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The Forever War

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  5,913 ratings  ·  720 reviews
From the front lines of the battle against Islamic fundamentalism, a searing, unforgetable audiobook that captures the human essence of the greatest conflict of our time. Through the eyes of Dexter Filkins, the prize-winning New York Times correspondent, we witness the remarkable chain of events that began with the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, continued with the attac ...more
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Published September 16th 2008 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2008)
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Riku Sayuj

The Last War

Intolerance is not an intrinsic feature, it is a derived one. Derived from threat. Threatened religions have always been intolerant, with no exceptions. And threatened societies have always been prone to adopt the militant versions of their religions, hoping to rally for one great push, one blind atrocity before they can resume their daily lives on the other side of the abyss.

Media likes to portray this desperate rally as an obscenity, as a characteristic. And that is where brutally
Will Byrnes
This is a bleeding, personal image of real-world horror. Filkins dots his canvas largely in red, with the bloodshed he has seen in war, in Afghanistan, Iraq, on 9/11. The book is comprised of many short passages, images of participants, of events, that offer a visceral experience of these zones of death, deceit and confusion. He does not make pronouncements on what he has witnessed, but puts the images out there for the reader to absorb. This is a must read for anyone interested in the reality o ...more
Jan 29, 2009 brian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: donald; nobody with a weak stomach
i was initially irritated by filkins refusal to widen focus and take in the broader picture, y’know, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the iraq war -- i wanted a top-down history starting with the geo-political chessboard and ending with boots on the ground. i was quick to realize i had put my own demands, the demands of a history book, on what is something entirely different. filkins knows that, generally speaking, the participants in wars (even in the age of internet, tivo, and cell phone) do not hav ...more
Technically, The Forever War is a work of reportage - magnificent reportage, in fact - but that's not all it is. For one thing, Filkin's tone is at times more personal, more anguished, than conventional journalism usually allows. For another, the cumulative impact of the pieces is beyond the literary reach of your average hack reporter. I'd suggest, then, that it belongs to that growing subgenre known as survivor literature: traveller's tales, in effect, brought back from a netherworld of human ...more
Dexter Filkins, the author of The Forever War, is a New York Times foreign correspondent who covered the middle east from Afghanistan's Taliban rule in 1998 to Iraq through 2006.

I should probably confess right away that I'm not a fan of journalism. I resent the whole idea of getting information from people who are in the business of selling it. I don't know what the alternative would be, but seems like a conflict of interest.

On top of that, there is the issue of bias. We all have it.
When you invade and break countries, bad shit usually happens.

Doesn't always have to, but the dial leans that way.

Good shit happens too, but it needs nurturing, time, and a whole pile o' shit-ass luck, especially when what was broken is used to seeing it all go down through a different set of goggles.

The bad shit needs little prompting—it's nature's wily stunted bastard child hopped up on Skittles and chuffing smoke.

Be very careful when you break shit like countries. Try and think things through
Jim Coughenour
I have a shelf of books on Iraq & Afghanistan –mostly unfinished because the absurdity and the carnage, the futility and mendacity, are too dispiriting and I have to put them down. Filkins has written something different, a first person account of what it's like to be in the midst of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens – his book is a series of vignettes, carefully observed and plainly written. It pretty much avoids the political background and concentrates on the foreground, people he know ...more
5 STARS, one of the best books on the Iraq war (and the Afghan war to a lesser extent) ever written. Featuring large cojones, smashed sterotypes, WTF, tragedy, hope…

OK, Mr. Filkins clearly has a pair of big, hairy ones considering the situations he gets himself into voluntarily or haphazardly. Jogging in Baghdad in the midst of the emerging civil war? Meeting with insurgents in Ramadi, sitting with Mahdi Army types in the middle of the siege of Najaf, into Fallujah with the Marines, showing up a
Apr 04, 2009 Naeem rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Naeem by: John Hickey (Ithaca College librarian)
I withheld a star despite my belief that this book MUST be read; read today.

Filkins writes about his experiences as a war reporter in Afghanistan and Iraq (mostly the book is about Iraq). It is composed of short, medium, and long vignettes. He makes no effort to connect them.

