…through The Valley of Elah
Well, I went and did it again. That is, I put a film on my Netflix queue without any idea of what it was really about. But I got lucky this time with In The Valley of Elah. Based on actual events, it stars Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron.
I don’t claim to be anything like an expert on Iraq war movies. Far from it; I’ve gotten to the point that I steer clear of war movies and TV shows in general. After pretty much 20 years of non-stop war in the Middle East, I’ve had more than my fill of the stuff. Not to mention the military jet fly-overs at NFL games and all the other cheap and meaningless “we back our boys (and now girls) in uniform” chest thumping that accompanies those gladiatorial displays.
But you should see this movie. In fact, you need to see it. And, above all, the Washington politicians, generals and defense contractors who are responsible for this mess in the Middle East should be forced to watch it. Again and again. Just like in the Stanley Kubrick classic, A Clockwork Orange, where the “ultra-violent” Alex is “reconditioned” by being forced to watch hour after hour of very nasty stuff indeed. Strap those DC politicians, generals, defense contractors, and “neocon think tank” experts into chairs in front of the screen, clip their eyelids open, and make them watch what these endless wars have done to our largely White, rural American boys who do the dirty work of fighting them. There’d be at least a chance that a semblance of reason would descend on Washington.
Or, if that doesn’t work, let them read this post about Forrest Huckabey, a kid who did a couple of tours in Afghanistan as an Army sniper only to return to rural Kansas badly injured and with a whole world of permanent hurts. And, on top of that, a wife and five kids barely hanging on by a prayer, chewing gum, and some baling wire. Or, the Washington war mongers can get this story straight from the horse’s mouth and read about some of it here in this post, I Quit!, by Forrest’s wife, Lakin. It details some of the “horrid” treatment Forrest received from his VA doctor.
The Dead Pool
They’re plenty of disturbing images in Elah. But the most haunting is the one of the police interrogation of a soldier who’s accused of murdering, dismembering and then burning Jones’ son who has just returned, along with the rest of his platoon, from a combat tour in Iraq. The horrific crime was committed over some minor squabble after a night at a strip club.
As the accused soldier looks into the camera answering questions, after a few moments you realize that “there’s nothing there there.” No remorse. No shame. No anger. Nothing. His eyes are only windows into a dead pool.
Eventually, it dawned on me. I was watching a gifted actor portraying a young man with post-traumatic stress disorder. A young man who, probably time and again, had seen and done the unspeakable in Iraq.
And we wonder why most veterans who’ve served in Afghanistan say the war isn’t worth fighting? Nor should it be surprising that vets are supporting President Trump’s decision to immediately withdraw from Syria, another Middle East military commitment with no apparent end in sight.
So, my opinion? Send the DC “chicken hawks” to do the fighting in the Middle East. Bring the troops home. Enough of the valley of the shadow of death.