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The Definitive Vietnam War Novel? Or Cartoon War Porn?

Today’s FT carries a review by yours truly of Karl Marlantes’ controversial novel Matterhorn.

24 thoughts on “The Definitive Vietnam War Novel? Or Cartoon War Porn?”

  1. I hadn’t heard about the new currency which I of course applaud. I have seen”State of Seige ‘ more than once. While and the drug trade is one of the most disabling aspects of the conundrum that is Latin America, in some sense I wonder if it isn’t the prolific American use of Cocaine that provides FARC and other forces for independence funding. One of the best sources I’ve seen of documentation regarding the U.S’s corruption in that and other parts of the world is Naiomi Wolf’s book”Shock Doctrine” .

    As films go, a fairly truthful movie about the initial incursion in Iraq is “Green Zone. The basic plot line is about a soldier, and a few other people who were searching madly around looking for the so called “Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and finding that there were none.While it stars Matt Damon , who I’m not exceedingly fond of, he has name recognition value. Of course, by the time deception of that proportion gets out it’s way to late.
    The problem with Latin American themes is that huge Corporations like AT&T and United Fruit are still such big players.

  2. True that Mark W – if we don’t know ourselves then we can easily be manipulated.

    I remember seeing movies like Costa Gavras two movies on the subject of the Israel/french/US (the 3 main backers) dirty wars years “Missing” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084335/ and “State of seige” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070959/ in the early 80’s and wondering why know one else had heard of these films. And why they didn’t shake things up as much (I later found out that the machine tried it’s hardest to limit their release etc)

    El salvador was also a good one and Stones best pic. UnderFire was pretty good too http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086510/

    Hmmm.. that gives me an idea for a blog entry!

    Ofcourse these ‘dirty wars’ are still going on and groups like FARC or the illegality of drugs aren’t helping – they just give justification for US aggression in the area. The US is still involved in more obscure ways or more directly as in the current US backed bloody coup in honduras and the US attempted coup in Venezuela. The good thing is that Brazil/Argentina/Uruguay/Bolivia/Venezuela/Ecuador and others are presenting a strong front against US hegemony and with the introduction of the new regional currency ‘Sucre’ (supposedly this year) this should change the game quiet dramatically. Of course we still have US proxy states like Colombia, Chile (still shocked that the Chileans would do this – considering their past), Peru and Honduras (although there is a major revolution going on in this once right wing society under the oppression of the current US backed dictator) to deal with.

    A bit of history on Israeli involvement —-> http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Israel/Israel_LAmer_TrailTerror.html

  3. Marcelo: Can you imagine the effect of films that actually demonstrated the U.S’s role in Latin America. It’s always interesting that time period how all of World history is just absent–not even blurred–during the years e.g of the Bond movies. I watched a really great Che Guevara documentary in which the reality itself is far more moving and dramatic than any writer could invent. I know that when they made a film of his “Motorcycle Diaries” they never mentioned all of the reflections he had about imperialism.

    The problem with American imperialism is that the plans to overthow and control the entire world is in writing The whole scenario by which this was to take place–“the Wolfowitz Doctrine” was quite specifically in writing\ before Iraq. Most Americans are too dense to believe that some time ago. The American people didn’t and still don’t for the most part know that. I really think that most people are too dense to realize where everything they get comes from. The movies are part and parcel of the corporate propaganda machine. In fact deception has become so repleate that most of our universities even have Corporation members on their boards. It shouldn’t be a puzzle that no one learns anything but material functional to the business sector. In a way we are all responsible for the imperialist wars we fight but I think that most citizens are as knowing as bumps on a log.

  4. I meant cool and clever as in ‘people who are somewhat knowledgeable get it’ but not smart in the sense that it didn’t take into account that the average person who gets his opinion from corporate media will just see it as a gung ho awesome war movie. A smarter movie wouldn’t have made a movie for movie critics or intellectuals but rather for the average person who just thinks that all Arabs are terrorists.

    Mark W:we are on the same page buddy. And I understand that rage… my family was forced to leave Uruguay in 1973 because the US waged a dirty war against Uruguay. My father was a Tupamaro. I won’t go into the details of what ocurred during those years and the effect it had on my family and country.

