As of last week, more than 1,500 Americans have died since the start of the Iraq war. For the majority of Americans, it seems all of those serving in Iraq might as well be dead, because they exist only in abstraction, if at all. While our men and women are risking their lives overseas, the least their fellow Americans can do is make an effort to try and understand what the soldiers are going through.
Minnesota is lucky enough to have the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. Among the films is a documentary called “Occupation Dreamland,” which promises to provide some insight into the life of a soldier in Iraq. “Gunner Palace,” another documentary that has been running in independent theaters, also provides a keen insight into the confusion and personal conflict soldiers experience in Iraq.
While the self-righteous find it convenient to fix yellow ribbons to their fossil fuel-burning cars, men and women whose stays are being repeatedly extended by the government wish to come home. Sadly, those who do come home easily recognize the troubling disconnect the general public has with what is really happening in Iraq.
The war has been amazingly “clean” mediawise so far. Most embedded reporters have gone home. Footage of the real violence unfortunately remains untelevised during newscasts, unlike the Vietnam War. Americans remain disturbingly comfortable with the actions being taken by their government.
The two-year anniversary of the Iraq war came and went with little fanfare. May marks the second anniversary of President George W. Bush declaring that “major combat operations have ended.”
The war has not ended. For soldiers coming home, major psychological battles are still in fury. It’s a small step, but maybe through watching some films, we can begin to grasp the reality that has been all too real and surreal for our troops.