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The Fighters

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Pulitzer Prize–winning conflict journalist C.J. Chivers follows the arcs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through the experiences of those who fought them, as Stephen Ambrose did for the grunts of WWII, and Michael Herr’s classic Dispatches did for Vietnam.

Almost 2.5 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001. C.J. Chivers has reported from both fronts from the beginning, walking side by side with combatants for more than a dozen years. He describes the experience of war today as it is endured by those most at risk—the camaraderie and profound sense of purpose, alongside courage, frustration, and moral confusion mixed with technical precision. In these remote places where the reason for their presence is sometimes not clear, these young men kill or are killed, facing palpable and often constant threat of ambush or hidden bombs. They repeatedly return, rushing toward danger, often to rescue the wounded in wars that escalate around them as the Pentagon changes doctrines and plans.

Weaving a history of the war through troops’ experiences, the characters in The Fighters climb into an F-14 cockpit for the opening strikes after the attacks of 9/11, hunt for Osama bin Laden along the Pakistani border, chase insurgent rocket teams with helicopters alongside American bases, face snipers in a hostile city in Anbar Province in Iraq, and engage in deadly counterguerilla warfare in the soaring mountains of the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. Some suffer terribly. All are changed. They return home, uncertain of their place in the world and what their wars have achieved.

Chivers accompanied combatants over many years and multiple tours, including many of the characters in this book, developing deep understanding of the experience of combat in our times. The Fighters, his tour de force, tells a history of America’s longest wars as well as the lives of the volunteers who have waged them.

© Mick Chivers

C.J. Chivers is a correspondent for The New York Times and a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine. His 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. Chivers 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. He is the author of The Gun and The Fighters. 

The Fighters is a rare book that thrusts the reader straight into the sweaty, filthy, exhausted reality of war while also revealing the broad sweep and scope of our nation’s struggles. It joins the best war literature this country has ever produced.”

– Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author of Tribe and War

“As one of America's greatest war correspondents, C.J. Chivers knows that the closest thing to truth in war comes from the people at the far end of policy, those who have done the fighting, are fighting now, and will be fighting forever. This book is that truth, brilliantly told. Courageous in its reporting and shining in its humanity, The Fighters is a defining document of what war truly is.”

– David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thank You For Your Service and The Good Soldiers

 “A riveting, heart-rending, and chastening account of the Americans who are waging wars that the rest of us have already chosen to forget.  It is a gift to the nation, both deeply moving and profound in its implications.”

– Andrew J. Bacevich, New York Times bestselling author of America's War for the Greater Middle East

“A powerful and unsettling portrait of Americans at war risking their lives for feckless leaders who don’t deserve their bravery.”

– Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

“Unflinching, insightful, and humane. I can think of no other book that takes as its charge so ambitious a goal: to take the full measure of America’s wars in this new century. A landmark work.” 

– Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author of Horse Soldiers and In Harm’s Way

The Fighters is a master epic. C. J. Chivers brings to life the full scope of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by his painstaking portrayal of six Americans using 21st Century skills and technology to fight treacherous, almost medieval wars. The soldiers are sent to battle with little chance of victory by American political leaders who will never suffer the wounds, the deaths or the despair as they do.”

– Elizabeth Becker, New York Times bestselling author of When the War was Over

“Evocative . . . His reporting rings chillingly true, especially his accounts of the worst that war metes out to those doing the fighting and civilians caught in the crosshairs . . . This fast-paced, action-heavy work of long-form war journalism has bestseller written all over it.”

– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A chilling account of failed American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq through the searing experiences of six fighters. . . . Given his background, Chivers certainly did not set out to write a book emphasizing the foolishness of American actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that is the story that emerged from his painstaking, courageous reporting, and readers will be thankful for his work.” 

– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Wonderfully engaging. Readers will empathize with the trials each faced in combat and beyond in a book that will enlighten all who read it, no matter their feelings about the wars. . . .The Fighters will take its place among other great books about horrible wars and should be front and center for displays during patriotic holidays and any occasion that we honor our veterans.”


– Booklist, starred review

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