    Although I will add that Bush and Cheney were just pawns in a game that is more reflective of our own externally manipulated desires and notions of self identity. Capitalism is fueled by us and them in tangent and putting those guys behind bars won’t stop it from continuing – although… damn it would feel good though : )

  5. I really didn’t think the movie was pro-war or anti-war. I could see how it might be used as leverage for both “machines” though. I guess any war movie could be used both for and against war, but maybe I am naive or maybe I have not seen a movie that would make me feel otherwise.

    I guess my bottom line is that war sucks (obviously) and movies are made because someone wants to make money, not educate… And even if they did want to educate, and money was not the motivation, there would not be much educating going on with a movie that no one wants to see. Books are not that much different.

    Then again, I have always lived in the USA. Of course that is how I would feel. I have been raised in a country where money controls everything regardless of laws/regulations. Capitalism (i.e. money/greed = power/greed = litany of self-centeredness and corruption) ravages absolutely everything… even nonprofits…

  6. The motivations and their presentations always change when you are an invading country vis a vis, a victim of imperialism. Really I think that the world leaders who want to prosecute Bush and Cheney are on the right track, since they are the one’s who it can be shown lied to soldiers, citizens about the reasons.

    Often it is really revenge on their side painted as religious fervor by our press, and by their leaders sometimes.

  7. Marcello; If you ever spoke to any of the people whose cultures had been trashed, innocent families murdered by the thousands, you’d have no problem understanding Muslim rage. It’s really hard to find anyone over here who has not experienced tragedy on a major level in their lives.

    It was all for immense Corporate gain. Even if people like Sadam had done any wrong, we put him in power and he really did nothing but try to take control of their oil sales, instead of doing what we wanted.
    The disconnect with that in our minds happens because the news were not allowed to take pictures or even take body counts of the tens of thousands of innocents killed.

  8. Thanks for understanding, Marcelo. I like the succinct way you put it “Everything is always justified within… That’s how atrocities occur”.

    Could you expand on what you mean by “cool and ‘clever’ movies” vs. “smart movies”? I am assuming that when you say movie people you are talking about the people who make movies….

  9. I understand it Floyd – I’m not going to say that it isn’t completely fucked up… because it is – but i understand it. Just like I understand why Islamic fundamentalist do what they do (that, for them, is also about brotherhood and justified in their world), or why Christians do what they do etc etc but – it still is completely fucked up.

    Everything is always justified within it’s own system. That’s how atrocities occur.

    Mark w – You get it cause your not an idiot, so you can see what you see – but that supposed antiwar movie has become a war trophy for the right. And another reason to stay in iraq and Afghanistan. Just like Oliver Stones Wall Street was a criticism of capitalism but for capitalist Michael Douglas’s cool and brutal character was a hero and ‘Wall Street’ actually had the opposite effect because it was a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ movie only for those ‘in the know’ but it was the opposite for the zombie state. It was a rallying cry for Capitalists.

    This is probably the point i’m making – that movie people need to stop trying to be cool and ‘clever’ and start to be smart.

  10. I just know someone is going to misunderstand that….. Bring it bitches! (said with a smile) and (not a menacing one)

  11. I’m not one to really make my opinions known about reviews of books. It is how some people earn a living, after all.

    I have not read the book, but I think Mark’s review could easily be spot on which makes me feel like this is probably a good book. If the book is about a war, then nothing about it really needs to make much sense. War, while arguably natural, is going to happen. War itself is an atrocity. I don’t know what this Edward Wilson person is complaining about. I don’t think a book has to be a “completely accurate resource” for what the war was “really like”. Is there a way to get everyone’s perspective on what the war was “really like” in one book? No… there isn’t… that isn’t debatable.

    I was in the US military, and I will say that killing out of loyalty and duty is important in the military and enjoying it (at least on the surface) is necessary. I don’t think people who “enjoy killing people” in a war actually enjoy killing people…. (Especially if they are writing books about it.)

    I don’t feel there needs to be justification for the glorification of camaraderie in military movies or books because…. well…. that is how it is…. It is paramount in real life. There is no thinking about the implications of a war involved while you are in the war because you don’t really have a choice. The innate desire to survive is pretty strong. You kill or be killed. You kill as a team (camaraderie is important and dare I say exaggerated because you also live as a team) or are killed as a team. Think too much, and you die, get someone killed, or just commit suicide (I am not an expert. This is just my opinion.) I don’t want to be the guy responsible for getting everyone killed. If that means I have to convince myself that I like killing people, then that is what I am going to do.

