[Marxism] The War Tapes
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 cant
pick your war."
-Sergeant Zaher Bazzi
As one of the features of this years 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 GIs 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 mens 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 GIs speak about their job in Iraq, they will
remind you of the principals in Cops, Fox TVs 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 citys
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 GIs 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
HUMVs 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 Halliburtons war.
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