It works as fiction works, implicitly. Mainly Filkins describes his situations and leaves his readers the job of interpreting. Some of these are as mundane as jogging along the Tigris river. Others are in the middle of fire
Powerful collage of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Heartfelt tribute. Memorable evocation of the tragic and often surreal situations at play.
Mikey B.
In many ways this is a very straight-forward account of the American occupation of Iraq. The beginning of the book is about Afghanistan (about 70 pages) – then it shifts to Iraq. The author does not follow a narrative or time-line flow.

He explores themes and focuses on the individuals involved. For the most part he does not judge – that is left to the reader. Mr. Filkins is an excellent observer and recorder - it is this situational documenting that allows us to learn and evaluate. And we do ind
I can't remember who recommended this book, so I don't know who to thank...but I walked away from this book with my mouth open, shaking my head in awe.

This man can *write*. He brought scenes from war-ravaged countries into my living room, and found a way to accentuate both the devastation and the quiet small moments, creating a book that horrifies and educates and gives you hope, all at once.

Really, read this.
Neil Fox
The Forever War is possibly the best journalistic account in book form yet of the War, occupation and insurgency in Iraq. Filkins casts an unflinching, cold eye on life, on death, on the pain and suffering, on the pity of war itself. He doesn't moralize, judge or pontificate; he bears witness to what he has seen and allows the reader to judge for himself. When he accompanies the US Marines or army on missions such as the assault on Falluja, he doesn't narrate in the first person plural, instead ...more
The best book yet on Iraq, from a Taliban execution in 1998 to the WTC, where Filkins sees an intestine lying on the ground, to Iraq, where an attempt to get the story gets a Marine killed. Visceral, smart, funny, and pained (the acknowledgements mention, in passing, that these experiences destroyed his marriage), with sweeping, memorable images of devastation and meaningless absurdity mixed with short-short stories--a fitting equal to Herr's Dispatches, and also sneakily alluding, I would guess ...more
Steve Horton
Amazing, riveting, powerful, All Quiet on the Western Front . A great piece of war literature that transcends adjectives. See the haunted look in Dexter's eyes on the dust jacket flap? He poured his soul into this magnificent work. A must read for anyone interested in the export of democracy.
I expected this book, a NYT reporter's stories of Iraq and Afghanistan between 2000 and 2006, to be a chore or a penance, like The Dark Side. While it's disturbing in its own way, it's a gripping read, more Black Hawk Down than political analysis. Filkins may have been fundamentally an observer but he manages to write about his experiences in a way that draws the reader into the middle of the action.

Filkins was sent to report on the Taliban before 9/11, and the book opens with him witnessing a s
Powerful writing about (for most of us Americans) unimaginably horrific experiences. It's difficult to write about this book without sounding trite or sentimentalizing it - words seem inadequate. Honest and painful, remarkably apolitical, it draws the reader in to this terrifying place and forces the reader to acknowledge and confront situations that I'd prefer to pretend couldn't possibly be real. I had to stop several times to allow myself to digest what I'd read and attempt to distance myself ...more
My emotions got the better of me as I moved through this book. Dexter Filkins must have nine lives -- it's unbelievable how many close calls he has while traveling through and interacting with the people of Mesopotamia. If you feel you'd like to know a whole lot more about America's current war(s) in the Islamic heartland ... I cannot think of a better (more entertaining) suggestion than to pick up this book. After some early chapters that put the reader in the middle of furious combat situation ...more
Terrific. My only complaint is that the story ends before more current events, such as the Surge, take place. (I’d love to read Filkins on-the-ground take on that.) However, there is a moment late in the book where Filkins interviews an Iraqi terrorist who is getting more than a bit sick of Al-Qaeda (the "foreigners") killing fellow Iraqis. It's something of a sea change, since the result is an ordered hit against two Al-Qaeda gunmen. I was also hoping for more on Afghanistan, probably because i ...more
Washington Post
Dexter Filkins was a New York Times war reporter when he reworked his articles into this splendid volume, sculpting each story so that it shines as a work of literature, illuminating the human cost of war. Each piece is a journalist's snapshots of war's effects. These stories are accurate but not antiseptic, detached but not uncaring. And they force the reader to reflect on how fragile civilization is and how fortunate we Americans are.

Bing West reviewed it for us:
It is so easy to be lulled into the relatively soft cocoon of American life that I forget that there are tragedies happening in the world, daily, far outside my scope of understanding.

