Has there ever been an anti-war movie? No really, it's a fair question. Apocalypse Now apparently was one of the 'greatest anti-war movies ever made'. So what were all those marines in Jarhead doing cheering Apocalypse Now's Ride of the Valkyries helicopter assault? They were cheering because it rocks. But there's nothing special about Apocalypse Now. They could have been cheering Full Metal Jacket, or Platoon, or even The Deer Hunter - anti-war movies all. I'm prepared to bet that everyone in the US military saw every anti-war movie ever made and guess what? It didn't make any difference. Not a single one of those films had what it took to dissuade them from joining up, heading overseas and doing all that shit all over again.
How about non-fiction like The Ground Truth? The critics all agree, The Ground Truth is wrenching, provocative, searing, impossible-to-ignore, disturbing, etc, etc. Even the stridently pro-war NYT was moved. "The Ground Truth stands out as an especially pointed indictment of the American military's treatment of its own people on and off the battlefield." Ha ha ha ha, onya NYT! It's not the war, it's just the way it's being run. God forbid the NYT would print anything anti-war. Newsweek was similar, "The Ground Truth... is a powerful, polemical, probing examination of the devastation the war has taken on returning soldiers." Um... is that anti-war? Kinda, I guess. Seriously, The Ground Truth is another in a long line of 'anti-war' films that will have virtually zero effect on the propensity of white people to go abroad and kill foreigners for bullshit reasons.
Broadly The Ground Truth has four main themes.
The cruelty of the military
Yawn, seen it all before. The military inculcates people. It reduces them to killing machines who think wogs deserve death. And what? The people in this film detailing their dehumanisation didn't know this? Didn't they see Full Metal Jacket and every other goddamn movie? Watch the people in this film as they earnestly tell of what they went through in basic training as if those who haven't done it would have no idea. It's the first hint of a disconnect that pervades the whole movie.
Experiences in Iraq
Likewise everything these veterans describe as having taken part in, in Iraq, has been graphically depicted in anti-war movies beyond counting. Violence against innocents, shooting women, variations of torture - we've seen it all. Certainly the people recounting their experiences in this film saw horror with a reality way beyond 1024 x 576 pixels with 5.1 sound. Being in a place with the smell of burning flesh in your nostrils is infinitely more real than watching it on TV. But we're watching this film on TV aren't we? For us as viewers it's just more of the same.
The return home/ mistreatment by the military
These are the other two themes. But I'll just lump them in together because they're related and because the movies that have already dealt with these themes did likewise. There's been plenty of movies about coming home. Like Coming Home. And like Born on the Fourth of July. The people in this film showing us their shattered bodies and describing their mistreatment by the government seem surprised. How could the government have treated us this way? It's almost like all those anti-war Vietnam movies had never been made. Or they made no goddamn difference. Pick one.
Bullshit anti-war movies
Every still and every bit of footage in this movie from back-lit heroic troops to out-and-out war-crimes won't stop anyone from piling in to do their bit for the next ginned up bullshit war. We even get to see that famous night-scope machine-gunning of three men in a field. I originally saw this in an office with half a dozen otherwise right-thinking guys, all of whom cheered. They didn't care for it when I declared they'd just cheered a war crime. And here it is featured in this anti-war film. Wooh! Man, that rocks!
Everything in this film has been seen before. And all of it was seen by the very people in this film. Can you dig the irony? The people in this film intent on telling us about the wickedness of the military, the hell of combat, and how they came back from war all fucked up, had already seen all the films intent on telling them the wickedness of the military, the hell of combat, blah, blah, blah. It seems they imagine that this film will affect us in a way that all those other films didn't affect them. Or something.
Truth is, none of the people in this film get it. None of them have figured out that they were the villains. Says one fellow, 'I'd rather have somebody say welcome home, than thank you.' Huh? What are we thanking him for? Does he still think he was defending America? Or that he was doing something good? Says another fellow, 'Waiting 120 days for healthcare is bullshit. It's a good thing that when I was called up, I didn't say I'll get back to you in a 120 days.' Mate, you're wrong - you should have told them precisely that. Or some variation of it beginning with a capital F.
All of the people in this flick were variations of self-obsessed. The Iraq war is wicked because they suffered. The victims of their invasion and occupation are given very little consideration. Even those upset by killing innocents have failed to make the crucial leap to realising that everyone in Iraq is innocent - innocent of attacking America, innocent of threatening America, innocent of doing anything other than defending their country from a most perfectly vicious foreign invader. None of them seem capable of flipping the situation and imagining themselves as the invaded and how they'd view foreign invaders who behaved as they did. Is this difficult? Seems so.
A real anti-war movie
Here's how to make a real anti-war film - tell people that they're being lied to. Tell them that they're pawns being used by cynical motherfuckers to kill people who never threatened them. Tell them about Hawaii and the sugar growers. Tell them about the slaughter in the Philippines. Tell them about the con of the Lusitania. Tell them about the bullshit WWI human soap stories designed to whip up hysteria against the Germans. Tell them about the US Fed funding the Bolsheviks. Tell them communism and the Cold War was a scam. Tell them about the treaty of Versailles being run by the bankers to bleed Germany dry. Tell them about Roosevelt starting the war with the Japanese with the utterly foreseen Pearl Harbour dog and pony show. Tell them about the Gulf of Tonkin. Tell them about the USS Liberty. Tell them about Oded Yinon and his plan for the Middle East. Tell them about 9/11, PNAC, the OSP, and the Pentagon under the command of dual-passport Israelis. Tell them Al Qaeda is a myth.Tell them that Iran has no nukes.
All of it was a pack of lies with Hollywood as complicit as any. And the unspeakable truth is, yes, their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers died for nothing - nothing except lies. The way to make people truly anti-war is to tell them that they've been bullshitted into making the ultimate sacrifice. Anything other than this is just more bullshit. And bullshit is all we'll ever get from the Hollywood marketing wing of the international banking war-machine.
Sorry, I should give an honourable mention to Camilo Mejia. Of all the people here, he was the guy who actually put his arse on the line. He stood up for himself, held on to the truth, and sure enough, did jail time. His words at the end of the film are perfectly beautiful.