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from benji - Sunday, November 27, 2005
accessed 1075 times

Red white and blue dawn

Striking parallels between the current US occupation of Iraq and events depicted in the movie The Battle of Algiers have been widely discussed. The 1965 classic, a dramatization of anticolonial struggle, was even shown at the Pentagon back in 2003, apparently as an instructional film.

But, as a few commentators have noted, there is another movie from the past which, if held up to an ideological mirror, provides insights on the Iraq catastrophe. Red Dawn, released -- appropriately enough -- in 1984, was rotten cinema; however, as an example of Cold War paranoia it was a masterpiece. Depicting a near-future Soviet invasion of the United States, the film followed the struggle of a group of young Coloradans against the forces of occupation.

At the time of its release, denunciations of Red Dawn focused on the absurdity of the movie's premise -- a successful land invasion by Soviet forces -- and its potential to feed anticommunist hysteria. But I don't remember anyone criticising its portrayal of ordinary Americans' determination to resist an invasion, should one occur.

Finding in my hands a copy of Red Dawn's original shooting script (screenplay by Kevin Reynolds), I'll use it to illustrate how, beneath the Hollywood hokum, the film made two important points: (1) whatever the odds, people will inevitably fight back against an invading army and (2) military occupation triggers a downward spiral of brutality on both sides.First, two short excerpts:

[An encounter with invading troops at an abandoned drive-in theater]

The SOLDIERS barely have time to react. A murderous BARRAGE cuts into them. Some dive for weapons.

Sandy puts an RPG ROUND into a truck. It blows up.

A few bleeding soldiers take cover behind the movie screen, wild with fright. Robert shoots them.

Jed: Robert? Is that all of them?

Robert (offscreen): Yes.

A beat

Andy: You don't take prisoners?

Jed: We don't take chances.


Closeup - Jed

Burning phosphorus has landed around him. Tremendous NOISE OF HEAT SHELLS ripping into the earth with their shaped charges. A shrieking WAIL as an anti-tank missile glances off the T2's turret without detonating.

Jed looks at Robert -- Daryl -- Tony; they all look at him. He leaps to his feet, running. They are right behind him. Shells streak in, the Russian GUN FIRES. They bolt, gasping air in headlong flight.


Moviegoers who two decades ago might have cheered on the boys of Red Dawn are likely to see the Iraqi resistance very differently, viewing it as a movement dominated by non-Iraqi jihadists bent on killing civilians. That is certainly the impression one gets from watching news on the small screen.

The Pentagon's claim that most suicide bombers are foreigners appears to be . But the wider resistance -- 30,000 or so strong -- is overwhelmingly Iraqi. A November 17 Washington Post article cited estimates by analyst Anthony Cordesman and others that foreigners make up between 4 and 10 percent of all guerrillas currently in Iraq. According to Cordesman, "Both Iraqis and coalition people often exaggerate the role of foreign infiltrators and downplay the role of Iraqi resentment in the insurgency."

Violence committed by the homegrown Iraqi resistance against Americans and their supporters must be condemned (just as we condemn the violence committed by the occupying army), but it also must be understood as the absolutely predictable reaction of a people under the thumb of a foreign superpower. It doesn't matter if the foreigner's flag is red or if it's red, white, and blue.

The young rebels in Red Dawn also did not shrink from cruel behavior: executing prisoners, scalping Mexican members of the Soviet-led "coalition", and engaging in torture. To its credit, the script takes a dim view of such behavior; the young heroes who committed the acts appeared not to enjoy them, but to regard them as a grim necessity under the circumstances.

Another excerpt:

Exterior of the camp -- pre-dawn.

The Commando sits crosslegged and stoic in the dirt, his elbows tied behind him. He's nineteen.

Sandy and Matt question him -- nervously. Half-dressed kids madly grab belongings in the background...

Sandy: Habla ingles?

Robert: Shoot him.

Matt holds the compass device up to the Commando's face.

Matt: What is this?

No answer. Sandy slaps the prisoner. Robert holds up a cigarette.

Robert: Rub a butt on him!

Sandy is scared, so she does. The Commando yells, flails in pain.

Commando: Suck at you! Goddam for your mother!

Jed runs over and grabs him by his sweaty shirt.

Jed: How did you find us?

Commando (is scared, but he has been trained): You fock, Yankee!

Jed slugs him.

Jed: If you wanna live, talk.

