The War Tapes Deborah Scranton

As Iraq war documentaries go, this is better than the mindless Gunner Palace but not as thoughtful as Occupation: Dreamland. It’s a compromise between the jingo bellicosity of the former and the lefty helplessness of the latter. The ultimate in embedded journalism, it hands cameras to three soldiers (Sgt. Steve Pink, Sgt. Zack Bazzi, and Specialist Mike Moriarty) and tells them to shoot what they see. The men are quite unambiguously pro-war but the film chooses to focus on the very specific reasons for fighting — while Moriarty is a super-patriot who enlisted with a strong sense of duty, the Lebanese-American Bazzi has no investment in the war, per se, and is quick to point out one or two sticking points in Bush’s agenda. Most of the participants wind up despising Halliburton, whose convoys of food and soda are guarded by the soldiers, leading one to witheringly describe it as "the war for cheese.” But while the film stops well short of actually criticising the war — as do even the fed-up threesome despite their risks on behalf of Dick Cheney — they still make the act of war look supremely unappetising. And the film is smart enough to ask questions of the women they leave behind, from the panicked significant others of Pink and Moriarty to Bazzi’s mother, who emigrated specifically to protect her son from what he has now volunteered for. It’s sadly not a peacenik movie but it’s still important to see to capture the layers of reasoning that get people to enlist and keeps them motivated despite the appalling damage they must inevitably incur. A disquieting movie by any standard. (Mongrel Media)