Hopelessness and madness in Iraq
The hopelessness and madness of the Iraq war is vividly depicted in a documentary film entitled "Occupation: Dreamland" which I have just seen. The film, which was produced in 2005, is now available in DVD from Netflix and probably from Blockbuster.
It runs for about two hours and has no preconceived political agenda. The film simply shows what it's like to be a U.S. soldier now fighting in Iraq, and it is far more insightful and dramatic than the war reporting in the print media or on television.
The film follows a platoon of the 82rd Airborne Division on patrol in the town of Faluja, searching for Sunni insurgents and caches of weapons. In tropical heat, the troops are burdened by armored vests and heavy backpacks as they march down streets, forcibly entering homes and intruding on groups of locals gathered in a coffee house.
Their mission is complicated by the fact that they cannot easily distinguish innocent people from legitimate enemies. There do not appear to be any local folk who are genuine friends. Only one squad seems to be accompanied by an Arab interpreter.
The other troops cannot communicate with the Iraqis they meet. Nevertheless, they are supposed to take into custody suspicious Arabs for interrogation at their outfit's makeshift headquarters. And all the while, the paratroopers are vulnerable to attack from snipers concealed on roof tops or in bunkers.
The film shows the troops barging into private homes as women and children huddle together on the floor, terrified by the intruders. Most male family members are hauled out of the houses and driven to the headquarters to determine whether they are bad guys who will be detained or harmless men allowed to return to their homes.
One GI, troubled by his own actions, declares that if foreign soldiers ever barged into his own home in Chicago the way he and his buddies were doing, he would try to kill them.
In surprisingly candid remarks recorded in the film, it is obvious that many of the American soldiers are confused about their mission while patrolling Faluja's dangerous streets. Even more telling, they sound as if they are uncertain why they are in Iraq to begin with.
A sense of purpose and direction is clearly missing. It is noteworthy that these are professional, volunteer soldiers and not reservists or National Guardsmen griping about having been unexpectedly shipped overseas for prolonged combat duty.
Americans who still believe that our invasion of and occupation in Iraq is a noble endeavor should be required to see "Occupation: Dreamland."