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The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq

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“A classic of war reporting...The author’s stories give heart-rending meaning to the lives and deaths of these men and women, even if policymakers generally have not.” —The New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner C.J. Chivers’s unvarnished account of modern combat, told through the eyes of the fighters who have waged America’s longest wars. More than 2.7 million Americans have “A classic of war reporting...The author’s stories give heart-rending meaning to the lives and deaths of these men and women, even if policymakers generally have not.” —The New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner C.J. Chivers’s unvarnished account of modern combat, told through the eyes of the fighters who have waged America’s longest wars. More than 2.7 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001. C.J. Chivers reported from both wars from their beginnings. The Fighters vividly conveys the physical and emotional experience of war as lived by six combatants: a fighter pilot, a corpsman, a scout helicopter pilot, a grunt, an infantry officer, and a Special Forces sergeant. Chivers captures their courage, commitment, sense of purpose, and ultimately their suffering, frustration, and moral confusion as new enemies arise and invasions give way to counterinsurgency duties for which American forces were often not prepared. The Fighters is a tour de force, a portrait of modern warfare that parts from slogans to do for American troops what Stephen Ambrose did for the G.I.s of World War II and Michael Herr for the grunts in Vietnam. Told with the empathy and understanding of an author who is himself an infantry veteran, The Fighters presents the long arc of two wars.


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“A classic of war reporting...The author’s stories give heart-rending meaning to the lives and deaths of these men and women, even if policymakers generally have not.” —The New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner C.J. Chivers’s unvarnished account of modern combat, told through the eyes of the fighters who have waged America’s longest wars. More than 2.7 million Americans have “A classic of war reporting...The author’s stories give heart-rending meaning to the lives and deaths of these men and women, even if policymakers generally have not.” —The New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner C.J. Chivers’s unvarnished account of modern combat, told through the eyes of the fighters who have waged America’s longest wars. More than 2.7 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001. C.J. Chivers reported from both wars from their beginnings. The Fighters vividly conveys the physical and emotional experience of war as lived by six combatants: a fighter pilot, a corpsman, a scout helicopter pilot, a grunt, an infantry officer, and a Special Forces sergeant. Chivers captures their courage, commitment, sense of purpose, and ultimately their suffering, frustration, and moral confusion as new enemies arise and invasions give way to counterinsurgency duties for which American forces were often not prepared. The Fighters is a tour de force, a portrait of modern warfare that parts from slogans to do for American troops what Stephen Ambrose did for the G.I.s of World War II and Michael Herr for the grunts in Vietnam. Told with the empathy and understanding of an author who is himself an infantry veteran, The Fighters presents the long arc of two wars.

