Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Oscars, Military Propaganda and The Hurt Locker

War is a drug says Chris Hedges. It’s ironic that director Kathryn Bigelow chose a quote from an anti-fascist man such as Hedges to start what is in effect a two hour commercial for the U.S. military.

Yes, war IS a drug. War is a euphoric adrenaline-fueled testosterone rush. It is the ultimate male experience, AND, best of all, you get to have this high while protecting the “freedoms” of the American people. I say male, because nowhere in the film The Hurt Locker was the female soldier’s story told.

This being Oscar night, I thought I would get a glimpse at the Pentagon’s submission to the Best Picture category. It is more than apparent for whom the film is targeted. Think your average high school video game junkie who’s contemplating his next move. Will it be college or the military? The possibility of excitement, action and world travel kicking some Arab ass and then having your college bills covered? Should it be forgetting all that action and going directly to school with all the student loans and boring classroom activities that go along with them? The Pentagon makes a strong case for the former through various heroes including Staff Sgt. William James whose job it is to defuse bombs. He’s reckless, dangerous, willing to risk his life for his country and his comrades (along with the Iraqi innocents we are to assume), and is the perfect role model for the up and coming impressionable teenager who wants to look down the barrel of a gun at the evil Arab/Muslim looking to take over the world.

Of course the idea here is for us to feel compassion for the troops, to get to know them, to feel like we are a part of Bravo Company and to ultimately participate in the cliché and “support the troops”. Now, I am not a callous individual. I DO feel compassion for the members of their team that were killed, but I ALSO feel just as much compassion for the Iraqis that were killed by Bravo Company. These Iraqis were fighting an occupying force. So outside of the compassion for the dead, I feel no support for the troops. If you are pulling the trigger of a gun, dropping bombs or shelling buildings, it is YOUR responsibility to know WHY you are doing so. 1.5 million Iraqis have paid with their lives for our soldiers failing to take a stand and being willing to go to jail over taking someone’s life for oil and imperialism. Following orders is no excuse. Even stating the case that this particular unit was disarming bombs does not alter my opinion. Those bombs wouldn’t have been placed had the U.S. not been there in the first place. There is NO reason other than imperialism for us to be in Iraq, as this is in no way shape or form a war of “self-defense”. If our shores had been invaded by Saddam, then we might have a reason to fight. Ironically, we would then be the evil Iraqis that these “brave” American soldiers are shooting in The Hurt Locker.

The film was morally bankrupt in the sense that there was no questioning of whether or not we should be in Iraq. You heard the soldiers mention that they hated this place and wanted to leave, but it is obvious that that was because of the violence experienced, not because they had any particular moral qualms about fighting the war in the first place.

In my mind, that completed the bias and propaganda of the Pentagon influence on this film. A brave Hollywood director would have incorporated some MORAL aspects of war and allowed there to be some dissonance with certain characters as to whether or not what they were participating in was just. It was obvious that director Kathryn Bigelow had an agenda, which was most likely dictated to here directly from right to left (coast that is). If you want to see a great deal of action and some undoubtedly accurate battle scenes, then this is your film. If you want a deeper examination of war in all its moral implications, you could do much better.

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