Saturday, August 15, 2009

09.28 The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

The Forever War (2008) by Dexter Filkins

I have unfortunately left this review for a couple of months and so I don't have it in the forefront of my brain as it were. My regular readers know that I like to keep an eye on the literature of military history. In my recent reviews of some Vietnam books I have come to realize that you really do need the perspective of time to write effectively about historical events.

Dexter Filkins is a reporter for The New York Times and has covered the Middle East for the past decade or so. This book is a series of vignettes that cover his reportage from both Afghanistan and Iraq. The role of a correspondent is to obviously present the events that they encounter. It gives us a small window into the world of the soldier and their experiences. I recently read Dispatches by Michael Herr which is a very similar book by a reporter which contains his experiences in Vietnam. Unfortunately, I had the same problem with this Filkins book as I had with that one. As reporters they relay amazingly well the sights and sounds of the battle but when it comes to giving any historical or political context then they fall short.

I still enjoyed this book and I thought the scope of it was what made it really interesting. Filkins starts by describing a mass beheading in a stadium in Kabul by the Taliban before their overthrow. He goes on to present some powerful scenes of the hours and days following 9/11 as he wandered in among the wreckage of the towers. Some of the best scenes take place when he is embedded with a group of Marines taking part in the attack on Falluja.

I can't say I would really suggest you go out and seek this book but read it if available and definitely look for Filkins writing in the Times.

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