30 review for The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    The book won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. This book is a bit different in that it discusses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from the viewpoint of the privates to captains who fought the battles. Chivers said “he set out to chronicle the long arc and human experience of combat for American troops since 2001, and in a way that bridged the very large gap between official statements and what the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq really have been.” I found the book most interesting in that it was about peopl The book won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. This book is a bit different in that it discusses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from the viewpoint of the privates to captains who fought the battles. Chivers said “he set out to chronicle the long arc and human experience of combat for American troops since 2001, and in a way that bridged the very large gap between official statements and what the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq really have been.” I found the book most interesting in that it was about people not policy. The book is well written and researched. The book points out the failings of the wars. The stories of the men were often inspiring and heart rendering; be prepared for a few tears. This book should be a must-read for everyone. Chivers is a former Marine Corp infantry officer and is now a journalist. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is almost fourteen hours. Scott Brick does an excellent job narrating the book. Brick is a well-known narrator. In 2017 he was elected into the Narrators Hall of Fame. He has won many narrating awards.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    Chivers is a senior editor at The New York Times, and has won the Pulitzer for journalism. This meaty but readable book is the culmination of his years covering the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not the creation of a man parked in a library behind his laptop; he has personally gone to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, and Libya, and has either accompanied the people he writes about or retraced their footsteps. He covers the lives of six servicemen in the lower and middle ranks of the Chivers is a senior editor at The New York Times, and has won the Pulitzer for journalism. This meaty but readable book is the culmination of his years covering the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not the creation of a man parked in a library behind his laptop; he has personally gone to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, and Libya, and has either accompanied the people he writes about or retraced their footsteps. He covers the lives of six servicemen in the lower and middle ranks of the armed forces, and so he primarily uses eye witness reporting and interviews, in addition to American military data. I read it free courtesy of Net Galley and Simon and Schuster in exchange for my honest review. The Fighters will most likely be regarded in future years as the go-to book for those that want to know more about this war and the people whose lives were changed by it—including many of those whose homeland is or has been part of the war zone. Chivers sees a tremendous amount of waste and foolhardy disregard for human lives on the part of the Pentagon, and he makes an undeniable case for it. After reading it I came away convinced that he did not begin his project with an axe to grind and seek out the particular facts that would support the reality he wanted to present, but rather that over the many years since the towers fell in 2001, the things that he has seen and heard all point remorselessly toward the same conclusion. In point of fact, there are two places in my reading notes where I marked, without hyperbole, the similarity between the true information provided here and what I might expect to read in The Onion. Take, for example, the Afghan allies that are integrated into U.S. forces. The U.S. provides them with guns, but as far as anyone can see, it is strictly for the purpose of the Pentagon’s public relations campaign. Afghan soldiers in U.S. units don’t fire those guns. They hold them. They don’t aim; they don’t look at whoever is giving instructions nor at the translator. (They sure as fuck don’t salute.) In a protracted firefight, an American will eventually run out of ammunition and trade their empty weapon for one of those they hold, if the Afghan has not disappeared and taken the gun with him. And at night, the night watch exists in large part to ensure that if the Afghan soldiers choose to make themselves scarce overnight, they won’t take a bunch of munitions along with them and hand them off to the Taliban. But since the American public is increasingly impatient with the duration of and loss incurred by this war, those guys have to be kept around like untrustworthy mascots in order to maintain the illusion that Afghan forces will be taking the place of U.S. troops soon. Timelines get pushed back, but nothing significantly changes. The drums beat on. Thoughtless and ham-handed decisions by the top brass increase the resentment of civilians that live near the bases, people living in miserable poverty, sometimes directly across the street, with expensive machinery and plenitude of supplies the locals will probably never have. Meanwhile, troops are sent into circumstances that are bound to be fatal and also fail in their military objectives. It makes you want to sit down and cry. However, most of the narrative is not carnage and defeat. Who would read it if it were? Chivers instead does a fine job of painting the individual lives of the Americans he follows, and so most of the story reads almost like good fiction, and rather than being swathed in constant despair or endless statistics, I was instead deeply absorbed. Who knew it would be so interesting? Those that are curious about the war in the Middle East, the first U.S. war in generations to see reporters banned from providing live footage or photographing flag-covered caskets sent home, could hardly find better material to read. This is on-the-ground coverage at its finest. If you want to read just one book about the U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this should be it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    Recently, C. J. Chivers appeared on Book TV/C-SPAN and describes how he went about writing his new book, THE FIGHTERS: AMERICANS IN COMBAT IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ. After 9/11 the US military mission was to root out and defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Chivers, a New York Times investigative correspondent argues that the mission was accomplished in a few weeks, but after seventeen years, we as a nation still find ourselves supporting the governments in Kabul and Baghdad with thousa Recently, C. J. Chivers appeared on Book TV/C-SPAN and describes how he went about writing his new book, THE FIGHTERS: AMERICANS IN COMBAT IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ. After 9/11 the US military mission was to root out and defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Chivers, a New York Times investigative correspondent argues that the mission was accomplished in a few weeks, but after seventeen years, we as a nation still find ourselves supporting the governments in Kabul and Baghdad with thousands of troops. During those seventeen years over 2.7 million soldiers fought in Afghanistan and Iraq with over 3,000 deaths and 10,000 wounded. Based on our present circumstances in both countries it is important to understand the experiences of American forces and gain insights into their lives before, during, and after their service. Chivers engages this task and the result is a powerful book that should be the standard in trying to explain what has happened to the American military and their soldiers during the last seventeen years. Chivers’ approach is broad based. He relies on interviews of the combatants and narrows it down to six to eight individuals. They were chosen to represent as many areas as possible; he has chosen soldiers from different phases of the wars discussed; he focuses on the different enemies the US was confronted with; he explores different regions in the combat areas; the characters represent career soldiers from before 9/11, and those who joined because of the attack at the World Trade Center. Further, he explores the individual MOS of each character, how each soldier readjusted to civilian life, and their views about the wars before, during, and after their involvement. By using this approach Chivers can dig down and engage the human emotions involved, how combat affected his characters, and how the wars affected their families. Chivers’ research rests on numerous interviews conducted over a six-year period, diaries maintained by the participants, newspaper accounts, and other primary materials that were available. The author concludes that the men and women who fought represent only 1% of our country. The American people do not know that 1%, and most do not know anyone that knows them. This is important because that being the case the war does not touch most of us, therefore when decisions were made to fight the public debate was minimal. Perhaps if we had a draft and more people had “skin in the game” the public would be more involved, and it would not be so easy to engage in warfare. Chivers’ goal is an effort to remedy this situation “in part through demystification.” In doing so he rejects the views of senior officers. “It channels those who did the bulk of the fighting with an unapologetic belief that the voices of combatants of the lower and middle rank are more valuable, and more likely to be candid and rooted in battlefield experience, than those of the generals and admirals who order them to action—and often try to speak for them too.” Chivers is correct when he states that the history of warfare can be summed up with “too much general and not enough sergeant.” Chivers offers a critical indictment of American decision making and policies that led to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the errors that have ensued during the wars themselves. The lies, political machinations, career enhancing decisions, and general stupidity of what has occurred over the last seventeen years is on full display. The author presents six major characters, across numerous military fields in making his arguments. Chivers begins with Lieutenant Layne McDowell, a combat pilot; he goes on to include Sergeant First Class Leo Kryzewski, a Special Forces team navigator; Hospital Corpsman Dustin E. Kirby; Chief Warrant Officer Michael Sebonic, a helicopter commander; Specialist Robert Soto, an eighteen year old radio operator in an infantry unit; and Lieutenant Jarrod Neff, an infantry unit commander. Chivers allows the reader to get to know each character in a personal way, that when things go wrong they feel the pain that each soldier experiences. Chivers describes numerous ambushes, mortar attacks, IED explosions, rocket attacks, remote explosions, suicide bombs, and how soldiers tried to cope, especially the after effects. In effect, Chivers describes the “rawness of combat” and war itself and the difficulties endured by those who served. Perhaps the most poignant description in the book is when Petty Officer Dustin “Doc” Kirby spoke with the father of a soldier whose life he had saved, Chivers writes “The voice on the other end was breaking. Bob Smith was talking through tears. He pushed on. ‘My son would not be alive if not for you…. And if I am breathing, you will have a father in Ohio.’ Kirby’s guilt began to lift.” The military bureaucracy, “chicken shit” attitudes by higher ups, and poor decision-making where things that soldiers had to deal with daily to survive. For those in combat it came down to the battlefield’s baseline mentality: “They looked after themselves, platoon by platoon, squad by squad, truck crew by truck crew, each marine having the others back, and staying wide of the higher ups.” If one theme dominants Chivers’ narrative it is that each soldier saw his fellow soldier as a brother to be treated and cared for as they would wish to be treated and cared for themselves. All of these points are encapsulated in the description of Operation Mostar in one of the most dangerous areas of Helmand province as part of the 2010 troop surge in Afghanistan. Lt. Jarrod Neff must prove himself as a unit commander to his Marines having been transferred from an intelligence unit. Neff’s experiences point out the number of important issues related to the war. After spending billions on training an Afghan National Army, at the time of the surge they remained poorly trained, not trustworthy to the point many were suspected of being Taliban spies, and though they were to take the lead in certain operations, the Marines refused to allow it. Chivers description of Marine training, readiness and peoperational planning provides a human element in contemplating the violence and death American soldiers were about to deal with. As Chivers takes the reader through the assault on Marja one can only imagine how our troops can cope with what is happening around them. The most devastating aspect of the fighting was an errant American bomb that blew up a civilian house resulting in numerous casualties with body parts strewn all around. What made it worse is that the house contained women and children. It would fall to Neff’s men to clean up and complete a “body death assessment.” Chivers points out, that to this day the military has refused to release the investigative report about the incident. Chivers has written a masterful work that describes the atmosphere that exists in combat and what life was like for those soldiers who returned home. After reading this book the reader will become angry because of government policies, incompetence, and blindness when it came to American involvement in carrying out these two wars. The book should now be considered the standard for anyone who wants to vicariously live the life of an American soldier today and understand where US policy went wrong.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    This account of on the ground fighters in the US military in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq deeply impressed me. It was factual, at times a bit dry, but still very readable and surprisingly objective. And then at times it's like a hit in the gut. There were moments where I had to put the book down and calm myself. I'm not one to cry at movies, the only two times I was really bawling was when watching "The Road to Guantanamo", "12 years a slave" and the Danish movie "A War"("Krigen"). There's s This account of on the ground fighters in the US military in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq deeply impressed me. It was factual, at times a bit dry, but still very readable and surprisingly objective. And then at times it's like a hit in the gut. There were moments where I had to put the book down and calm myself. I'm not one to cry at movies, the only two times I was really bawling was when watching "The Road to Guantanamo", "12 years a slave" and the Danish movie "A War"("Krigen"). There's something about realistic depictions of the horror of war and physical torture that get me in a way that emotional dramas just can't. Reading The Fighters reminded me of watching these movies, especially "A War". Humanizing war and soldiers, depicting the horrors they go through without justifying anything, is an amazing feat.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    The Fighters honors the soldiers who try to see through the fog of war every day: the medical corpsman who has to triage a roadside bomb and the helicopter instructor pilot who takes his students through their first missions. They may not be directly connected to ‘why’ of the missions, but they certain are there for their fellow solders. This is a much needed text. Much needed because not enough has been documented about the last 17 years of war. And Chibers gives us a near-complete look, not at The Fighters honors the soldiers who try to see through the fog of war every day: the medical corpsman who has to triage a roadside bomb and the helicopter instructor pilot who takes his students through their first missions. They may not be directly connected to ‘why’ of the missions, but they certain are there for their fellow solders. This is a much needed text. Much needed because not enough has been documented about the last 17 years of war. And Chibers gives us a near-complete look, not at the directors, but the grunts with their hands on the triggers and the responsibilities on their shoulders. I commend Chivers’s dedication to expose the report on the challenges of these and all the soldiers. Full review can be found here: http://paulspicks.blog/2018/07/01/the... All my reviews can by found on my blog: https://paulspicks.blog

