Many people called this book the best one so far on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. I can see why! I couldn’t put the book down.
Filkins spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, the World Trade Center, and Iraq, covering Bush’s “War on Terror” and it shows with the breadth and depth of the vignettes presented in the book. He may have the best overall view of the war. Filkins was embedded with US troops on many missions. As a NY Times Reporter, he got to interview not only regular troops, but the commanders and higher ups in the military, CIA, and US government. He also lived outside the “Green Zone” so he got to know many ordinary Iraqis. He also gets the perspective of the insurgents and it is amazing how he got to experience both sides of combat. The guy talked to everyone involved in the war. It gives the complete picture of war. He is also a great writer and the book has a poetic sense to it. The characters and their stories really grip you.
He was almost killed or kidnapped several times. He is deeply affected by the violence and suffering he saw, similar to many of our troops. He really brought home the great difference between what is happening in Iraq and normal, everyday life in the USA. Many of his Iraqi friends are now living in the US.
I remember when we declared war on Iraq. I opposed the war and thought it was a bad idea. I agree that it was good to get rid of Sadaam Hussein, but there are many other dictators just as bad. Why go into Iraq? The war has cost the USA lots of money, energy, and lives. Not worth it in my opinion. It is sad and tragic. I felt sorry for the troops. They are mostly young kids from small towns like mine. It is not a fair fight as the “insurgents” hide behind civilians. No nation ever wins a war of occupation. We should get out as soon as possible. The book gave the impression that there could be a war between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam. We are not going to turn Iraq into a beacon of freedom and democracy for the Middle East. The Islamic tribal culture is so different to ours that it would takes several generations to make any profound change. And that is only if they wanted us to change them.
The book is reviewed in the NY Times and the NY Times’ bureau has a good blog. Many conservatives in the US say that the NY Times coverage of the war is biased, but Filkins points out they have spent the most money and provided the most coverage and reflective thinking about the war than any other media. The Los Angeles Public Library also has a podcast interview with Filkins.