This past weekend, while "enjoying" the heat wave SoCal has been slammed with in the baking discomfort of my home, I got the chance to watch Apocalypse Now. By the end of it, I was gifted with something rarely offered with today's fare of comic book guys, 60's TV reinterpretations, and 35+ ladies living the single life: perspective.
Yes, it was my first time watching the movie. I'm 24, the war in 'Nam didn't affect any of my family members directly and I hadn't heard much about it to pique my interest. And despite all of the sideways looks I got when I told people that I got to see Apocalypse Now for the first time, I'm glad I saw it when I did.
After being enlightened on the truth of the Vietnam War – why it began, why it continued, and how America fell victim to a heart of darkness – and seeing this film, I saw the present war in a completely different light. Sure I was always against it from a moral and ethical standpoint, but I hadn't really considered it's affect on the men and women actually fighting in it. I also never considered the parallels that exist between Vietnam and the more recent situation in Iraq.
I believe that a good portion of the general public knows that people on "our side" are responsible for the rise of Saddam Hussein in the 1960's and 1970's only to do a complete 180˚ when he ceased to be useful. I wonder if they remember a similar situation happening with the Viet Cong (or Viet Minh at the time) – an organization that the US helped to build up only to tear down when they no longer fit in with what we thought was best. The order of the day in those decades was fighting the spread of Communism. Today, it's oil. Let's not kid ourselves by thinking this new "war" is about anything else.
I could bog you down with facts, figures, and peak oil (the (not-so-new) explanation for gas prices and why they won't come down), but I don't think anyone wants to hear about it. Too doomsday I guess. What sucks is the idea that this country needs to control, or at least consume, the majority of all the oil that is left in the world and that that oil is underneath Iraq is responsible for the deaths of countless Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers.
What really sucks is that a lot of those soldiers are committing suicide.
When I was first made aware that 1,000 soldiers have killed themselves after returning home from Iraq, I could only naively imagine why. After Apocalypse Now, I have a much better understanding. I can also believe that the number reported could be a low one as they only account for veterans and not soldiers on active duty.
Imagine for a moment what these soldiers see and do at the commands of higher officers and the hands of suicide bombers (or just watch the movie) - villages completely laid to waste, men, women and children killed mercilessly, and countless bombings all over the country. After chewing on that, consider that then they realize what all of the horror is happening for. Not to save us from terrorism (remember, there weren't any WMDs there), not to save us from Saddam (he's dead), not to find Osama (last time I checked, he wasn't an Iraqi). They realize that it's for black gold. Texas tea. The last bits of what took millions of years to produce.
What do you do when you realize that you're basically the muscle of Corporate America and that your commander-in-chief thought it best to risk your life on multiple occasions so that rich men can get richer by controlling oil in a country thousands of miles away? Some opt for suicide, some turn into Colonel Kurtz, and some realize that they aren't fit for civilian life and go crazy. Post traumatic stress is what they call it.
When growing up and learning the histories of the countries of the world, one comes to view a war as something that results from two or more countries having a legitimate problem with each other – imperialism gone wrong, colonialism gone wrong, assassinations, etc. As of late, however, it seems that we have been entering "wars" under the guise of ideas and speculation when we're really trying to take something from someone because we need it. On one level it's robbery. On another, it's tantamount to rape.
But it's only the third world, so it doesn't matter that much anyway.
And you wonder why certain vets yell out "God damn America" in church. I'm not surprised. We have committed some of the most atrocious crimes against other countries over the decades and have turned a blind eye to our soldiers for just as long save those yellow ribbons on the backs of the SUVs of suburbia. How much are we really supporting them? Really?
I'm lucky to be an American. I'm not so sure if I'm proud of it.