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Chivers focuses his narrative on the lives of fighters ( I’m so glad he didn’t use the word warrior)he met while reporting on the Middle East for the past two decades. We slip into and out of their lives during this endless period of war. His introduction is as elegant a denunciation of America’s prosecution of war as has been written yet, a damning indictment of American political and military leadership. We meet a : Naval aviator, Green Beret, two Navy corpsman, Army helo pilot, Marine Lt, and Chivers focuses his narrative on the lives of fighters ( I’m so glad he didn’t use the word warrior)he met while reporting on the Middle East for the past two decades. We slip into and out of their lives during this endless period of war. His introduction is as elegant a denunciation of America’s prosecution of war as has been written yet, a damning indictment of American political and military leadership. We meet a : Naval aviator, Green Beret, two Navy corpsman, Army helo pilot, Marine Lt, and Army infantry NCO. Some are lifers and others are there to do their part. Some will die, some will be grievously wounded, others will survive unscathed. We’ll meet a mother who confronts the President over what his decision did to her son. Be ready to shed some tears. Life is unfair. We’ve been at war for seventeen years with no end in sight, yet “the fighters” and a new generation of fighters continue to step forward to serve. Chivers tells their stories with a fervor but this is not hagiography. It is a stark glimpse into the harsh and unforgiving reality of war, one that too few Americans have any comprehension of because “they are at the mall.” I had resisted reading this book because I’ve read too many like it. This one is different.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com

