“The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins

I think anyone who has listened to the news over the last few years knows that the situation in Iraq is pretty bad.  This collection of experiences living and working in Iraq by a New York Times journalist confirms that statement.  Dexter Filkins has been there more or less from the start of the invasion and was in Afghanistan before that.

One anecdote from the book that stood out to me was a woman who described pre- and post-invasion Iraq with a diagram.  Before the invasion, you could draw a dot on a page and then a large circle around the dot — the dot is Saddam, and the circle is where you don’t want to be.  Stay out of the circle (out of Saddam’s way) and you don’t get hurt.  After the invasion, the page is virtually covered with dots, each with a small circle around it.  Most of the page is covered by some circle, meaning that most Iraqis are in danger from the myriad of terrorist groups fighting for their various causes.

When Saddam was first toppled, Filkins says, there was much rejoicing from many people throughout society.  Several reveled in their new freedom and eagerly set about working for democracy and progress…sadly, these were the people first targeted and assassinated or driven out by the insurgents.  Filkins indicates that there are now few such visionaries remaining in Iraq.

The chapter on suicide bombers was interesting.  They aren’t always willing martyrs.   Most are misled by their religious leaders and fed false ideas.

According to Filkins, a lot of Iraqis take American money with one hand and then (literally or figuratively) shoot at or bomb Americans with the other.

Kind of a grim country.  It seems like America isn’t doing a whole lot of good being in Iraq, and when we do leave it seems destined for more violence (civil war?) as the Iraqis straighten things out for themselves.  Hopefully they can and Iraq can become a nice place in the future.

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