Sandy: We better go.

The prisoner locks his face.

Commando: Gorsky, Stepan Yevgeny ... Lieutenant - - -

Robert kicks him in the stomach as hard as he can.

Robert: Nobody cares who you are, asshole.

He kicks him again ... and again ... and again ...


Invasion and occupation can be successfully opposed by nonviolent means, but that depends on the citizens of the invading nation. (Even Gandhi admitted that his followers' nonviolent independence movement may not have succeeded against another colonial power less accomodating than postwar Britain). The violent Iraqi resistance to US occupation continues because we in this country have so far been thwarted in our attempts to force an end to the war or the occupation through peaceful dissent.

If, in America, the tide really is beginning to turn in favor of an end to the occupation, many lives will be saved ...but too late for thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. If leading Democratic lawmakers continue to resist the will of a solid majority of citizens and allow the occupation to continue, it will be too late for thousands more.

Two more scenes. This time, I have changed the names of the young American fighters to names that could be those of young Iraqis. And I have given American names and designations to the Russians (Try doing the same with the scenes above as well):

Salim: War's different up close.

No response

Salim: You get used to it after a while.

Bashir: I can see that.

Salim fumes quietly.

Salim: It must be something to kill a man from ten miles away. To sit warm in your plane and see that little flash in the distance. No body, no blood, no screams.


Sgt. Strickland: Put a medal on the boy... shot dead and he still got us down.

The troops drag two torn rag dolls into a pile -- Ghalib, Bashir. Their weapons are stacked beside them.

A soldier with a movie camera films the spectacle from various angles, then turns the camera on Strickland.


The picture is reframed to avoid the dead pilot in background.

Pentagon official: I would estimate preliminary enemy body count to 12 K.I.A., wouldn't you, Sergeant?

Strickland: I see two.

Pentagon official: But they carry off their dead.

Using his boot, Strickland lifts Ghalib's head for a closeup. There is a distant, dull explosion.


If these exchanges make sense when relocated from Colorado to Iraq, it's because as a cycle of violence progresses, the actions of one side become harder and harder to distinguish from those of the other. The original motivations of the invader and the natural desire of the invaded to defend their home territory both get lost in the chaos.

Inexplicably, the Pentagon assigned the code name "Red Dawn" to the operation that captured Saddam Hussein in December, 2003. Clearly, no one involved in selecting that name was familiar with the movie -- or maybe they had a keen sense of humor. And the irony of the choice, at a time when a heavily armed United States was playing the role of an invader battling a ragtag army of locals, was overlooked by all but a few in the press.

But more than 20 years after it first landed in theaters, the much-maligned Red Dawn may finally have found a useful role in society, by prompting us to put ourselves in the shoes of Iraqis -- or Palestinians, or any other people -- who are living under occupation.

Reader's comments on this article

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from Eva St John
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 18:37

Well put, Benji. I think the US war policy and what they (and their allies - Aust included) have been doing to Iraq is absolute madness. It could be turned into an educational documentary, "How To Amplify World Conflict & Set The Stage for WWIII". (No offense intended to any SG's serving in the US army). However, I must balance that with the recognition that, as Baxter says, better the devil you know. I'd rather the US - even in it's current state of corruption - was the world super power than some Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship set on 'wiping out all the western infidels'. It's just bad that it's always the innocent civilians who suffer - and usually many thousands of them.
(reply to this comment)
From AndyH
Wednesday, November 30, 2005, 15:47

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Thats a very good point. But we should not use comparison as a judge of right or wrong, there is always something worse.(reply to this comment
from Baxter
Monday, November 28, 2005 - 17:52

Average visitor agreement is 1 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Moral of the Story:

KEVIN REYNOLDS SUCKS SATAN'S COCK!!! He has absolutely no talent whatsoever and has never once completed a worthwhile film. FUCK'EM!

(reply to this comment)

From Baxter
Monday, November 28, 2005, 18:00

Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
P.S. One thing that begs consideration. If the U.S. led coalition in Iraq pulls out now, there must be one thing that is crystal-clear: the only lives that will be saved will be Amreican and British lives. Iraqis will continue to die in consummate numbers. I do not agree with the motivation of the invasion, nor comprehensively with the conduct or strategy of the war, but if the U.S. pulls out now, it would compete for distinction as the single most irresponsible act of any nation in the political history of the decade if not the century. They made the mess; they should clean it up. And as much as I disagree with present American foreign policy- better the devil you know. It will be worse under fundementalist law and just as many people will suffer. (reply to this comment
From AndyH
Wednesday, November 30, 2005, 15:53

Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

But we aren't cleaning it up at all, we are steadily making it worse. The longer we are there the more pissed off the soldiers will be, the more innocents they will kill, and the more nujihadeens will rise. Maybe fundementalist law wouldn't be such a bad idea, as opposed to martial law.