It finally occurred to me that the best way to honor the lives of people who die to disseminate information is to, y'know, stay informed. I think there is a fear of becoming cynical and losing hope for good that comes with being informed of what's really going on, but it is the responsibility of a citizen of the w
If you want to know why we're never going to win any lasting victories in the Middle East, this is the book to tell you.

I don't pay a lot of attention to by-lines, but last week I read a terrific story about the Peshmurga - Kurdish fighters - in Iraq and Syria, and it was so well written and informative I had to check out the author. Dexter Filkins has been around the block, covering Afghanistan and Iraq for the NY Times since the late '90's. He's not a hotel journalist. It seems he's risked his
Incredibly insightful (about Iraqi mentality. American intentions, etc). I feel like I understand more about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by reading this book than the years of media coverage I have witnessed. I love the unspoken conclusions one can draw after each of his individual experiences. A must read for any American wishing to be educated on current affairs in the middle east!
Wow, an adventure story that's real! This is not my usual fare but I opened it up at work and just could not put it down. The writing is phenomenal and the stories Filkins relates are very exciting. Also, I learned so much about Iraq and Afghanistan in the process. Pick this one up.
This is a series of vignettes no doubt culled from NYT correspondent Dexter Filkins' notebooks. It chronicles the sorry-ass history of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq up to around 2006. Filkins tries for some balance, with stories of well meaning US soldiers in over their heads in a culture they don't even come close to understanding, as well as brave-as-hell Iraqis and Afghanis trying to build something out of their respective country's rubble. But the stories of misery and despair from ...more
When I started this book I was afraid that there would be too much explicit violence for me, but I quickly found that was not the case and I found it fascinating and deeply troubling. I felt really sad when it was done. There was so much tragedy. At the same time there were some things that were really funny in a dark sort of way. Part of the book is set in Afghanistan, most in Iraq during the Iraq war initiated by Pres. Bush. This book didn't change my opinion of the war, just reinforced what I ...more
Filkins lives with the people in Iraq for a number of years during the war. What he reports on is mostly shocking, mostly things he personally experienced. Other reviews here are very good. What I got out of the book is simply that there is no way that the US could have ever turned Iraq into a democratic state, say like Kansas. The people and their circumstances and their beliefs there are just too foreign. Filkins shows this through stories of corruption, violence, pride, and revenge. The US se ...more
The Forever War - I had been thinking, it seemed like a long time: I was in high school when we invaded Iraq, I was in college and we were still there, I graduated college and not much has changed, only news coverage of the war has decreased as we've moved on to other wars. But since Dexter Filkins starts his book in Afghanistan, and it looks like we'll be there until the end of time, too, you get the sense that he could keep adding chapters to this book until it grew to a multi-volume set. As f ...more
Paul Sheckarski
Filkins has drawn upon decades’ worth of journalistic experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to craft a book of current affairs so vivid that you’re as likely to find it on the memoir or poetry shelves as in the history section.

At face value the title seems overtly leftist, but Filkins has had his fill of partisanship. He has seen the consequences of both too much government and too little; the consequences of American intervention and of isolation. The title works on many levels, the most powerful
Kay Fair
Named one of the "10 best books of 2008" by the New York Times and brandishing a National Book Critics Circle Award, The Forever War by journalist Dexter Filkins has been leering at me from my Need-To-Read list for quite some time. "Consider the source," I warned myself as I first cracked it open; bracing myself for the far, far, far left wing swing I expected from a book written by a former reporter for both the L.A. and New York Times. "Be patient," my inner voice also advised, as I anticipate ...more
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Books for Militar...: The Forever War 1 12 Feb 21, 2012 08:15PM  
  • The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008
  • The Good Soldiers
  • The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
  • The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq
  • Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq
  • In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan
  • Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death
  • Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
  • Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War
  • The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education
  • The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism
  • Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
  • The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban
  • Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East
  • The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
  • Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
  • Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond
  • Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War
La guerra eterna Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War Best American Magazine Writing 2013 Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq

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“The most basic barrier was language itself, very few Americans in Iraq whether soldiers or diplomats or news paper reporters could speak more than a few words of Arabic. A remarkable number of them didn't even have translators. That meant for many Iraqis the typical 19 year old army corporal from South Dakota was not a youthful innocent carrying Americas good will, he was a terrifying combination of firepower and ignorance.” 4 likes
“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.” 2 likes
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