    For more reviews and bookish thoughts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com The Fighters by C.J. Chivers is a non-fiction book offering unnerving accounts of soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Chivers is a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist and former Marine Corps infantry officer. This book is a riveting read which tells of the harsh truths, challenges and pains of fighting two wars in distant countries, away from home. If you like your “alternate facts”, or happ For more reviews and bookish thoughts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com The Fighters by C.J. Chivers is a non-fiction book offering unnerving accounts of soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Chivers is a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist and former Marine Corps infantry officer. This book is a riveting read which tells of the harsh truths, challenges and pains of fighting two wars in distant countries, away from home. If you like your “alternate facts”, or happy stories this book is not for you. But if you’d like to read what US soldiers are going through, face some ugly truths and difficult facts this is it. The author tells real stories of real soldiers that have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, some are new to the military and others are veterans of other conflicts. Their stories are told from a humane point of view and takes into account the human factor and the toll fighting takes on one’s self and one’s family. The book is told from a third person perspective, but we read the background on each of them and see them as individuals, not just soldiers who are small cogs in a big machine who have opinions on what they do, why they do it, and suffer the consequences along with hundreds of thousands of others. Mr. Chivers’ does some analysis, not much but some, in the course of the book. His analysis is reasonable and based on facts, you or I might agree or disagree with some of them, but that is what reasonable people do. The author does not make up facts, but makes reasonable assumptions and tries to stay as objective as possible. The book is very real and raw, it makes several points – some on geopolitical matters which I do not know enough to comment on, but others on local level. One of the main points is how the US, as a whole, needs to treat our veterans better, especially those that are suffering from physical and/or mental wounds. Coming home broken is not a weakness, but one does need strength and support, as well as no social stigma, to ask for help when needed. If you feel inclined, please support the Wounded Warrior Project, or any other of the fantastic organizations that were set up to help these veterans.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elmwoodblues

    America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall. --handwritten note on the wall of the government center in Ramadi, Iraq, in January 2007 C.J.Chivers has written a factual 'The Things They Carried' for a new generation, a book that is not always easy to read. Times of relative calm, almost tedium, explode into action; violence gives way to caring, guilt, regret; honor and courage are immediate and costly, in the fire teams on the ground and the small cockpits in the air America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall. --handwritten note on the wall of the government center in Ramadi, Iraq, in January 2007 C.J.Chivers has written a factual 'The Things They Carried' for a new generation, a book that is not always easy to read. Times of relative calm, almost tedium, explode into action; violence gives way to caring, guilt, regret; honor and courage are immediate and costly, in the fire teams on the ground and the small cockpits in the air. As in any war, perhaps in anything society does, much of the hard work and sacrifice falls on the small players in the scope of history. Chivers tells their stories here, in wrenching detail, wounds and all. In the preface, Chivers quotes retired Marine Corps General John F. Kelly speak of the very few Americans who have volunteered to put on the uniform in the modern age, calling these men and women "the best 1 percent this country produces." Chivers lets us hear their voices, see their lives during war and in its aftermath. Maybe the other 99 percent, after sitting with these stories, can better understand the cost of wars fought in our names, even if they personally know no one in uniform, even if they are at the mall.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grouchy Historian

    A different spin on the typical book of soldiers at war like Band of Brothers. Follows Americans through multiple combat tours spanning several years and both Iraq and Afghanistan. Show the real cost that over a decade of war had on these warriors.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I gave this 5 stars because I couldn't give it 6. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a tough read, but I think an important one. It eschews the chest-thumping, "God & Country" narrative that has passed for military memoirs in recent years and adopts a much more thoughtful and reflective outlook on the experience of being at war, and its aftermath. Much like "Dispatches", by Michael Herr, did for the experience of soldiers in Vietnam, I believe that "The Fighters" will become o I gave this 5 stars because I couldn't give it 6. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a tough read, but I think an important one. It eschews the chest-thumping, "God & Country" narrative that has passed for military memoirs in recent years and adopts a much more thoughtful and reflective outlook on the experience of being at war, and its aftermath. Much like "Dispatches", by Michael Herr, did for the experience of soldiers in Vietnam, I believe that "The Fighters" will become one of the seminal works of the American experience at war in the 21st century.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Matheson

    "On one matter there can be no argument. The foreign policies that sent these men and women abroad, with an emphasis on military activity and visions of reordering foreign nations and cultures, did not succeed. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq failed to achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the officers in command." C.J. Chivers does not mince words when it comes to the continued failure of the US Army's involved in Iraq and Afgha "On one matter there can be no argument. The foreign policies that sent these men and women abroad, with an emphasis on military activity and visions of reordering foreign nations and cultures, did not succeed. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq failed to achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the officers in command." C.J. Chivers does not mince words when it comes to the continued failure of the US Army's involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that does not stop him from detailing the countless instances of bravery that have occurred over the past 17 years, and that's what makes this such a necessary read. Chivers paints a complete picture all from the stories of the people who lived it, and I believe everyone will be better off if they read this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    A modern military history masterpiece! Here is my review in the Providence Journal: https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julia Wilson

    I read this book to try to understand at least a small part of what life is like for the men and women fighting in today's wars. Chivers reports with a straight-forward style that allows the soldiers to have the spotlight. He doesn't need to embellish because the stories themselves are so deeply moving. Anyone who talks about respecting the troops would do well to think about what these troops have really been through.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Trevithick

    4.5 stars - heartbreaking, depressing, inspiring, with poignant prose. I’m happy this book exists, and appreciate its singular focus on the people who have fought these wars. I appreciate the hard but simple questions it so clearly illuminates. The chapter on the Korengal was very well done.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chaz

    Really excellent writing on a very tough to read topic. But the care given to this subject was excellent. Whether you are for, against, or indifferent to our forever wars, this is a must-read, and one you will not regret.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan Downing

