I’m going to firmly side with my USC colleague Jonathan Taplin in heartily endorsing the new Matt Damon political thriller, Green Zone. Indeed, I would call it required viewing. (Also a tip to A.O Scott who pretty much also gets Green Zone).
Based loosely on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s excellent Inperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone, the fast-paced, gripping flick more closely tracks the grim origins of the war in Iraq and the collective responsibilities of our politicians, military brass and, yes, media elites in embroiling us in a tragic and senseless quagmire.
They’re all there in fictionalized and sometimes composite if totally accurate form: The ideological stumble bums from GW Bush to Douglas Feith to the unspeakable Judith Miller, the crook and huckster Ahmed Chalabi, failed pro-Consul Jerry Bremer and the hordes of clueless chino-clad Young Republicans who staffed the Coalition Provisional Authority and scarfed down hamburgers and Domino’s pizzas while playing at global politics.
It’s a film that actually made me seethe. And also made me remember that we are exactly one week away from starting our eighth year in Iraq — with no real end in sight to us keepinh 50-60-75,000 troops there for decades to come. Or is there anyone out there naive enough to believe that we will extract our forces from Iraq before we leave Japan, South Korea and…Germany? Welcome to an eternal war.
Taplin and I, however, seem to be in a minority of critics who are generally trashing the film, comparing it unfavorably to The Hurt Locker. I saw Locker and I liked it a lot. It’s an excellent film based on a morally weak if not feckless story and which consciously punts on what is arguably the single most tragic political event of the last 35 years. I don’t go as far as Bob Scheer did it knocking Hurt Locker, but his central point is a valid one. If nothing else, by omission, The Hurt Locker endorsed the overwhelming imperial hubris that underlies the war in Iraq by refusing to directly confront it. Bigelow’s movie is about the emotional trauma inflicted on one solider. Director Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone, is about the collective psychosis that allows the most powerful country in the world to delude and lie itself into wreaking havoc on millions for no good reason.
The rap on Green Zone is that its characters are stereotypes and that, anyway, by now we all know the uncomfortable truths that undergird the war in Iraq.
On the first point, I won’t even raise a counter-argument. Suffice it to say that the actual human beings who got us into this war were themselves role-playing. How morally deep and complex, anyway, are zealous ideologues who are ready to send others to kill and die in defense of illusions that exist only in their pointed little heads?
The second point, raised by many critics, that this is all old hat is the real stomach-turner. The last I looked, we still had 100,000 troops in Iraq, car bombs we’re still going off, the government was still wobbling and the Iranians mullahs were all having a great laugh about it. All that, and COMPLETE silence on the war on the political front. The only change I’m aware of is that it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are now running The Pottery Barn and the enterprise remains morally bankrupt.
Worse, as Taplin points out, there is no apparent cost for all this. The architects of the greatest American foreign policy catastrophe are not only not in jail, they are out playing golf, making the rounds of the Sunday hot gas shows, raking in multi-million dollar book contracts, or, as in the case of Mister Campell Brown, running for elected office.
All old news I guess.
Go see Green Zone.