[Marxism] The War Tapes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 22 11:20:11 MDT 2006

"I love being a soldier. The only bad thing about the Army is you can’t 
pick your war."

-­Sergeant Zaher Bazzi

As one of the features of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (a project 
initiated by Robert DeNiro), “The War Tapes” has the distinction of being a 
documentary about Iraq that was filmed by the GI’s themselves. In February 
of 2004, director Deborah Scranton was invited to “embed” with the New 
Hampshire National Guard. Instead, she proposed that video cameras be 
allotted to the soldiers so they could­in her words­confront the wall of 
“objectivity” and smash through it.

Considering the fact that the three men whose footage comprises the bulk of 
the film had no professional training, the work is a technical achievement. 
Scranton has taken their raw material and transformed it into a polished 
work of art. On another level, it succeeds as providing a kind of insight 
into the terrible waste of lives and treasure­both Iraqi and American­that 
dominates the headlines today and that has made George W. Bush the most 
unpopular president in a generation.

Those who are looking for explicitly antiwar statements from the soldiers 
might initially be disappointed as they watch the film, since it mostly 
projects the gung-ho attitude that marked the war and occupation from the 
early period. However, as the film and the men’s tenure drags on, there is 
more and more of a sense of futility about the whole project.

For students of popular culture, the film will evoke two other works almost 
immediately. When the GI’s speak about their “job” in Iraq, they will 
remind you of the principals in “Cops,” Fox TV’s long-running “reality 
show”. Speaking into the camera, the cops talk about how much their career 
means to them, even if it involves being immersed in their city’s 
underbelly and being forced to confront “bad guys” on a daily basis at the 
risk to life and limb. This basically is the attitude that the New 
Hampshire National Guardsmen exhibit throughout the film, except that the 
“bad guys” are insurgents rather than crack dealers.

The film also reveals the basis for GI’s feeling this way, since most of 
their day-to-day activity consists almost exclusively of what might be 
regarded as police work. Mostly, they patrol the streets of Baghdad in 
HUMV’s or provide escorts for trailer trucks loaded with food and other 
necessities. The sole provider of such goods is Kellogg, Brown and Root 
(KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton for whom the soldiers have little use 
despite their general support for what amounts to Halliburton’s war.

Full: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2006/04/22/the-war-tapes/ 

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