BTW: You mispelled Fundamentalist(reply to this comment

From Baxter
Thursday, December 01, 2005, 06:05


I agree with you that the situation is getting steadily worse, and that the coalition's involvelment has been counter-productive in a lot of ways. I agree that they are not cleaning up the mess. But that does not diminish the fact that they should. Occupation is not always destructive, and armed force can be constructive. What is required is a serious revision of tactics and attitudes by the forces involved. American troops need to be better prepared and educated in their role. I just talked to someone who works the private sector over there, and he said the soldiers have absolutely no direction, they don't know what they're supposed to be doing. If the Coalition leaves now, they will do so not because the Iraqi population are fed up with them, but because the US public are getting body-bag syndrome. The United States now has a huge responsibility to that country. As far as military involvement is concerned, there are alternatives. There is always the possibility that a larger contingent of troops from other countries including the neighbouring Arab states would be able to operate without the same level of antagonism levelled at American forces. And as far as conduct, American troops would have to be trained not to rely so heavily on superior firepower to resolve conflict, or at least be more appropriate in its application (I realise there would still be instances in which it would be expedient).

I am not saying that the US should not progressively diminish its military presence in the region. But to leave wholesale at this point in time would mean that all expenditures on either side- both the American as well as Iraqi losses- would be completely and utterly in vain. Iraq has the absolute potential to return to the state of suppression and violence from which it supposedly emerged after the official end of the war, and in the absence of coalition elements of some description, ethnic, political and religious minorities as well as women will find themselves in the same predicament as they were under the Baathist regime, with only arbitray variations regarding the identity of the victims in question. The conduct of the coalition in Iraq has been hugely irresponsible; but leaving now would be, in my opinion, an even greater ast of irresponsibility, and there would be no justification for the war at all. (reply to this comment

From Ne Oublie
Thursday, December 01, 2005, 02:02

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

AndyH obviously has no concept of what Shariah Law is, if he thinks that it is by any definition better - unless you happen to be a devout Muslim, perhaps, and even then, only just.

He also parrots the current Western 'liberal' thinking which blames the West for just about every problem around the globe. No, removing Allied forces will not make conditions in Iraq any better, it would be sheer capitulation to brigand would-be warlords who are fighting and killing EACH OTHER, and their own people for power as soon as the Allies leave.

Democracy, particularly in such volatile countries needs external protection and nurturing until it reaches the stage where it can protect itself. This means that we must take a long-term view, as opposed to the sensationalised and by-the-minute reporting media which unfortunately characterises so many political decisions these days, as governments make knee-jerk reactions to immediately 'solve' short-term problems, while ignoring the long-term repercussions which their actions exasberate, or even create (yet another flaw in the term-based structure of most democracies - politicians don't care about 20 or more years off, because they won't be around to suffer from the repercussions).

The initial fragility of fledgling democracies is not an indication of their long-term potential, rather the risk endemic in any major change in power or authority. These are exactly the times that force (even that which could sometimes be described as 'heavy-handed') is needed, and when those hard decisions must be taken. Left to their own devices, the situation will only worsen as it is the power-hungry, would-be tyrants who lack the moral conscience preventing them from stooping to such depths in their hunger for power as to give them advantage over the vast majority to whom those acts are unconscionable.

It is this (silent, often) majority whom it is our duty to protect in this time, and this is why Allied forces should remain in Iraq - BECAUSE, rather than inspite, of the lawlessness they face.(reply to this comment

From Ne Oublie
Thursday, December 01, 2005, 01:30

BTW... while there is scope for differing transliterations of foreign words, mujahiddeen begins with an 'm', not 'n'.(reply to this comment
From mia1
Monday, November 28, 2005, 17:55

u believe in satan???
(reply to this comment
From Baxter
Monday, November 28, 2005, 18:01


Metaphorically, yes!

(reply to this comment

From AndyH
Wednesday, November 30, 2005, 15:54


Hail Satan!!(reply to this comment

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