Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Marine veteran C.J. Chivers talks about his recent book The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq at the Burbank Public Library on Thursday evening, October 25.
The book follows six members of the military – an Army helicopter pilot, an Army infantryman, an Air Force fighter pilot, a Navy corpsman, a Marine infantry officer and a Special Forces Sergeant – before, during and after their service in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Chivers will be interviewed by two veterans, Max Uriarte and Paul Szoldra, for their popular veteran podcast After Action with Max and Paul. They will discuss Chivers’ years as a Marine and more recent work as an award-winning war correspondent.
“After years of covering these wars, one patrol at a time, I wanted to write a fuller account, something that would show what the experience was like for those who fought them,” commented Chivers, a correspondent for The New York Times and a writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine.
Chivers’ magazine story “The Fighter” won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. In 2009, he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for coverage from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I know how busy and time-challenged people are, and how difficult and even numbing it can be to try to follow wars that have gone on so long, and had so many phases,” Chivers added. “With this book I hope that readers who take time for one book can have a very rich sense of the rank-and-file experience of these wars, at the human level, set against the national disappointments the wars have been.”
“I thought it was about time that we did an event here that recognized the service of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and I hope some of those veterans, and other veterans will come to this event,” commented Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak.
“But this is not just an event for veterans,” he added. “I want a general public to know about the experience of soldiers who serve these days, this at a time when fewer people than ever really are connected with those who serve in our armed forces.”
“It seems the more distant and complacent and almost blissfully ignorant we become about those we ask to serve on our behalf, the more we are willing to tell a veteran ‘Thank you for your service,'” Kozak also said. “But when you don’t know what that service involved—most don’t and many don’t want to know—that becomes a means of dismissal more than a meaningful appreciation.”
“Chris Chivers has let us all know in a powerful way,” he said. “This book has intimacy and immediacy, and you will see things through the eyes of the soldiers who served.”
The United States’ failed campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to be waged. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has spent $1.5 trillion on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, according to a recent Department of Defense report.
Thousands of U.S. service members have died in the two wars and, according to a Pentagon estimate, hundreds of thousands of returned troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Nearly three million Americans have fought in the campaigns since 2001.
“These wars failed for many reasons, including that our government did not have well-articulated and realistic goals for them, generally did not understand the people they fought or the countries they occupied, and in most every sense tried to fight with too few people,” said Chivers, who served as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps in the Persian Gulf War and on peacekeeping duty during the Los Angeles riots.
“In the case of Iraq, the invasion itself was wrong-headed, and choosing to invade Iraq in 2003 diverted all manner of resources from the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan, which in 2002 was already adrift,” he went on to say. “The wars were conceptual failures first, and naturally practical failures followed.”
“The government might do better if there were clear and present checks-and-balances, but whatever checks-and-balances exist in theory have been ceded by those who might apply them, including by Congress and the public, including you and me,” Chivers concluded.
The New York Times has called The Fighters “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 event begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library, located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street. The author will sign books after the discussion and copies of The Fighters will be available for purchase. Plenty of free parking is available on site.