Daily Video

October 2, 2008

What would it be like to witness a war?

Dexter Filkins, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has written a new book about witnessing terrible violence and chaos in those countries.

Filkins spoke to the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown about the book, called “The Forever War,” which is a personal account of his experience working as a journalist in some of the most dangerous areas on the planet.

Filkins talks about coming across gun battles, seeing dead bodies in the street and watching a young Marine die who was escorting him in Iraq. Filkins stresses that he wanted to make his book about covering the conflict from the ground level and what it felt like being their personally, and not about the politics and policies surrounding the wars.


“I wanted to write a book…about what it felt like to be there. You know, I wanted to write less an intellectual book than a visceral one, than an emotional one. You know, what’s it like to be at a car bombing? Or what’s it like to sit across from a Sunni sheikh who’s lying to you?” – Dexter Filkins, the New York Times

“I mean, you know, often you’re just, you know, driving down the road and something bad starts happening. And then you just — you know, I mean, I’m thinking of, you know, any number of gun battles that I just happened to drive into. I just took a wrong turn, and there it was.” – Dexter Filkins

“We stepped into the minaret. Right when we did that, a couple of Marines kind of put their hand out. You know, I think I was 43 years old at the time. Those guys were 21, but they said, “We’ll go first.” And they went first. And one of them was killed.” – Dexter Filkins

Warm Up Questions

1. What do you think it would be like to be a war journalist?

2. How much attention do you give news about Iraq and Afghanistan?

3. What is the New York Times? Have you read it?

Discussion Questions

1. Why is it important for journalists to cover wars?

2. What did you think of Filkins? Were you impressed that he put himself into such a dangerous situation? Would you go to Iraq or Afghanistan to cover the wars there?

3. How does Filkins’ description of violence and chaos on a personal level compare to Iraq or Afghanistan war coverage you’ve read or seen?

4. What do you think Filkins meant when he said Iraq was a “kaleidoscope”? What about the ethnic groups in Iraq make it a particularly complicated country, especially during a war?

Additional Resources

Dexter Filkins Reads an Excerpt from ‘The Forever War’

In-depth Coverage: Iraq in Transition

In-depth Coverage: Afghanistan and the War on Terror

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