The Forever War


New York Times/Ashley Gilbertson

As we prepare to finish our discussion on The Forever War, I thought this interview was worth reading:

Why did you write The Forever War, and why did you choose that title?

Whenever I went home to the U.S., people would ask me: what’s it like over there? What does it feel like? What’s it like to be shot at? What’s it like to be woken up by a car bomb? What’s it like to sleep in a village with no electricity? How do you talk to a warlord? Hence my book: I want to show people what it feels like to be in Iraq and Afghanistan: the ambiguity, the heartbreak, the fear and the joy. It’s a visceral book, not really an intellectual one.

As for the title, I should say: the book makes no argument. It is very explicitly not a political book. The title, “The Forever War,” is more metaphor than literal truth. (At least I hope it is). The first chapter of the book takes place in 1998, at the Kabul Sports Stadium, at a public execution carried about by the Taliban on a Friday afternoon. It’s 2008 now, and we are still at war. I’ve expended much of my life’s energies in those wars. Many of us have. It already feels like forever, and it isn’t even over yet.

You must have strong opinions about the war on terror, and both the Iraq war and the way in which operations in Afghanistan have been conducted. Yet the book is almost apolitical. Why?

I think we’ve all heard our share of arguments about these wars. We’ve all heard a lot of moralizing – who was right and who was wrong. I’m exhausted by it; I think probably most people are. But in a deeper sense, I think much of the moralizing we’ve heard is self-indulgent. Moralizing is something you get to do from a TV studio, what someone at a cocktail party gets to do. If you are actually in Iraq or Afghanistan, you don’t get a chance to do a lot of that. People are dying. If my book is about anything, it’s about the reality on the ground. Down there, politics is irrelevant.

Filkins spoke to Terry Gross last year about ISIS here.  On another topic, thanks to Christina No for this fascinating New York Times piece on a Chinese photographer who has published a book of negatives of pictures of 1989.

Gilles Sabrie/New York Times

Reading for next class is:  Revolution 2.0 ps 58-122 (in Ctools.)

Assignments:  1)  Write a 500-word blogpost on your response to Restrepo – was it balanced and impartial? How effective was it? Analyze your response to the film compared to the Vanity Fair article and the photographs in the New York Times. In your view, which was the most effective in conveying the reality of conflict?

2) How developed is citizen journalism in your country?   Write a 300-word blog providing the context for your country: do citizen journalists exist there? How is internet infrastructure and access? Is it censored? What social media tools are most popular among citizen journalists?   Mention one or two prominent or emerging voices.   If there are no citizen journalists, write a piece analyzing why.

And, just to clarify, there is NO midterm exam for this class.  So please channel your energies into your writing.