The harrowing account of US soldiers caught in America’s forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that The New York Times calls “relentless...a classic of war reporting,” by Pulitzer Prize winner and former Marine C.J. Chivers.
More than 2.7 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001, and C.J. Chivers reported on 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 “gripping, unforgettable” (The Boston Globe) portrait of modern warfare. Told with the empathy and understanding of an author who is himself an infantry veteran, The Fighters is “a masterful work of atmospheric reporting, and it’s a book that will have every reader asking—with varying degrees of urgency or anger or despair—the final question Chivers himself asks: ‘How many lives had these wars wrecked?’” (Christian Science Monitor).
Chivers, a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist and a Gulf War veteran in the Marines, presents in evocative detail the Iraq and Afghanistan war experiences of a handful of American fighters to tell the bigger story of how those conflicts with al-Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, and ISIS devolved into "wars that ran far past the pursuit of justice and ultimately did not succeed." Chivers focuses on six combatants an F-14 pilot, a Green Beret sergeant, a Navy corpsman, a helicopter pilot, an Army infantryman, and a Marine lieutenant. He briefly relates why each one joined the military and what happened to them after coming home, but the heart of the book is in-depth, intense reporting of their in-the-trenches tours of duty. Chivers spent countless hours on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2013. His reporting rings chillingly true, especially his accounts of the worst that war metes out to those doing the fighting and civilians caught in the crosshairs, for example the agony that corpsman Dustin Kirby went through after being shot in the face. The five-page account of a 2013 meeting between George W. Bush and the severely wounded Kirby and his family is a brilliantly told jolt of postwar reality. This fast-paced, action-heavy work of long-form war journalism has bestseller written all over it. Correction: A previous version of this review incorrectly identified the author's literary agent.