"The doors swung open. I was still running and wrenching my head to see when a bunch of men piled out with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Suddenly I saw them: black eyes, pale skin and baggy gray suits with ammo belts. I thought they had us, they thought they had us."
This excerpt reads like a war novel, but it’s from nonfiction from The Forever War by New York writer Dexter Filkins, who covered the Afghanistan and Iraq war for The New York Times during the bellicose first decade of the new millennium. The book, winner of numerous nonfiction awards, is a remarkable account of life during wartime with all of the impossible circumstances such madness creates.
Filkins writes about being invited to Kabul's soccer stadium as a special guest of the Taliban in 1998. He’s brought to the equivalent of the 50-yard line when "A white Toyota Hi-Lux drove onto the field and four men wearing green hoods climbed out of the back. There was fifth man, a prisoner, no hood, sitting in the bed of the truck. The hooded men laid their man in the grass just off midfield, flat on his back, and crouched around him." The prisoner was accused of being a pickpocket, and the assembled crowd witnessed his punishment: "The green hoods appeared busy, and one of them stood up. He held the man's severed right hand in the air, displaying it for the crowd."
His latest Letter from Iraq in The New Yorker reports on how the sectarian violence across the country has returned "with terrifying intensity." He will speak with Mountainfilm Festival Director David Holbrooke about the unstable Middle East and how America can play a role in finding the fulcrum of peace.