Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist and former Marine Corps infantry officer Chivers offers a chilling account of failed American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq through the searing experiences of six fighters.
Like his previous work, The Fighters immerses readers in know-how and gravitas, bringing together a collection of war testimonies by infantry grunts, fighter pilots and hospital corpsmen. The battle fragments can’t provide a full picture of the wars they portray, but together they do form something else: a dark and honest reckoning with just what it is we’ve done since that empty blue-skied day was filled with smoke nearly two decades ago ... Mr. Chivers crafts a vast and absorbing mosaic ... Themes of betrayal and unintended consequence serve as the book’s marrow ... Still, acts of great courage rise in The Fighters ... His writing shines with careful understatement and a muted irony ... And when Mr. Chivers does let it rip stylistically, you notice ... This is not a book that details the strategies of generals and presidents ... I’m more than sympathetic to this approach but still found myself wondering if some strategic perspective would have broadened the book ... With breadth and raw truth, The Fighters lays bare just how exacting and brutal that duty [of fighting in U.S. wars] has been.
C. J. Chivers, a senior writer for The New York Times and a former Marine infantry officer, begins his new book with a description of an American weapon, equipped with GPS sensors and a guidance system, hitting 'precisely the wrong place' and killing and mutilating a family of women and children on the Afghan steppe as a consequence. But Chivers’s narrative has only begun to slam you in the gut; later on, the author captures the psychological effect the errant bomb has on the Marines at the scene. Indeed, because of the way the stories and characters spool into one another with mathematical intensity, and the second-by-second in-your-face descriptions of prolonged battles from a sergeant’s eye view, The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq could be the most powerful indictment yet of America’s recent Middle East wars.
In The Fighters, New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers has threaded a delicate needle in telling the story of six U.S. service members and their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. He uses them to walk us through the bigger picture progression of the wars. He writes that his mission is to 'demystify' those who have served on the front lines. But he is also unapologetic in hoping that their stories reveal something larger: that the misguided policies that sent them abroad have failed ... 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 ... In these kind of accounts, the number of characters involved can often result in the reader getting confused. That may be one criticism of Bowden’s book, for instance. Chivers, though, is disciplined in keeping us focused on the subjects. It’s a testament to his reporting skills that he found such effective and willing subjects to profile and a testament to his writing skills that he did not stray from his pointed narrative arc.