    Rarely do I read the blurbs from other authors on the back jacket of a book. I skip them because they more often reveal how little of the book the reviewer read than they give insight into the worth of the book. I bought Chivers book because I know him as a potent and informed writer with something to say. As it happened, about halfway through I paused and read the back cover blurbs. Everyone right on. Each one by a writer I know and respect. And Robert D. Kaplan did a review for The New York Tim Rarely do I read the blurbs from other authors on the back jacket of a book. I skip them because they more often reveal how little of the book the reviewer read than they give insight into the worth of the book. I bought Chivers book because I know him as a potent and informed writer with something to say. As it happened, about halfway through I paused and read the back cover blurbs. Everyone right on. Each one by a writer I know and respect. And Robert D. Kaplan did a review for The New York Times I stumbled across and it, too, was right on. These are stories by the men and women on the ground, under fire. No fluff, no crap. And the people who need to read this, won't. Those are the people who still think Bush and Rumsfeld and the Military had good reasons for these wars, fought them with integrity and intelligence and told us the truth about what was happening. In truth, in my reasonable world, they would all be tried for mass murder, lying, mis-, mal-, and non-feasance. So much for my rant: I think it unlikely any American could read this book without becomeing enraged now and then. Even one central character who bought into the stories about the mythical WMD continued to be racked with doubt about civilian women and children he may have killed with a misdirected bomb, although most of his angst focussed on Serbia and Kosovo. It seems unlikely to me that Mr. Chivers set out to do a hatchet job on Washington, DC and the Military. But in telling a truthful story about Iraq and Afghanistan the idiocy and incompetence must surface. On the lead-in page, Chivers quotes from 'The Illiad' and from the wall of the government center in Ramadi, Iraq, the latter being : "America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at War. America is at the mall". ---handwritten in January 2007. In the final section of the main text, Mr. Chivers tells of the mother of a wounded soldier who has a come to Jesus talk with President Bush in the White House. She says some potent words without calling the man a monster or a liar. She is standing behind her son, as we all should be standing behind our enlisted military. Yes, it has been their choice to go to war or wherever the Pentagon sends them, but we owe so very much to them and may owe more. Whether they have fought in faraway places so that we do not have to fight the battle in our streets, or if they simply spilled the blood of foreigners so to grow patriots and jihadists, the rough men and women have been ours and for us. Highly Recommended

  17. 5 out of 5

    Devin Croft

    After listening to his interviews on PBS Newshour and NPR I was very interested in this book and was not disappointed, probably because my wife and I are the parents of three veterans, including one son with two combat tours in Iraq. Chivers is well qualified to write this story from his own experience as a USMC platoon leader in the Persian Gulf War. The book traces the experience of six different servicemen in Iraq, Afghanistan and at home in the US from 2001 to 2017. Those serving in the mili After listening to his interviews on PBS Newshour and NPR I was very interested in this book and was not disappointed, probably because my wife and I are the parents of three veterans, including one son with two combat tours in Iraq. Chivers is well qualified to write this story from his own experience as a USMC platoon leader in the Persian Gulf War. The book traces the experience of six different servicemen in Iraq, Afghanistan and at home in the US from 2001 to 2017. Those serving in the military and their immediate families make up less than 1% of the US population, but they bear 100% of the burden when the nation goes to war. From the start Chivers is unsparing in his portrayal of a nation completely disconnected from those supposedly serving it's interests in combat in remote and now largely unseen locations. He notes the graffiti left by an unknown author in Ramadi "America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall". One young soldier, initially very idealistic in his desire to serve after 9/11 eventually comes to realize there is little rational explanation for the patrols he and his comrades carry out in the remote Korengal Valley among villagers who have no interest in helping them or in hiding their hostility to their presence. "We're here because we're here " is the only rationale he can come up with. When their outpost is abandoned long after it has outlived it's usefulness he is only surprised that higher-ups took that long to see reality. The effect of the war on the families and the culture shock that veterans face on homecoming is also covered in detail, including one family that gets an audience with former President Bush, along with their physically and mentally broken grown son who miraculously survives a near fatal bullet wound to the face that has left him disfigured, in constant pain, divorced and addicted. In previous conflicts, the rest of America made material sacrifices when it's sons and daughters went to war. This book should make everyone wonder why our leaders insist that everyone get more and bigger tax cuts every year while their servicemen and women continue to risk their lives in never-ending conflicts overseas. With only the 1% bearing the burden the rest of us get to pretend there is no sacrifice at all.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gary Detrick

    At the beginning, I did not know if I was going to become engaged in reading this or not. I was wrong as I found that it started drawing me in. The events unfold chronologically as the wars progress. Chivers does a great job revisiting most of the books main characters as their eventful stories unfold during the progression of the wars. Again, I found myself dumfounded by some of the decisions the top brass make as we put our soldiers lives in danger, as some of the characters do also. As I've sp At the beginning, I did not know if I was going to become engaged in reading this or not. I was wrong as I found that it started drawing me in. The events unfold chronologically as the wars progress. Chivers does a great job revisiting most of the books main characters as their eventful stories unfold during the progression of the wars. Again, I found myself dumfounded by some of the decisions the top brass make as we put our soldiers lives in danger, as some of the characters do also. As I've spoken with different veteran's through the years, I find that this is a reoccurring thought amonst many of them. This book lays reality on the table as these soldiers try and balance their home and war lives. A discouraging, painful and heartfelt read at times due to the real life events. Chivers bring his interviews with these soldiers and their families to life. Well researched and documented with those whom were actually involved. This is a good eye-opener for those whom want to learn about our modern warfare tactics and decisions.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Russel Henderson

