reivew
Now, in the tradition of “Dispatches,” with the publication of Dexter Filkins’s stunning book, “The Forever War,” it seems the journals of the brave correspondents assigned to the Middle East will take their place as the pre-eminent record of America’s late-imperial adventures, the heart of these heartless exercises in disaster, maybe some consolation to those maimed and bereaved in them.
It is not facetious to speak of work like that of Dexter Filkins as defining the “culture” of a war. The contrast of his eloquence and humanity with the shameless snake-oil salesmanship employed by the American government to get the thing started serves us well. You might call the work of enlightening and guiding a deliberately misguided public during its time of need a cultural necessity. The work Filkins accomplishes in “The Forever War” is one of the most effective antitoxins that the writing profession has produced to counter the administration’s fascinating contemporary public relations tactic. The political leadership’s method has been the dissemination of facts reversed 180 degrees toward the quadrant of lies, hitherto a magic bullet in their never-ending crusade to accomplish everything from stealing elections to starting ideological wars. Filkins uses the truth as observed firsthand to detail an arid, hopeless policy in an unpromising part of the world. His writing is one of the scant good things to come out of the war.
The old adage holds that every army fights the previous war, learning nothing and forgetting nothing, as someone said of the restored Bourbon dynasty in France. The United States military did learn one strategy for preventing the public relations disasters of Vietnam, and this was the embedding of correspondents with military units engaged. Michael Herr in Vietnam could not have been more alienated from the United States government’s P.R. handouts, but his sharing the fortunes of American troops made his compassion, sometimes his plain love, for them available to thoughtful Americans. It’s hard to imagine that Donald Rumsfeld’s politically intimidated brass had “Dispatches” in mind when they decided to embed correspondents with American units, but it started out as an effective policy. One of the memorable bites of the early days of the Iraq invasion was the exultant embedded correspondent citing Churchill on camera: “There’s nothing more exhilarating than being shot at and missed!” A far cry indeed from being shot at and hit.
All that worked for a while. Filkins opens “The Forever War” with a prologue describing the attack on the Sunni fortress of Falluja by the First Battalion, Eighth Marines. Embedded (and how) with Bravo Company, Filkins shares the deadly risks of street fighting in a hostile city in which the company, commanded by an outstanding officer, takes its objective and also a harrowing number of casu¬alties. The description makes us understand quite vividly how we didn’t want to be there and also makes ever so comprehensible the decision by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to give our last excursion into Asia a pass. (“Bring ’em on!” said the president famously about this one.)
Filkins had been covering the Muslim world for years before the invasion of Iraq, and his book proper opens with a scene beyond the grimmest fiction, a display of Shariah religious justice staged in a soccer stadium in Kabul during the late ’90s. Miscreants are variously mutilated and killed before a traumatized audience that includes a hysterical crowd of starveling war orphans whose brutalized, maimed futures in an endlessly war-ravaged country can be imagined.
For the reviewer — perhaps for the selfish reason that it takes place closer to home — the most dreadfully memorable witness that Filkins bears takes place not half a world away but in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11. Filkins is making his way past Battery Park.
“My eyes went to a gray-green thing spread across the puddles and rocks. Elongated, unrolled, sitting there, unnoticed. An intestine. It kind of jumped out at me, presented itself. It’s amazing how the eyes do that, go right to the human flesh, spot it amid the heaviest camouflage of rubble and dirt and glass.”
In Tel Aviv, Filkins recalls, he watched Orthodox Jewish volunteers seeking out the same sort of item in the aftermath of a suicide bomb.
Filkins takes shelter from the cool night in the Brooks Brothers store in One Liberty Plaza.
“Later that night,” he writes, “I was awoken many times, usually by the police. Once when I came to, a group of police officers were trying on cashmere topcoats and turning as they looked in the mirror. There was lots of laughter. ‘Nice,’ one of them said, looking at his reflection, big smile on his face. ‘Look at that.’ ”
Dexter Filkins, one of The New York Times’s most talented reporters, employs a fine journalistic restraint, by which I mean he does not force irony or paradox but leaves that process to the reader. Nor does he speculate on what he does not see. These are worthy attributes, and whether their roots are in journalistic discipline or not they serve this unforgettable narrative superbly.
Someone, Chesterton it may have been, identified the sense of paradox with spirituality. Though Filkins does not rejoice in paradoxes, he never seems to miss one either, and the result is a haunting spiritual witness that will make this volume a part of this awful war’s history. He entitles his section on Manhattan “Third World,” and he leaves us feeling that the history he has set down here will not necessarily feature in our distant cultural recollections but may rather be history — the thing itself — come for us at last.
Top reviews from other countries
Excellent background on Afghanistans recent conflicts and history as well.
Filkins' is uniquely qualified to report on Iraq and Afghanistan, having been a field reporter on the ground, living in both countries. He is a man who has spent time traveling with American troops, speaking to the Iraqi people, and with the Afghan people as well. The Forever War is a collection of his experiences, told as stories, and committed to print. Regardless of your political views or your views on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I would encourage you to read this book if you are looking for a fascinating, first-hand perspective on the wars, as told by an author who seeks first to understand, and then to be understood. 5/5