Pulitzer Prize-winner Dexter Filkins — author of the New York Times best-seller The Forever War and former New York Times combat journalist — will give a free lecture discussing his first-hand experience covering wars and other political conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan tonight at Campbell Hall.
In his talk, “Tales From the Front Lines: Reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Filkins will give students a raw and close-up look at the experience of covering the violence and political turmoil seen in recent wars in the Middle East. The international reporter has worked for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and is currently on staff at the New Yorker, receiving two prestigious George Polk Awards from Long Island University for his work abroad. His 2008 book chroni- cling his reporting on and exposure to life on the front lines of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars — The Forever War — received the Best Nonfiction Book award from the National Book Critics Circle, in addition to honorable recognitions from the New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine and Boston Globe, with each publication placing it on their “Best of 2008” lists.
The lecture is the first installment in the year-long lecture series Fallout: In the Aftermath of War, which is hosted by the UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and will provide events educating the campus community on the impact of war from various humanistic perspectives and through the lenses of various educational fields.
IHC Director Susan Derwin, who is also a professor of German, Slavic and Semitic studies, said the talk will allow attendees to gain a new perspective of United States warsfought in the Middle East, providing insight into the experiences of veterans returning home from these wars as well as exposure to the lives and feelings of civilians affected by these conf licts.
“We want to … educate the community on what these wars were about — about what the experience of war was for the service members who fought in them … because they remain pretty remote in the public consciousness,” Derwin said.
UCSB writing lecturer Cissy Ross said Filkins has a world renowned reputation for his reporting, adding that his work shines light on the realities of war and its relevance to everyday life.
“Dexter Filkins is a world-class reporter doing the work that few are willing to take on — describing for us what war really is,” Ross said. “His work helps us face the question if the wars we fight are worth the lives that are sacrificed — whether American, Afghani or Iraqi.”
According to Derwin, such events can effectively stimulate public thought and debate within American society regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which can often feel too distant to be thought of as relevant.
“They’re wars that have been going on for half the lifetimeof the average UCSB student and they’re our wars,” Derwin said. “The soldiers go to war in our name. We finance these wars. If there was a draft, students would be … implicated in these wars directly.”
Filkins’ contribution to the Fallout series is particularly valuable due to his personal knowledge and understanding of these wars, Derwin said.
“He has spent more time in the war zones than anybody in recent years,” Derwin said. “He has so much first- hand experience and he’s witnessed so much and he writes so powerfully about the people … in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the soldiers.”
In addition to contributing to general public opinion and reaching the thoughts of everyday citizens, Derwin also highlighted Filkins’ ability to provide some unique insight and advice to students interested in journalism, as a seasoned and prestigious international reporter.
“Certainly he is one of the greatest living journalists, so for people who are interested in writing journalism, it would be great,” Derwin said. “In terms of what he’s writing about and how you write compassionately yet not sentimentally about these very emotionally charged topics — that’s the great art. Dexter Filkins will be able to teach us something about that.”
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of January 16, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.