Director: Tim Robbins.
Starring: V.J. Foster (Hardchannel & Announcer), Brent Hinkley (Rum Rum & Chip Webb), Jay R. Martinez (Ramon & Camera Kid), Kate Mulligan (Maryanne, Woof & Gwen), Steven M. Porter (Jen's Dad, Dick & Buford T.), Lolly Ward (Jen's Mom, Amy Constant & Woof), Benjamin J. Cain Jr. (Monk), Kailie Hollister (Jen Jen Ryan), Riki Lindhome (Gondola & Journalist), Tim Robbins (Sarge & Cove), Toni Torres (June, Kitten Kattan), Andrew Wheeler (Pearly White / Stringer).
A theatre play that is a satire of the Iraq War and its starters and promoters, including the news reporters embedded with the American troops
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire theatre play.
Curse words: lots of curse words are used in the movie and I include some of them.
Public Theatre, New York. February-June, 2004.
The audience files into the theatre. Pictures are shown of demonstrators against the Iraq War.
Fall 2002. Army personnel are going to the Middle-East in preparation for a war with Iraq. Sarge say good-bye to his wife. A black soldier named Monk has to say good-bye to his wife, who is very afraid that he will return a shell of a man like another soldier she knows. Jen Jen Ryan says good-bye to her father and mother.
A neo-patriotic tone dominates the media.
Members of the Office of Special Plans (OSP) unit (actors in masks) meet. Some of the members include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld (called Rum Rum), Paul Wolfowitz (called Wolfie) and Condi Rice. The members of OSP are happy that the numerous government scandals of the Bush Administration have all but disappeared from the public consciousness because of all the war talk. Various OSP members give numerous reasons (excuses) for going to war. Some then shout: "It doesn't matter, they're all good!" They then all check their schedules to find a mutually agreeable date for the awe and shock show to commence. They settle on the 19th of March. Then they pay homage to their intellectual sovereign, Leo Strauss. One of the quotes they use from him is "The noble lie for the greater good." "All hail Leo Strauss!"
Colonel Hardchannel has been given the job of getting the journalists in shape. He makes the journalists say things like: "I am a maggot journalist, sir!" He says he hates training these "cock suckers". But he is determined to turn these maggots into "men" (even though there are quite a few women journalists). He brags to the journalists that he will have them battle fit and ready to keep up with his fine soldiers.
Jen Jen Ryan and Ramon from Texas are using binoculars to scan the desert sand. They see a camel. The place is extremely boring. That is until they met each other. They appear to be establishing a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Jen Jen says that in her tent there are four mothers who cry a lot over their children back home.
The sarge's wife writes to him. She talks about the money crunch and the difficult times. Monk's wife also writes a letter to her husband. The two men write letters back to their wives.
One of the journalists served in Kosova during the fight in the nations of the former Yugoslavia. The group calls a fellow, for whom this will be his first war, the war "virgin". One of the journalists says that he loves the soldiers. And he loves the scent of the American weapons of annihilation. The big journalist is Amy Constant and some of the young journalists fawn over her. But Amy just snubs them.
In the audience a pro-war demonstrator protests the play and is thrown out.
The OSP members fret over finding out who leaked information to the media. They want him or her found out. Someone says "Give his name to that lackey Novack." They don't worry much about popular support for the war. After all, the public will come along because it is unpatriotic to oppose a war after the fighting has begun. And again the OSP gives their incantations to Leo Strauss. Wolfie is so excited that he says: "I'm hard. I'm rock hard." "All hail Leo Strauss!"
Col. Hardchannel tells the journalists that their writings will have to be approved. And they must used certain phrases and avoid other phrases. For instance, they must use "coalition forces" rather than "U.S. forces". He tells them he will see them in Babylon. But there is at least one independent thinking journalist. His name is Colin. He complains to Col. Hardchannel is that he sees nothing but hears everything is going fine. The Colonel scolds Colin on his attitude.
Jen Jen Ryan is captured. She is especially mad because they killed Ramon by shooting him in the head. She refuses to eat their food, despite the pleadings of the Iraqi doctor.