    Exceptional writing, some of the most moving and insightful about the recent conflicts. He puts readers into the minds of grunts, operators, helicopter pilots and fighter/bomber pilots. He paints a vivid picture of combat, of loss, of the fog of war, and of the impact it has on the participants on their loved ones. It is well worth the read on those grounds alone. His account of a meeting between a wounded warrior, his mother, and former President Bush is a poignant look at the struggles of all Exceptional writing, some of the most moving and insightful about the recent conflicts. He puts readers into the minds of grunts, operators, helicopter pilots and fighter/bomber pilots. He paints a vivid picture of combat, of loss, of the fog of war, and of the impact it has on the participants on their loved ones. It is well worth the read on those grounds alone. His account of a meeting between a wounded warrior, his mother, and former President Bush is a poignant look at the struggles of all three. His policy analysis, which is a good bit of the sales pitch of the book, is less perceptive. He draws a straight like from AQI circa 2006 to ISIS circa 2016, which glosses over much. He ignores the successes, impermanent though they may have been, in counterinsurgency in Iraq in 08-10 and the impact that those had on the men and women who participated. That is, OIF vets who served there in 05-06 never saw any return on their efforts. Those who served later had a (somewhat) more positive experience in most places as violence was down and interactions with Iraqis were often less confrontational and more positive. That is to say he glosses over chapters in the story of the war that paint it as something less than an unmitigated disaster. I enjoyed the book and it is certainly worth the read, but a definitive understanding of what went right and what went wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan will likely require the judgment of posterity, from a greater distance than that of Chivers now.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    First, I highly recommend this book (five stars plus). Prior to reading 'The Fighters', I was not familiar with author C.J. Chivers. He's now on my short list of top-flight journalists/war correspondents (includes people such as Sebastian Junger and Peter Bergen). For one thing, Chivers has been there, done that; as an ex-marine infantry officer. He spends time in the field with his subjects. He also does very good research. But most importantly, the man can write! Even though this book is a tou First, I highly recommend this book (five stars plus). Prior to reading 'The Fighters', I was not familiar with author C.J. Chivers. He's now on my short list of top-flight journalists/war correspondents (includes people such as Sebastian Junger and Peter Bergen). For one thing, Chivers has been there, done that; as an ex-marine infantry officer. He spends time in the field with his subjects. He also does very good research. But most importantly, the man can write! Even though this book is a tough, brutal read in spots, its hard to put down. The book jacket summarizes Chivers' story quite well, so I won't repeat it. He doesn't dwell on the big picture - this is a series of intimate stories about young people facing combat and its effect on them and their families. These stories are not pretty, all are agonizing, and several don't end well. Its not hard to figure out how Chivers feels about these endless wars and what it does to the soldiers in the field, their families, and the civilians caught in the cross fire. But his opinions are not pushed 'in your face'. Again, this is a five star (plus) book and I strongly recommend it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jove

    The Fighters surprised me by how it kept drawing me back to read despite other obligations like work and sleep. After reading through several fairly one sided accounts of war heroism in Vietnam and Korea, The Fighters impressed me by giving a seemingly more complete accounting of what participating as a combatant in a modern American war must be like. It has its share of macho war fighting moments, but these are interspersed between accounts of self doubt, random acts of unexpected violence, dis The Fighters surprised me by how it kept drawing me back to read despite other obligations like work and sleep. After reading through several fairly one sided accounts of war heroism in Vietnam and Korea, The Fighters impressed me by giving a seemingly more complete accounting of what participating as a combatant in a modern American war must be like. It has its share of macho war fighting moments, but these are interspersed between accounts of self doubt, random acts of unexpected violence, disillusionment with our broader mission and with our in country allies, insights into the impacts on surrounding civilians, and the frustration and pain of returning to a homeland that was mostly shielded from the effects of these wars. Early in the book, he mentions the somewhat famous Marine quote "We're at war, America is at the mall." If nothing else, the rest of the book helps the reader to understand a little of what that might mean.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    "This book is about men and women who served in American combat service in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It covers these combatants with a simple organizing idea: that they are human. It details personal experiences: what these experiences were, how they unfolded, and what effects they had upon those who were there. And it covers them from their own perspectives, offering their own interpretations of their wars." "On one matter there c "This book is about men and women who served in American combat service in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It covers these combatants with a simple organizing idea: that they are human. It details personal experiences: what these experiences were, how they unfolded, and what effects they had upon those who were there. And it covers them from their own perspectives, offering their own interpretations of their wars." "On one matter there can be no argument. The foreign policies that sent these men and women abroad, with an emphasis on military activity and visions of reordering foreign nations and cultures, did not succeed. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq failed to achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the officers in command. Astonishingly expensive, operationally incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars continued in varied forms each and every year after the first passenger jet struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without a satisfying end in sight." "The Pentagon specializes is war. Across three presidential administrations, with a license to spend and experiment unmatched by any nation on earth, it managed, again and again, to make war look like a bad idea." "As dangers arose, the United States took steps intended to protect its forces, keeping troops inside bases and venturing out on short missions and limited patrols-a posture that ceded most of the country to armed groups and made many dangerous areas more dangerous still." "The battlefield did not care about reputations, appearances, or wishes. It simply snatched lives." "The Taliban could fight as it pleased, but the Americans were bound by rules." "The latest generation of American officials, the inheritors of a problem a previous generation of American officials had made, said the opium trade served as an economic engine for the Taliban, and was guarded and ruled by fighters." "The campaign had shed its original name, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and replaced it in 2010 with an optimistic new label, Operation New Dawn." "The war was not over. They country was rules by a government class beset with corruption and sectarian tension. Al Qaeda in Iraq's descendant, the Islamic State of Iraq, lurked in Sunni neighborhoods and provinces, and the rest of the country remained crowded with militias of uncertain intentions. Its military and security forces were weak and often organized along sectarian lines. But the United States, determined to extricate itself from an unpopular war, was leaving." "Doc tried pushing aside any larger assessment of the war. He was of two minds. He accepted that he did not understand all the reasons behind the American occupation, or the Marine Corps' tactics, or their prospects for success. He had not seen much in Karma that he thought worth fighting for and no longer bought the idea that what the Corps was doing in Karma was tied to American security at home." "By the time First Platoon's tour was over, the conditions the Corps had said it would create-a Taliban on the run, an economy uncoupled from the drug trade, Afghan security forces capable of independent operations-sounded in retrospect as naive or dishonest as the propaganda of Soviet Union's Afghan try."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    The Fighters is important documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It shares some personal experiences of lower to medium ranked military men and women (not the top brass). In revealing their lives prior to the military, their training, and then their field experiences, much is indicated about both their commitment and valor, but also frustration with poor leadership decisions and lack of information as they participate in an unwinnable war. Am inclined to say this is a book that will a The Fighters is important documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It shares some personal experiences of lower to medium ranked military men and women (not the top brass). In revealing their lives prior to the military, their training, and then their field experiences, much is indicated about both their commitment and valor, but also frustration with poor leadership decisions and lack of information as they participate in an unwinnable war. Am inclined to say this is a book that will appeal mainly to men, service men and women, and their families. There are a lot of unfamiliar acronyms that are explained, but if you put the book down, you may be likely to forget what the acronym meant the next time. The personal stories are interesting, but it was a bit difficult to digest the murderous mistakes made, and even the intentional orders to kill. Obviously, people die in wars, but this gets pretty specific. The wounds of our own soldiers are pretty nauseating; the fact that they are real is likely to make war-haters howl in frustration. Touching back to the events of September 11th, 2001, to the present, this is written by an investigative reporter and veteran who worked hard to represent those inspired to join up after the Twin Towers fell and also career military personnel and their families. He touches on PTSD, suicide, and divorce as common effects of war. He expresses admiration for medics attending the wounded, yet reveals contempt for the care of veterans upon their return home. While this was not a book I would have normally chosen to read, it did a lot to explain life on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. What especially struck me is that for 17 years, I have led a rather normal life, not regularly paying attention to the wars. Vietnam actually seems more real and I was just a child then. Perhaps we have become numb? Thank you C.J. Chivers for providing a jolt of awareness.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rey

