The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq

The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq

“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 TimesPulitzer Prize winner C.J. Chivers’ 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 se...

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Title:The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq
Author:C.J. Chivers
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Edition Language:English

The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq Reviews

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com

    For more reviews and bookish thoughts please visit:

    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:

    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.

  • 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:

    All my reviews can by found on my blog:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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