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The Forever War

December 15, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

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I’m reading Dexter Filkins’ book The Forever War, partly about war in Afghanistan but largely about Iraq, based on his reporting for the Los Angeles Times a decade ago and for the New York Times in recent years. It’s an extraordinary book. I bought it after reading Robert Stone’s review on the front page of the Sunday New York Times Book Review in September, started it, found it painful, and set it aside, but now I’ve returned to it and I’m almost halfway through it.

Filkins writes simply and directly, in a sequence of vignettes, about incidents he sees, recounting what the people around him — townspeople, soldiers, officials — have to say. The last few chapters have been about Iraq during 2003 and 2004. What comes through most powerfully is the arrogance and delusion of higher-level US military and government officials. This isn’t exactly news, and Filkins doesn’t even say it himself, but it is so starkly inescapable as one reads the stories. The lack of interest in local culture and history, the inability to listen or see.

Because I saw the now-famous shoe-hurling incident at the press conference with President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki yesterday during breaks from reading the book, I was not at all surprised that Muntader al-Zaidi is now a hero in Iraq. One learns in page after page of the book how disliked Americans are.

Did we learn nothing from Vietnam?

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Categories: Books, Politics, Today's News
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