April 6, 2003. Reporter Gwen reports that she sees ten or twelve bodies burning, along with lots of bits and pieces of human beings. Apparently the Allies hit their own people. Gwen received a shrapnel wound.
Monk has been taught the Arabic word for stop. He is at a check point and he uses the word to shout to an oncoming car. OSP members bemoan that a family has been killed at a checkpoint (presumably by Monk). They discuss the fact that the Europeans are showing civilian dead and they say "fuck" those Europeans. To help push this off the front pages, they rescue Jen Jen Ryan. They then exaggerate the poor woman's bravery and courage. Furthermore, they falsely claim that she was beaten and tortured. And she's so cute! Reporter Colin is scolded for telling a version of the rescue closer to the truth. For one thing, her Iraqi doctor saved her from the extremists. Colin becomes exasperated with the censorship and says he is officially un-embedded. But the Colonel says that he can't do that. He says to Colin: "You're my bitch." He adds: "Give me a rerun of that story!"
Monk is very upset about his killing a family at his checkpoint. The sarge tries to comfort him saying these things happen in the "fog of war". But Monk can't be consoled. It appears he is developing a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Pictures are shown of the pulling down of the giant statue of Saddam Hussein. (But of course they don't show the tank helping the people pull down the statue.) And many journalists, especially those associated with Fox News, wax eloquent in their praise of the event. One compares it to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall signifying the end of the Cold War. Colin cynically remarks that hard facts are not needed or wanted in Iraq. He talks to his cameraman who says the pulling down of the statue was staged. They also bemoan the fact that they have explicit orders not to show close-ups of the dead.
Gwen and Colin meet again. The question is: "Have you seen enough death?" Sometimes they feel like a publicist for the war. And they can't trust what the army tells them. For instance, the chemical weapons they reported turned out to be paint thinner. Some of the embedded journalists leave Iraq.
The army wants 250,000 troops on the ground, but Washington will only give them half that number. The big Iraqi liar Chalabi assures the US of the support of the Iraqis. The problem is that the US army doesn't see much of that. One American officer says that he just doesn't get it; he doesn't understand the disparity between what Chalabi promised and what he actually sees with his own eyes.
Jen Jen Ryan is now back home. She tells her family what really happened to her. But her parents, believing the army distortions, tell her: "No, honey, that's not what happened." They believe she is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. They try to cheer her with news of all the support she is receiving, but she is mostly concerned with the death of Ramon (whose name she can't remember) and the death of her best female friend who had two little children back home.
The OSP meets again. The sentiment among them is that war is a noble porno. In another meeting they all give themselves a collective pat on the back. One of the jokes told is: "Why can't we win the War on Poverty? Because there'is no money in it." The President says he wants a crown. "He'll only wear it when watching sports." So someone suggests they get him a crown. They brag about the aircraft carrier landing (with the banner "Mission Accomplished") where Bush made his appearance. They start to get all riled up thinking about which country they will attack next. They act like mad dogs, frothing at the mouth over the anticipation of more blood.
The OSP members want to get the insurgents off the front page. So they decide to raise the threat level. They "feel" like these are orange times, but not red, not red. They all agree: "We must raise the color."
The media has offered Jen Jen Ryan lots of money for news appearances, books, appearances on MTV and various marketing offers. She asks her parents: "So I'm a star now?" She sarcastically suggests that maybe they should make a cartoon about her based on her life.
The sarge writes home. He says they have to work to make the Iraqi people trust them. Sarge mentions there is a lot of sabotage going on. He promises his wife: "I will live to see you again!" Monk also writes home. He can't sleep. He keeps seeing scenes of mutilated bodies and hearing cries of anguish. "I killed a family. . . . I will always be the man who . . ." He then adds: "I hope you can forgive men."
Good movie. Such a refreshingly honest movie. In the US you can't really call a real liar a liar. They think that is rude. So we don't usually hear from the media that Bush-Cheney and company lied the US into a war in Iraq. A war that has lasted longer than the US involvement in the Second World War. So it is so refreshing to expose the liars and deceivers. In the movie the quotes one hears from Leo Strauss, the intellectual guide for the neo-conservatives, sounds like something taken from the fascists of the World War II era.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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