    I usually read the preface instead of cover blurbs to forecast the content of a book. The preface is a balanced overview of the wars--for example, it has a poignant example of the cost of the war on civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. You will not find this is representative of the book. Instead, the text is replete with egregious examples of frankly racist views of the peoples of the countries. Violence prompts the worst in people--on both sides--but it does not justify dehumanizing ones enemies I usually read the preface instead of cover blurbs to forecast the content of a book. The preface is a balanced overview of the wars--for example, it has a poignant example of the cost of the war on civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. You will not find this is representative of the book. Instead, the text is replete with egregious examples of frankly racist views of the peoples of the countries. Violence prompts the worst in people--on both sides--but it does not justify dehumanizing ones enemies or justify the suspension of human rights. While the views cited by the soldiers may be understood, but not justified, by the circumstances, the unmediated presentation of those views by a purported professional journalist cannot be. Particularly reprehensible is Chivers' quoting in full a letter an officer wrote to a radio station regarding the Dixie Chicks voicing their opposition to the war in Iraq. The purpose of the letter was not to communicate to the Dixie Chicks but to incite anger and perhaps violence against the women for voicing their opinion. He called them "cowards"--they were, in fact, courageous to speak up when they did. They were not armed or supported by artillery and gunships, they did wear body armor to fight their war--they were brave and doing their duty as citizens. Chivers fails to provide any context or meditation--he simply reinvigorates antipathy toward the women in a time when women are increasingly under threat from violent men. All of the soldiers Chivers profiles voted Republican. How extraordinary that he could not find a Democratic soldier to profile. It is shameful for Chivers to make patriotism partisan.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Philip M.

    The book was simultaneously spellbinding and heroic - filled with true patriots who were serving at "ground level" from private to captain in the seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and heartbreakingly tragic. Chivers writes as a reporter who truly was embedded and "on the ground" with the so-called grunts that form the strong and vigilant core of our nation's services (and afterward in re-visits) and he has fabulously well-detailed, first-hand accounts from the people who were ther The book was simultaneously spellbinding and heroic - filled with true patriots who were serving at "ground level" from private to captain in the seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and heartbreakingly tragic. Chivers writes as a reporter who truly was embedded and "on the ground" with the so-called grunts that form the strong and vigilant core of our nation's services (and afterward in re-visits) and he has fabulously well-detailed, first-hand accounts from the people who were there. But the monumental levels of really tragic mistakes, uncaring political machinery and processes, and just the lack of a true "point" to much of the action that put so many of our best and bravest in harm's way feels overwhelming reading (or listening to - I did a combination of both) it at times. I think this is a great book by an excellent, fact-based reporter with an eye on authenticity. I also think that it may be too early to write, and especially to judge, "history" books about these two wars, while people's emotions on either side of the issues they conjure up still running so high and while brave Americans are still in harm's way. Having the benefit of a longer view of time to reflect on the events of Iraq and Afghanistan will, no doubt, bring a deeper, more nuanced analysis. Still, though, Chivers has been able to capture the "near real-time" feelings, emotions, and ground-level perspectives that a longer view will never achieve.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sean Elliot

