Sometimes you get your hands on special books. Books that are written in a crude and down to earth way, far from being blasé and still they just won’t let go of you anymore. “The Forever War” written by New Yorker journalist and former New York Times writer Dexter Filkins happens to be one of those for me.
First of all – the book was published in 2008 which makes it not completely current anymore, but I still want to deal with it, because it really gives you some new angles on war journalism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Filkins travelled to Afghanistan and the Iraq several times. In “The Forever War” he describes public executions taking place in Kabul in 1998, when the Taliban reigned the country. He talks to people about the times when Afghanistan was an open and flourishing country, he follows US Marines on their raids through Afghan cities and depicts Afghanis, Iraqis and US-soldiers in an incredible way.
What you find out is that everything you thought before you got there was wrong – Dexter Filkins
And that is also the greatest thing about the book. Filkins is a US-born journalist and he might or might not see many things from a US-american perspective. But in this book – that’s just not the issue. The issue is more the situations in which people live and act. It’s about their stories, what’s happening to them and what’s changing them. This objective, almost completely unpolitical view on things is what makes the details more interesting and makes you understand (of course only to a slight extent) why and how people are driven to their actions. Why Iraqis become so desperate that they join the insurgency or blow up themselves on a public square filled with fellow countrymen. But also the other side: How did US-american soldiers get to the point of killing civilians or treating Iraqis like they did in Abu Ghraib. In a Guerilla-like warfare, Filkins very well depicts the despair of American soldiers – which is of course not by any means an excuse for these actions, but still – you feel close to most of the people described in the books and have a considerably more intimate view on them.
Summing up, “The Forever War” is a book I would suggest to all people being interested in the close past (and of course also the present) of these two countries and also a up-close look at the war that has been raging there. And finally, here is another short interview Filkins gave Stephen Colbert in May 2012.