Getting it wrong on the Gulf War

Desperation for a contemporary war movie that has no anti—American or anti—Bush propaganda has made for some strange judgments about Hollywood's supposed newfound quest for accurate storytelling.  Such is the case with Jonathan Last's review  of the new movie Jarhead.

I have not seen the movie nor read Anthony Swofford's book, so I'll take Last's critique of the finer points of filmmaking and description of the plot line at face value. Apparently, director Sam Mendes has taken Swofford's Gulf War era recollections of Marine training, the boring preparation for war in Saudi Arabia, and the anti—climax of Desert Storm to promulgate the myth of the '100—hour war.'  At least, that's how Last sees it:

Still, Sam Mendes should be applauded for avoiding the easy mistakes making a movie that to a large extent gets the Marine Corps and the Gulf War right.

Last makes an overarching conclusion about an entire campaign based on one man's view. This does a disservice to those who were not so bored and self—centered, or who never had a 'drunken frat party' when the shooting stopped.  All units have periods of 'hurry up and wait;' some more than others.  I am not challenging Swofford's war experiences, but Last could have at least cracked open a few history books and unit after—action reports before blessing Jarhead as anything even close to a realistic representation of the war.

If he had, Last might have found the level of boredom was fairly low among the Green Berets, who, along with Saudi Special Forces, defended the Iraq—Saudi border for six months, allowing the Coalition to build up forces unimpeded.  Ask them if they were bored conducting months of running gun battles over border towns with Iraqi special forces, and sometimes losing.

The engineers and logistics units that spent weeks turning a puny two lane highway into the largest military ground supply route in the world would have appreciated a little more boredom.  Combat reconnaissance units were going into Iraq days and weeks prior to the ground war; shooting and getting shot at.  Long—range artillery raids were preparing the battlefield and softening up the enemy, while attack helicopters were flying 30 kilometers behind enemy lines to destroy enemy installations and heavy weapons.

If Mendes' movie was right about the war, then I suppose that the Battle of 73 Easting, the Iraqi attack on Marines at Khafji, or the tank battle at the Kuwait International Airport were all minor sideshows pushed to the periphery by the thoughts and emotions of one disgruntled Marine.  It follows then, that Last views Jarhead as depicting a less—professional military than portrayed in Blackhawk Down. 

If casualties and close—in fighting make for a more professional military, then perhaps Last can explain the pitched battles in the Gulf War that resulted in a slightly higher monthly casualty rate than even the current war in Iraq.  If the Gulf War had continued instead of stopping short of final victory, the casualty rate surely would have risen to rates that today would have driven the anti—war left to even higher levels of lunacy.

Hollywood is still largely stuck in the post—modern woe—is—me syndrome.  All service members in war suffer from boredom, self—doubt, and personal conflict, but war movies in times past showed how they overcame both individual and battlefield hardships to emerge victorious in a crusade that was bigger than 'self.'  Even the titles were indicative of our heroes' bravery and nobility of our cause: Sands of Iwo Jima, Battleground, The Great Raid, To Hell and Back, or Pork Chop Hill

Producing films with titles like Medina Ridge or Showdown at Fallujah seems beyond the Hollywood of today, but they have no problems putting out a movie with the pejorative title of Jarhead, or a TV show called Over There, that us older folks might think was about WW I.

So, I'll pass on Jarhead in spite of Last's positive review.  If I want to see a single Marine overcome conflict and adversity, while coming to an understanding of fighting for a greater cause, I'll watch Heaven Knows Mr. Allison instead.

Douglas Hanson is the national security correspondent of The American Thinker.

Desperation for a contemporary war movie that has no anti—American or anti—Bush propaganda has made for some strange judgments about Hollywood's supposed newfound quest for accurate storytelling.  Such is the case with Jonathan Last's review  of the new movie Jarhead.

I have not seen the movie nor read Anthony Swofford's book, so I'll take Last's critique of the finer points of filmmaking and description of the plot line at face value. Apparently, director Sam Mendes has taken Swofford's Gulf War era recollections of Marine training, the boring preparation for war in Saudi Arabia, and the anti—climax of Desert Storm to promulgate the myth of the '100—hour war.'  At least, that's how Last sees it:

Still, Sam Mendes should be applauded for avoiding the easy mistakes making a movie that to a large extent gets the Marine Corps and the Gulf War right.

Last makes an overarching conclusion about an entire campaign based on one man's view. This does a disservice to those who were not so bored and self—centered, or who never had a 'drunken frat party' when the shooting stopped.  All units have periods of 'hurry up and wait;' some more than others.  I am not challenging Swofford's war experiences, but Last could have at least cracked open a few history books and unit after—action reports before blessing Jarhead as anything even close to a realistic representation of the war.

If he had, Last might have found the level of boredom was fairly low among the Green Berets, who, along with Saudi Special Forces, defended the Iraq—Saudi border for six months, allowing the Coalition to build up forces unimpeded.  Ask them if they were bored conducting months of running gun battles over border towns with Iraqi special forces, and sometimes losing.

The engineers and logistics units that spent weeks turning a puny two lane highway into the largest military ground supply route in the world would have appreciated a little more boredom.  Combat reconnaissance units were going into Iraq days and weeks prior to the ground war; shooting and getting shot at.  Long—range artillery raids were preparing the battlefield and softening up the enemy, while attack helicopters were flying 30 kilometers behind enemy lines to destroy enemy installations and heavy weapons.

If Mendes' movie was right about the war, then I suppose that the Battle of 73 Easting, the Iraqi attack on Marines at Khafji, or the tank battle at the Kuwait International Airport were all minor sideshows pushed to the periphery by the thoughts and emotions of one disgruntled Marine.  It follows then, that Last views Jarhead as depicting a less—professional military than portrayed in Blackhawk Down. 

If casualties and close—in fighting make for a more professional military, then perhaps Last can explain the pitched battles in the Gulf War that resulted in a slightly higher monthly casualty rate than even the current war in Iraq.  If the Gulf War had continued instead of stopping short of final victory, the casualty rate surely would have risen to rates that today would have driven the anti—war left to even higher levels of lunacy.

Hollywood is still largely stuck in the post—modern woe—is—me syndrome.  All service members in war suffer from boredom, self—doubt, and personal conflict, but war movies in times past showed how they overcame both individual and battlefield hardships to emerge victorious in a crusade that was bigger than 'self.'  Even the titles were indicative of our heroes' bravery and nobility of our cause: Sands of Iwo Jima, Battleground, The Great Raid, To Hell and Back, or Pork Chop Hill

Producing films with titles like Medina Ridge or Showdown at Fallujah seems beyond the Hollywood of today, but they have no problems putting out a movie with the pejorative title of Jarhead, or a TV show called Over There, that us older folks might think was about WW I.

So, I'll pass on Jarhead in spite of Last's positive review.  If I want to see a single Marine overcome conflict and adversity, while coming to an understanding of fighting for a greater cause, I'll watch Heaven Knows Mr. Allison instead.

Douglas Hanson is the national security correspondent of The American Thinker.