    this is a must-read book for everyone who isn't/hasn't/won't serve in the military in the current spate of U.S. wars ... Chivers is one of, if not the, most preeminent war correspondent of our times (and The Times, obviously). His reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, etc. is critical for the understanding of what it means to be safe at home while these men and women are sent off to war in our name. Unlike the work of Sebastian Junger, who's "War" is among the finest pieces of conflict journa this is a must-read book for everyone who isn't/hasn't/won't serve in the military in the current spate of U.S. wars ... Chivers is one of, if not the, most preeminent war correspondent of our times (and The Times, obviously). His reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, etc. is critical for the understanding of what it means to be safe at home while these men and women are sent off to war in our name. Unlike the work of Sebastian Junger, who's "War" is among the finest pieces of conflict journalism, this book is pure journalism reportage. Junger is a writer, a very skilled creator of narrative. Chivers true gift is in his reporting, in finding the story that needs to be told and giving voice to that person. The Fighters is heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching, following the stories of several U.S. servicemen as they make their way from one war to the other and how they deal with the traumas (or worse) they must bear. Chivers has the rare, in a war correspondent, perspective of someone who spent a number of years as a Marine infantryman. He did not serve in time of war, but the training and background give him the ability to get in the heads of his subject in a way rare to most reporting.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    Unlike many of the books that cover our Forever Wars, this one is not about missteps in strategy, how we got here, a particular action or the reflections of a vet. All of those have value and there are several good examples of each. “The Fighters” is about the wreckage that wars leave on the inside and out of its participants. This is the story of the common soldier and the fast-rising pilot and several men (unfortunately, no women were profiled here) in between. Chivers writes about these peop Unlike many of the books that cover our Forever Wars, this one is not about missteps in strategy, how we got here, a particular action or the reflections of a vet. All of those have value and there are several good examples of each. “The Fighters” is about the wreckage that wars leave on the inside and out of its participants. This is the story of the common soldier and the fast-rising pilot and several men (unfortunately, no women were profiled here) in between. Chivers writes about these people as they are not how we want them or imagine them to be. Several times while reading these accounts, I was brought to the verge of tears. There are lighter moments as well, although the gravity of those fighting wars for which we cannot adequately say why, seems to always be present. There is a list of books that any lawmaker or President should consult before sending our men and women into battle. This is one that pairs well with the (semi) fictional Vietnam story, “Matterhorn.” For me, that is highest praise. Others, who are skilled writers, have written reviews on “The Fighters,” that are much more enlightening than this. Please seek out those if you need more depth. Highly recommend.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rob Lewis

    Excellent We still have people that are willing to give everything for us who get ignored in the political shuffle and then forgotten when they get home. This book does a really nice job of telling the stories of six of them. I feel ashamed that we have been at war for nearly two decades and I really don’t know much about what these folks have been through. “More than 2.7 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since late 2001. Many went to both wars. Nearly 7,000 of them died, and Excellent We still have people that are willing to give everything for us who get ignored in the political shuffle and then forgotten when they get home. This book does a really nice job of telling the stories of six of them. I feel ashamed that we have been at war for nearly two decades and I really don’t know much about what these folks have been through. “More than 2.7 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since late 2001. Many went to both wars. Nearly 7,000 of them died, and tens of thousands more were wounded.” “Little about this sat well with Soto. He had joined the Army to protect America. He was unsure how the Korengal Outpost served that end. The circumstances in the valley, and many of the missions his platoon was ordered to perform, caused him to wonder what the Army was thinking. In an outpost with a purpose that felt poorly conceived, Soto reduced the mission to its most basic rationale. We’re here because we’re here. If nothing else, the soldiers could fight for one another. That was something worth fighting for, and with a tangible purpose and a defined end.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    The Fighters is a great book that tells the stories of those who have been through combat in our recent years in the middle east region. It shows a variety of soldiers and roles, from infantry to pilots. It also wants to tell their stories how they are. Which means that people get injured and killed from these people's perspectives. Due to the book being non-fiction, there is a limited sense of a "plot". It also switches between perspectives on a chapter by chapter basis. It starts the person's p The Fighters is a great book that tells the stories of those who have been through combat in our recent years in the middle east region. It shows a variety of soldiers and roles, from infantry to pilots. It also wants to tell their stories how they are. Which means that people get injured and killed from these people's perspectives. Due to the book being non-fiction, there is a limited sense of a "plot". It also switches between perspectives on a chapter by chapter basis. It starts the person's point of view by showing how they got in the service, and then the snippet of their service we see in the book. (view spoiler)[Some of the main characters get severely injured or killed. One lost a leg to an IED, and another was shot and bled out for example. (hide spoiler)] I definitely recommend the book. However, it is not for the faint-hearted, as the injuries and such are described in detail usually. I'd recommend it to those who like action-oriented or military books. There wasn't anything I could pick out that I didn't like about it, being non-fiction.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eugene Rhee

    My 5-star rating comes with a caveat - this is not an enjoyable book. It is the hard and gruesome truth of war. Chivers’ message comes through crystal clear - wars leave so much suffering in its wake. Therefore every military officer and federal politician should read this book to better understand the consequences of sending our countrymen to war. The book is a collection of stories, written in the third person, about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are all sorts of individuals with dif My 5-star rating comes with a caveat - this is not an enjoyable book. It is the hard and gruesome truth of war. Chivers’ message comes through crystal clear - wars leave so much suffering in its wake. Therefore every military officer and federal politician should read this book to better understand the consequences of sending our countrymen to war. The book is a collection of stories, written in the third person, about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are all sorts of individuals with different world views. You might relate to some and think others are naive a-holes. But regardless of their views coming in and during the wars, the impact of war here and abroad is laid bare. At times, this book brought me to tears at times and I generally regard myself as an uncaring a-hole. P.S. The prologue sucked, so just get past it.

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