Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green Zone

I've just come in from having seen Green Zone and fired off about a dozen tweets on how good I think it is. "Not a dull moment, or filler scene, or poor performance." By me, on Twitter. (I also added a superfluous 'The' to the title, pedants.)

It's a good movie. It shows what a mess we made of Iraq. (That's partly for John B.) That is, shows visually, rather than by argument. It's a taut 'shades of dark' thriller. With lots and lots of shooting. One thing I loved was that, after the final "protagonist goes one-on-one with villain" scene the fighting in the background continues. Take that James Cameron with your glib extended action scenarios!

I'm really glad that Norman Geras thinks history should be the judge of Iraq. What did Auden say? "History to the defeated/May say alas/But cannot help or pardon." Ah yes, how true.

If anyone's read "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (which I may rush out and buy tomorrow anyway; I have been meaning to read it), I would welcome your opinion.

Sorry about this, but I'm bouncing up and down on a high from seeing this film. MRQE reports mixed reviews. THEY ARE WRONG! IT IS BRILLIANT!

If you're not of the belief that the Iraq invasion was a huge clusterfuck, it's still a very good action movie.

(Posted here because it's about the Iraq thing (invasion/occupation/liberation/clusterfuck) and about a conspiracy theory which just happens to involve whether those WMDs are there or not.)


Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

NB I agree with the positives (but not the negatives of plotting and shaky camera effects) in the recently sacked Todd McCarthy's review in Variety.

3/16/2010 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

ILITEC is a fantastic, jaw-dropping book - you won't believe the sheer insanity and incompetence of CPA. It's like a Greek tragedy with right-wing idiots rather than flawed heroes, and a more graphic demonstration of the naive, wildly irresponsible, deranged idiocy at the heart of the Iraq invasion you won't find.

The brutal part is the Iraqis themselves, who are delighted to be rid of Saddam and looking forward to a bright future, but spend much of the book looking on in horror and pleading with the Americans, eventually vanishing altogether behind barricades and barbed wire.

The author (whose name I won't try spelling) manages to make a lot of sense out of a crazy situation and seems to have been allowed an astonishing amount of freedom within and outside the Green Zone. It's certainly far more readable than Thomas Ricks' book, although obviously less comprehensive.

Can't say that the plot of the film seems to bear much relation to the book, but there'll probably be some crossover.

3/16/2010 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

A bit of an Iraq day here at Chateau Cabernet, as I went to see The Hurt Locker and the latest issue of Aperture dropped through the letterbox with a feature on the Iraqi diaspora. The latter was pretty shocking, really terrible images of car-bomb victims etc and testimony from people now living in Jordan or Syria who can never go back. Maybe I should send a copy to Norman Geras.

3/16/2010 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

Very keen to see Green Zone. Not sure why I'm being directed to the "shows what a mess we made of Iraq" bit, though - I'm very much aware what a mess we made of Iraq, unless that's not what you meant.

3/17/2010 02:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

No, it's not what I meant. "The Hurt Locker" is nowhere near as explicit in showing the damage to the Iraqi infrastructure, nor as unequivocal about blaming the invasion. (I don't agree with your comment here about THL "showing all these things very clearly.") "Green Zone" as good as says there was no post-invasion plan (true, AFAIK) and that WMDs were cooked up as an excuse to topple Saddam (also true, IMO). I can see that some people will see it as being propaganda. "The Hurt Locker" was, IMO, pretty neutral about Iraq. "Green Zone" is unmistakably anti.

3/17/2010 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

FR - as regards the influence of the book on the film, it's in your second paragraph. You precis the story better than you can know.

3/17/2010 06:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

I have read the book (my review) and found it interesting but somewhat of a whitewash, in that Chandrasekaran acknowledges that the US occupiers made errors, but not that the occupation itself was illegal/immoral. He has no fundamental criticism of the War on Iraq and the Occupation, just of the mistakes made and the lost opportunities during the occupation. He also only concentrates on roughly the first year of the occupation, 2003-2004, when the CPA was in charge.

That said, the book does show the unbelievable stupdity of that first year of occupation. Chandrasekaran is good at showing how decisions were driven by political infighting and ideology rather than facts on the ground and how Bremer and co spent more time dreaming up grandiose plans to reform Iraq into a freemarket paradise rather than dealing with practical matters and almost every example Chandrasekaran gives is both flabbergasping and enraging.

3/17/2010 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

On a lighter note, Geras really is an ass, isn't he?

3/17/2010 08:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Solomon Hughes said...

I think you are being a little unfair on Rajiv . I think he is a terrific reporter - he reports the real madness of the occupation pretty well, the madcap schemes for free market reforms, lack of interest in what Iraqi's wanted etc - I'm happy to supply my own opinions about the overall state of play if he's happy to supply reports like this . If you click through my name (its the only way I could figure out how to get the URL in the comment) you can read an equally sharp report by R. Chandrasekaran from contemporary Afghanistan.

3/17/2010 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...

Sorry, missed your reply on that thread. Yup, I'm sure Green Zone does show that more explicitly, which is another reason why it'd be good to see.

I still think that THL does a good job of showing the effects of the occupation on dehumanising Iraqis to their supposed protectors, to the point where innocent behaviour from people who at the time weren't opposed to the occupation almost gets people shot (hence Sgt James's comment about the taxi driver along the lines of "if he wasn't an insurgent before, damn sure he's one now"...)

