the guardian Fri 25 September 2009
In The Forever War, New York Times journalist Filkins collects together his dispatches from various frontlines in Afghanistan and Iraq. The point of this book, we learn, is not to explain why these wars came about or to evaluate them; rather it is to provide a series of different portraits of how they feel to the various different parties involved. And so we get an up-close-and-personal view of what the ravages of war feel like to Taliban warlords, Metallica-playing marines, women suddenly forced to wear burkas, refugees on the move, orphaned children, Americans lying to themselves about progress and stray dogs in the city. Its collage of perspectives is startling not only because of its often obviously disturbing content (two-year-olds with artificial legs, people selling their children to buy food) but also because of the distance between wealthy and devastated worlds. It is a compliment to both books that The Forever War's snapshot structure has prompted many comparisons with Michael Herr's classic piece of reportage from Vietnam, Dispatches.