Monday, August 31, 2009

War is Exciting, Sexy and Not At All Bloody

Truffaut once said it would be impossible to make an anti-war film that featured actual war footage, because war still looks like fun. All that dodging, skulking, hiding, shooting, and running away seems like an adventure, still gets the blood moving, is very exciting!...

So are the recent spate of "join the service" ads running on TV.

Like the Navy Seal ad that features a calm beach in the moonlight, a wave comes in, recedes to reveal footprints, then the next wave comes in and obliterates the footprints, hinting that a large force has just snuck silently past you. Cool.

Then there's the Predator drones, floating above a battlefield, or over mountainous terrain, or sandy desert, or something, then linking back via satellite to a guy (or gal!) on an air force base or carrier or somethingorother, piloting the drone with a joystick.

Join the Air Force. Be all you can be with a Nintendo Wii!

Then there's the actual war. Where you see the results when a small child picks up an unexploded cluster bomblet, and having it blow his arm and half his face off.

Or cleaning the blood and body matter out of a humvee after an IED blew your best friend apart on some godforsaken road in Afghanistan.

We still use cluster munitions and land mines, even when the rest of the world has condemned both. We still use white phosphorus (we say) as an illuminant, or as a smoke munition, unless it gets too close to the ground, and there's half your face melted off.

Being a US Marine is an honorable profession, so long as the war you're supposed to fight in hasn't been manufactured for the sake of fulfilling some chickenhawk's videogame fantasy of playing Commander-in-Chief.

War isn't pretty, sexy, edgy (well, I guess it's a little edgy), cool or fun, unless you're talking being on leave. War is brutal, painful, leaves men and women burned, maimed, psychologically damaged, and dependent on us for their care; in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Civilians who had no complaint with us before become the next generation of terrorists, insurgents, or whatever you want to call them, because we dropped a 500 lb bomb that blew up their house and killed their child, or their wife, mother, father, husband. Because we fight from a distance, so that we don't have to see the face of the victims of our mistakes or our successes, we can look at war as clean. And the Muslims look at us as cowards.

There was a photo on the front page of a local Sunday paper about two years into the war, showing a pool of blood running out of someone's door into a street in Baghdad. No body parts, no screaming children, just a few gallons of someone's blood. Many people wrote to the paper to complain that they didn't want to see that kind of thing on a Sunday morning over the pancakes. At least one or two wrote in to cancel their subscriptions because they felt this displayed a lack of taste.

I'm all for it. Publicize the violence, show the carnage, let people see the results of their being able to sit back and eat pancakes in peace while other people, many of them innocent victims ("collateral damage"), lay dying in the ruins of what were once their homes. If the only thing this prompts a person to do is cancel their subscription, what does that say about the American character? That, so long as we're not made aware of what is being done in our name, we're OK with it?


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