    Being in the military is kind of like the whole UFC thing mentioned in another article on this site ( I don’t care to reference it. I want to go to bed.). From an outsider it may look hot and turn one on. From the inside, hot has nothing to do with it.

  12. Really the star lacked the sort of bravado and masculine presence that we might expect in a traditional hero. He was mostly like a baby faced, washing machine repairman.

  13. The film is far from being gay in any way-except that there are men in it. If anything they are antagonistic toward one another. Don’t get this mixed up with the buddy type film. The stars sexuality is purely incidental to anything in the movie. The movie is about risk taking behavior and different attitudes toward it. It could as well, or maybe even better, star women.

  14. I thought that it was a good enough movie ; but that’s because I could only relate to the danger addict theme.
    In fact I didn’t assume for a second that it was about anything else. How else could anyone be so demur about facing immanent death on a daily basis.

    There was some carrying on about the star being gay. He brought his mother to the Oscars and he wouldn’t deny that he was gay apparently.

  15. Apparently Katheryn Bigelow said that Hurt Locker was an antiwar movie – although It certainly didn’t feel look or smell like that – it superficially came across like a war buddy movie where in the end the real hero was the American soldier who was ultimately ‘doing the right noble thing’ in a bad war, which -actually makes it a good and ultimately justified war (get it) and especially with that ‘rock n roll’ cheesy we-need-American heroes ending as he walks of into the sunset (I tried hard to believe that it was satire).

    It just felt like war propaganda – and if you bother reading right wing blogs (something as pleasurable as masturbating with a cheese grater) you know that the right took it as a pro war pro US soldier movie (they are way too stupid to see any other possible side to it – as in Mark W’s: ‘nothing but the addiction’ insight or even Katheryn’s intended take on it)

    But looking at it from the perspective of your average zombified person – it was a rousing bit of action – which actually makes it the worst kind of or best kind of (if your an imperialist) propaganda there is. It looked cool, awesome – it gave you bone seeing all those explosion in slow motion.

    And that’s why it sucked. Because the only people that might get it – are people who already ‘get it’. And what’s the fucking point in doing that?

  16. Hurt Locker takes one more angle, which I’m not sure that anyone but possibly me relates too-in the case that anyone thought it had to do with heroism, which is odd. To me it’s about nothing but the addiction risk taking sometimes is. Same as being a crook. I would never have thought it got an Oscar. If it did Im sure it was for the wrong reasons. Addiction is sometimes popular-like gambling or sex.

    I didn’t think it could be taken otherwise.
    Mark: I think that the poverty and psychopathy come later, after they are recruited.

  17. Generally speaking, it’s still the case the only time you see tenderness and tears between men in Hollywood movies is when one of them is dead or dying on the battlefield. Aside from poverty and psychopathy, it’s the military’s greatest recruiting sergeant.

  18. Thanks, Mark. I think you’re right that camaraderie tends to be made a fetish of by Hollywood et al when it comes to depicting these adventures because the politics – not to mention outcomes – of them aren’t really so saleable. It’s also a way of selling back to the civilian male population at home a dream of buddiness that doesn’t really exist in the non-military, corporatist, dog-eat-dog world any more. And I have been one of the chief customers.

  19. Interestingly enough, since it became known that the U.S has primarily been engaged in conflicts of aggression since at least the Spanish American war and almost without pause, since WW2, it is difficult to say anything about patriotism or humane motives in any books about these conflicts. Vietnam was a particularly odious affair since they couldn’t claim that we won anything and the degree of inhumanity was intolerable. By the time it had been finished the degree to which Communism has been demystified was significant. Along with cruel treatment of others, the callous disregard of American troupes was widespread. Indeed, as of ten years ago more soldiers who had fought in the war committed suicide than died in the field.
    The popular take on American wars period in film or otherwise has been to talk only about teamsmanship and comeraderie more than anything since that is the only legitimate sort of motivation that anyone feels safe to talk about without telling boldfaced lies. Who is going to feel proud anymore about risking their lives defending the interests of a few fat politicians and corporate criminals. Better to paint a picture of being dopes caught up in something they had no choice about and moved to do something noble, no mater how simple minded.

    Problem is, I doubt that they ever get around to giving the background of American Imperialism and the fact or implication of their own stupid involvement. It was a good article however, Mark.

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