And if Green Zone had "acknowledged that the occupation itself was illegal/immoral", it would have been advocating a tenable but minority left-wing view, rather than trying to popularise the unequivocal truth that it was hugely destructive and counterproductive to a mass audience from across the ideologial spectrum which doesn't yet fully appreciate these things.

3/17/2010 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to see Green Zone.

Since another thread was recently about "Stuff I have Written" I'll say that for 18 months I was involved in a script for the BBC on pretty much the same themes. It was centred on Judith Miller, and covered her adventures in Iraq with Gonzalez and the MetAlpha outfit searching for WMDs. It also covered her time outside and inside Iraq with Chalabi, and the various farcical attempts to uncover where the WMDs really were by MetAlpha based on Chalabi's information. Does the film cover this? Does it also cover Miller's taking effective operational control of MetAlpha by threatening to report its CO to "Donald?"

Unfortunately the Beeb after 18 months of rewrites had the whole thing blocked by its Policy and Editorial Committee. They were scared stiff of doing it. Good to see something is getting through.

3/17/2010 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

Unfortunately the Beeb after 18 months of rewrites had the whole thing blocked by its Policy and Editorial Committee. They were scared stiff of doing it. Good to see something is getting through.

That is fucking depressing, that a British director's best chance of getting a serious Iraq movie made is no longer through the Beeb because Tony cut their balls off, nor through Channel 4 because DTV, the recession and an idiot manager turned it into a gigantic pile of fuck all, but through Hollywood.

People here are both well-informed and more likely than most to go for authority-corruption stories - any money for "Andrew Gilligan was paid by Murdoch to fuck the BBC's credibility / by Labour doners to fuck the credibility of Iraq-lead-up investigations"?

3/17/2010 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

That's "people at AW, hence why I'm soliciting answers here", in case anyone thought I was randomly talking up UK or AU.

3/17/2010 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

After this post, I've reread the first few chapters of Emerald City and what becomes immediately apparent is that the post-war chaos wasn't a bug in the system - it was the system.

I don't mean that the looting, corruption and the murder were planned, although they might as well have been. I mean that the Bush admin and its pet professors refused to give any serious consideration to the difficulties of turning a statist, totalitarian nightmare into a functioning system. They ignored it for two reasons - a) because their plan really was to invade, install a fraudster like Ahmad Chalabi, then unleash the wonders of the free market on Iraq and marvel at the miracles wrought by their own mental, loony-right free market magical-pony politics and that b) - and this is the important bit - a rational planning exercise might have undercut the case for war with Iraq by making the aftermath look like it would be difficult, highly complex, expensive and requiring at least a decade's commitment.

All of the bullshit you hear about what came after - the decision to de-Ba'athify the country, the aggressive police actions, the Fallujah massacre, the billions pissed into the pockets of American contractors - it's all a massive scandal and a criminal conspiracy, but it's also an excuse. It's an excuse so that pro-war ballbags can pretend to themselves that, had we only invaded on a Tuesday instead, everything would've worked out okay. Nothing is fucked here, Dude!

The basic problem can all be boiled down to this one problem, though - the war was an insane, idiotic idea prosecuted by criminally-culpable lunatics. Even with years of planning and a neo-Marshall Plan in place, it might have gone just as horribly wrong - with those crazy fuckers at the helm, it was just plain inevitable.

I remember people saying stuff like this in 2002, but let's not forget what HP are telling us today - that the SWP supported a domestic Iraqi insurrection against Saddam back in 1980, so why were they so against the Republicans invading and blowing that shit up in 2003? Because they're bastards, that's why.

That's surely the important thing to remember, isn't it?

3/17/2010 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

"[A]n insane, idiotic idea prosecuted by criminally-culpable lunatics"

Thing is, we knew that they were criminally-culpable lunatics before the war started - the people planning the war were the same bastards who murdered their way up and down Central America a quarter of a century ago. They were brazen, too - I mean, installing Negroponte as ambassador to Iraq in an enormous citadel of an embassy. A bloody rerun of his Honduran fortress-embassy/death squad HQ.

3/17/2010 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

In case anyone was wondering why Negroponte failed to work his magic in Iraq... http://bit.ly/a6TCRQ

3/17/2010 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a time of unbelievable madness and hubris. Here's Judith of Arabia, a reporter, literally commanding MET Alpha round Iraq in the search for WMDs:


3/17/2010 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The invasion of Iraq turned it into a failed state. This shouldn't be a surprise: there is quite a high risk of military actions weakening the social structure and the institutions that keep society functioning. This is especially so if the whole enfor basic protection. Tterprise is planned by people who don't know anything about the role of states and institutions and who don't understand that a free market has to be underpinned by functioning state institutions.

Into the failed state created by the invasion came criminal gangs and Al-Qaida recruits. People were forced to turn to armed gangs for basic protection. Communities began to arm themselves a protection against their neighbours. Those who could left the country, often community leaders who were an important part of the social fabric.

The firghtening thing is that, at the Chilcot Inaquiry, Brown and Milliband were chuntering on about failed states and hinting that their existence means that we should ignore international law so as to deal with them, This is dangerous nonsense. Military action can only be a small part of dealing with failed states and actually has a high risk of creating failed states.


3/18/2010 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For reasons related to work, I've spent a bit of time recently with various archives related to SHAEF occpation planning, and the Control Commission for Germany (British Element). From them, (and with reference to the subsequent political evolution of the FRG) it's clear that it's possible to get these things right, sometimes.

Chris Williams

3/18/2010 10:56:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home