The marines enter Fallujah, a stronghold of the insurgent resistance. A block away, a bomb explodes. Bullets flood the ravaged street ahead, no man's land. An insurgent sniper hides amongst the wreckage, waiting for his chance. BOOM, an American M1 tank rolls in, leaving a loud ringing in the ear, blowing a hole in a three story building. Silence. The sniper takes aim, a stream of red paints the brown floor. Marine down.
Such is the hidden story of the Iraq war. It's so easy to get caught up in the noise over Iraq: the useless bickering of TV pundits, the trillion dollar black hole, and the horrific prison that is Guantanamo Bay. Yet, you barely hear anything about Iraq/Afghanistan anymore. The death toll is a figure that needs to be actively sought instead of told on the nightly news. We so easily forget that real people are on the ground, living in the suck. Dexter Filkins lived it, and wrote about it for us to read.
The Forever War is a random but chronological collection of gripping stories starting from Afghanistan in the late 1990's to the Iraq War. The stories are elegantly told, drawing you in, making you almost feel that you're in the country with him. Each story is a self-contained journey that enlightens one small part of war. Casually running through 120 degree heat in the middle of a street as a crazy escapade, so much so that soldiers stare in amazement. The excitement from finding the one part of the green zone that still has electricity and a kabob house open at night. The small successes that were not reported in the TV news such as school finally being built, or a working highway patrol in one city. Filkins' giving the phone number of one his sources to the CIA in hopes of saving a kidnapped journalist. There isn't really a point to the book, other than to humanize the quagmire of Iraq: the fuzzy lines between chaos and order, justice and revenge, and life and death. Filkins always reserves judgement, letting the reader make up their own mind.
Yet the stories have an immense emotion effect on you. The first time you read about the bombs exploding in the streets, you can sense the tension. By the end of the book, a line about a bomb or another death is just that; another line, another statistic. The numbness to the violence that the soldiers and Filkins obtained somehow emerges from the writing and onto you. The Forever War tells the Afghan/Iraq human story, and it is a fascinating read. Highly Recommended.