An Oscar for America's Hubris

What a shame that the one movie about the
Iraq war that has a chance of being viewed by a large worldwide
audience should be so disappointing. According to press reports,
members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally
found a movie about the Iraq war they liked because it is "apolitical."
Actually, "The Hurt Locker" is just the opposite; it's an endorsement
of the politically chauvinistic view that the world is a stage upon
which Americans get to deal with their demons no matter the consequence
for others.

It is imperial hubris turned into an art
form in which the Iraqi people appear as numbed bystanders when they
are not deranged extras. It is a perverse tribute to the film's
accuracy in portraying the insanity of the U.S. invasion-while ignoring
its root causes-that the Iraqis are at no point treated as though they
are important.

They never have been, at least in the
American view. No Iraqi had anything to do with attacking us on 9/11,
and while we are happy to have an excuse to grab their oil and deploy
our bloated military arsenal, the people of Iraq are never more than an
afterthought. Whatever motivates Iraqi characters in the movie to throw
stones or blow themselves up is unimportant, for they are nothing more
than props for a uniquely American-centered show. It is we who matter
and they who are graced by our presence no matter how screwed up we may

Indeed, the only recognition of the
humanity of the people being conquered comes in a brief glimpse of a
young boy, a porn video seller, the one Iraqi whose existence touches
the concern of the film's reckless soldier hero. The American cares
deeply about the quality of the sex videos he purchases, but, as it
transpires, he is indifferent to the quality of his own family's life
back home. Even that depressingly sad commentary on life in America is
mitigated by the fact that it produces even more dedicated warriors.
Maybe a deeply unsatisfying home life is a necessary prerequisite for
being all you can be in the Army.

Yes, it is true, as Chris Hedges is quoted
in the beginning of "The Hurt Locker": "The rush of battle is often a
potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug." That's from his book
"War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," and the most positive thing to
come out of this film might be that some people will be encouraged to
read his brilliant book. But the film itself is otherwise an
enlightened Rambo story: War is hellish but entertaining, and real men
are those who will rise to the task no matter if its larger aim is

But the real addiction to war is not that of hapless soldiers, those
troops that the filmmakers insisted on applauding as they clutched
their Oscar statuettes. Rather, that addiction lies in the lust for
power and profit among those who sent the soldiers to Iraq to kill and
be killed in a war known to our leaders to have been undertaken for
false purposes. Invading Iraq became the obsession of the Bush
administration after 9/11, as opposed to dealing with Afghanistan,
where, as then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it, there were
no good targets. The Taliban hardly provided as worthy an adversary as
Saddam Hussein in our quest to replace the Soviet empire as a reason
for our massive military expenditures. And there was the wan hope that
the oil in Iraq would pay for it all. That oil hasn't paid for any of
it, but while U.S. taxpayers get stuck with the bill, the multinational
corporations swarming over the place will do very well.

Bringing up such crass motives presents an inconvenient truth for those
who believe that American foreign policy is driven by higher goals. For
them I would point to the example of Clinton-era Ambassador Peter
Galbraith, who became a cheerleader for George W. Bush's war. His
hawkishness was supposedly based on concern for Iraq's Kurdish
population even though that group was living outside of Saddam
Hussein's area of control. After the U.S. invasion Galbraith was an
active adviser on the writing of Iraq's constitution and lobbied to
include language that gave the Kurds control over the oil in their
region. Galbraith was at the time advising a Norwegian company that
secured oil rights from those same Kurds, and he, in turn, received 5
percent of one of the most promising oil fields, worth an estimated
$100 million.

Don't you think at least one of the
soldiers in "The Hurt Locker" would have known that kind of stuff was
going on? If so, it's disrespectful to our troops to have censored such
innate GI wisdom.

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