Friday, February 17, 2006

Hearts and minds

Bush and company keep trying to compare Iraq to World War II. And indeed they may have a point -- if you think of the Americans as playing the German role this time.
A few months ago, when we first started watching the TV series "Over There", I commented on this blog that it was like watching a TV show about the occupation of France as told from the German side.
Now the war movies are being made -- like this one now showing in Turkey:
The crowd cheered, clapped and whistled as the Turkish agent plunged the knife into the chest of the enemy commander. "Valley of the Wolves - Iraq," which opened last week in movie theaters in Turkey, Austria and Germany, is a Rambo-like action story involving Turkish gunmen who seek revenge against a tyrannical occupying army.
In this version, however, at $10 million the most expensive movie ever made in Turkey, the enemy is no oppressive Third World dictatorship. The commander's name is Sam - as in uncle - and the opposing forces are the Americans, who are being punished for offenses against Turkish as well as Iraqi pride and honor. The commander, Sam William Marshall, played by an American actor, Billy Zane, is a sociopath, killing people without a second's thought and claiming that he is doing God's will . . .
The opening sequence portrays an incident that made headlines here in 2003, when a group of Turkish special forces soldiers in Iraq were taken into custody by U.S. Marines. The Turks, mistaken for insurgents, were handcuffed and held with hoods over their heads, which rankled many Turks. Other scenes show ruthless marines killing Iraqis, and soldiers mistreating inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, as well as an American Jewish surgeon, played by Gary Busey, who takes what look like kidneys from inmates during surgery to New York, London and Israel - all, according to the screenwriter, Bahadir Ozdener, inspired by real events . . .
The plot focuses on the hooding incident and its aftermath. The commander of the Turkish soldiers returns home in humiliation, believing that his honor has been so compromised that he has no choice but to commit suicide. But he leaves a note to the hero, a Turkish intelligence agent named Polat Alemdar, pleading with him to defend the country's honor that he had so disserved. So Alemdar leads a small team of special operations soldiers into northern Iraq, where they are astonished and outraged at what they find. "They were after the man who insulted the Turkish soldiers, but they couldn't believe their eyes when they saw the situation there," reads the movie's Web site. "The people of Iraq's values, personalities and history were completely being disregarded. The desired new order was forcing an unacceptable change on the people. The one who is responsible for these unendurable crimes against humanity is a Special Forces commander called Sam William Marshall." Marshall then orders a raid on a wedding, where trigger-happy marines get spooked and kill scores of civilians. It is all in pursuit of his plan to pacify the people through intimidation and violence, all according to God's will and for their own good. Until, ultimately, Alemdar catches up with him.
And here, from this Knight-Ridder story about Samarra is another scene from a movie yet to be made:
. . . Five days after the grenade attack, Lt. Call and his men from the 2nd platoon were planning an afternoon "hearts and minds" foot patrol to hand out soccer balls to local kids.
As Call sat in the schoolhouse, preparing to go out, he heard two loud bursts from the .50-caliber machine gun on the roof . . . Call and his men dashed out the front door. Pena had shot an unarmed Iraqi man on the street. The man had walked past the signs that mark the 200-yard "disable zone" that surrounds the Alamo and into the 100-yard "kill zone" around the base. The Army had forced the residents of the block to leave the houses last year to create the security perimeter. . . . Looking at the man splayed on the ground, Call turned to his medic, Specialist Patrick McCreery, and asked, "What the f--- was he doing?"
McCreery didn't answer. The man's internal organs were hanging out of his side, and his blood was pouring across the ground. He was conscious and groaning. His eyelids hung halfway closed.
"What ... did they shoot him with?" McCreery asked, sweat beginning to show on his brow. "Did someone call a ... ambulance?"
The call to prayer was starting at a mosque down the street. The words "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - wafted down from a minaret's speakers.
The man looked up at the sky as he heard the words. He repeated the phrase "Ya Allah. Ya Allah. Ya Allah." Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
He looked at McCreery and raised his finger toward the house in front of him.
"This my house," he said in broken English.
McCreery reached down. With his hands cupped, he shoved the man's organs back into his body and held them in place as Call unwrapped a bandage to put around the hole.
"He's fading, he's fading," McCreery shouted.
Looking into the dying man's eyes, the medic said, "Haji, haji, look at me," using the honorific title reserved for older Muslim men who presumably have gone on Hajj - pilgrimage - to Mecca.
"Why? Why?" asked the man, his eyes beginning to close.
"Haji, I don't know," said McCreery, sweat pouring down his face.
An Iraqi ambulance pulled up and the Humvees followed. They followed the man to the hospital they'd raided a few days earlier. The soldiers filed in and watched as the man died.
Call said nothing. McCreery, a 35-year-old former foundry worker from Levering, Mich., walked toward a wall, alone. He looked at the dead man for a moment and wiped tears from his eyes.
A few days later, Call's commander asked him to take pictures of the entrails left by the man Pena had shot, identified as Wissam Abbas, age 31, to document that Abbas was inside the sign warning of deadly force.
McHenry, who was driving, told him, "There's not going to be much left, sir. The dogs will have eaten all of it."
Pena was up on the schoolhouse roof manning the same .50-caliber machine gun. He didn't say a word about the man he'd killed. As he stared at a patch of earth in front of him, at Samarra and its wreckage, he couldn't contain his frustration.
"No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?" Pena asked. "Because there is no f------ reason."
And does anybody think a few soccer balls are going to make up for this?

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