Radio 03.12.10
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening today at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
            The “Green Zone” refers to the area inside Baghdad that is supposed to be safe for American troops to proceed without undue vigilance:  that is, the territory under their control.  The irony is that in the end, the Americans learned that nothing is really in their control in Iraq .  They could come in and conquer if they wanted to, even disband and disperse the Iraqi army.  But that would not mean that they would then not encounter organized armed resistance.
            Matt Damon stars as Chief Warrant Officer Miller, a young American soldier all gung-ho about doing his duty for his country.  The invasion has just ended, incredibly quickly and successfully.  In his mind, he is liberating the Iraqi people from their tyranny, and setting them free to govern themselves with a fledgling democracy.  His unit’s specific orders involves raiding suspected hiding places in search of those elusive “weapons of mass destruction” that were supposed to have precipitated the war in the first place.
            After a couple of wild goose chases, where no evidence of W.M.D. exist, or appear to have ever existed, Lt. Miller gets weary of the elaborate game of snipe hunting.  He begins to ask uncomfortable questions of his superiors, and is eventually told that his job is to do his job, and let the higher ups worry about the rationale.  He’s obviously very frustrated with that answer, because he felt he didn’t sign up to waste his time on fruitless searches.  He’s contacted by a shadowy civilian figure who introduces himself as a CIA agent, and told that his suspicions are well-founded.  But then our intrepid Lt. Miller already faces a difficult ethical dilemma:  follow specific orders or deliberately countermand them, possibly facing great consequences, solely because his intuitive alarm is ringing?  Even the men in his own squad are divided over whether to follow his dangerous lead.
            Lt. Miller does manage, even when told to stand down, to take us on a merry chase through the back alleys of Baghdad , searching for someone, anyone, who could tell him what’s really at stake.  He does manage to recruit a “native,” nicknamed “Freddie,” who is a very good translator and willing to take a risk himself, having served his own country in the military during their war with Iran a decade before.  And yet Freddie has his own agenda, too.  And that turns out to be a portent of life in post-invasion Iraq :  there are many competing agendas, and there is simply not going to be any agreement.  Nor is there, apparently, any agreement over whether the W.M.D. existed in the first place, and if not, who perpetrated the lie, attributed to solid intelligence, and when you ask yourself that question, you than have to immediately ask, also, “Who would benefit from such a deliberate deception?”
            It is very likely that how you will respond to this movie would depend on your political leanings in the first place.  If you were a strong supporter of the War in Iraq , then you will be interested, but greatly disagree with some of the conclusions inferred.  If you were a strong opponent of the War in Iraq , or since the invasion have developed a great aversion to continued American military presence there, then you’ll find this a welcome clarion call in a culture all too ready to ignore the questioning, especially of political policies already implemented.  What would be the point, other than to assign blame?  And what would be the point of that?
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93.5 KICK-FM