Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Red, White and Blue Dawn

by STAN COX

Striking parallels between the current US occupation of Iraq and events depicted in the movie The Battle of Algiers have been widely discussed. The 1965 classic, a dramatization of anticolonial struggle, was even shown at the Pentagon back in 2003, apparently as an instructional film.

But, as a few commentators have noted, there is another movie from the past which, if held up to an ideological mirror, provides insights on the Iraq catastrophe. Red Dawn, released — appropriately enough — in 1984, was rotten cinema; however, as an example of Cold War paranoia it was a masterpiece. Depicting a near-future Soviet invasion of the United States, the film followed the struggle of a group of young Coloradans against the forces of occupation.

At the time of its release, denunciations of Red Dawn focused on the absurdity of the movie’s premise — a successful land invasion by Soviet forces — and its potential to feed anticommunist hysteria. But I don’t remember anyone criticizing its portrayal of ordinary Americans’ determination to resist an invasion, should one occur.

Finding in my hands a copy of Red Dawn’s original shooting script (screenplay by Kevin Reynolds), I’ll use it to illustrate how, beneath the Hollywood hokum, the film made two important points: (1) whatever the odds, people will inevitably fight back against an invading army and (2) military occupation triggers a downward spiral of brutality on both sides.

First, two short excerpts:

[An encounter with invading troops at an abandoned drive-in theater]

The SOLDIERS barely have time to react. A murderous BARRAGE cuts into them. Some dive for weapons.

Sandy puts an RPG ROUND into a truck. It blows up.

A few bleeding soldiers take cover behind the movie screen, wild with fright. Robert shoots them.

Jed: Robert? Is that all of them?

Robert (offscreen): Yes.

A beat

Andy: You don’t take prisoners?

Jed: We don’t take chances.

***

Closeup – Jed

Burning phosphorus has landed around him. Tremendous NOISE OF HEAT SHELLS ripping into the earth with their shaped charges. A shrieking WAIL as an anti-tank missile glances off the T2’s turret without detonating.

Jed looks at Robert — Daryl — Tony; they all look at him. He leaps to his feet, running. They are right behind him. Shells streak in, the Russian GUN FIRES. They bolt, gasping air in headlong flight.

 

***

Moviegoers who two decades ago might have cheered on the boys of Red Dawn are likely to see the Iraqi resistance very differently, viewing it as a movement dominated by non-Iraqi jihadists bent on killing civilians. That is certainly the impression one gets from watching news on the small screen.

The Pentagon’s claim that most suicide bombers are foreigners appears to be . But the wider resistance — 30,000 or so strong — is overwhelmingly Iraqi. A November 17 Washington Post article cited estimates by analyst Anthony Cordesman and others that foreigners make up between 4 and 10 percent of all guerrillas currently in Iraq. According to Cordesman, “Both Iraqis and coalition people often exaggerate the role of foreign infiltrators and downplay the role of Iraqi resentment in the insurgency.”

Violence committed by the homegrown Iraqi resistance against Americans and their supporters must be condemned (just as we condemn the violence committed by the occupying army), but it also must be understood as the absolutely predictable reaction of a people under the thumb of a foreign superpower. It doesn’t matter if the foreigner’s flag is red or if it’s red, white, and blue.

The young rebels in Red Dawn also did not shrink from cruel behavior: executing prisoners, scalping Mexican members of the Soviet-led “coalition”, and engaging in torture. To its credit, the script takes a dim view of such behavior; the young heroes who committed the acts appeared not to enjoy them, but to regard them as a grim necessity under the circumstances.

Another excerpt:

Exterior of the camp — pre-dawn.

The Commando sits crosslegged and stoic in the dirt, his elbows tied behind him. He’s nineteen.

Sandy and Matt question him — nervously. Half-dressed kids madly grab belongings in the background…

Sandy: Habla ingles?

Robert: Shoot him.

Matt holds the compass device up to the Commando’s face.

Matt: What is this?

No answer. Sandy slaps the prisoner. Robert holds up a cigarette.

Robert: Rub a butt on him!

Sandy is scared, so she does. The Commando yells, flails in pain.

Commando: Suck at you! Goddam for your mother!

Jed runs over and grabs him by his sweaty shirt.

Jed: How did you find us?

Commando (is scared, but he has been trained): You fock, Yankee!

Jed slugs him.

Jed: If you wanna live, talk.

Sandy: We better go.

The prisoner locks his face.

Commando: Gorsky, Stepan Yevgeny … Lieutenant – – –

Robert kicks him in the stomach as hard as he can.

Robert: Nobody cares who you are, asshole.

He kicks him again … and again … and again …

***

Invasion and occupation can be successfully opposed by nonviolent means, but that depends on the citizens of the invading nation. (Even Gandhi admitted that his followers’ nonviolent independence movement may not have succeeded against another colonial power less accomodating than postwar Britain). The violent Iraqi resistance to US occupation continues because we in this country have so far been thwarted in our attempts to force an end to the war or the occupation through peaceful dissent.

If, in America, the tide really is beginning to turn in favor of an end to the occupation, many lives will be saved …but too late for thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. If leading Democratic lawmakers continue to resist the will of a solid majority of citizens and allow the occupation to continue, it will be too late for thousands more.

Two more scenes. This time, I have changed the names of the young American fighters to names that could be those of young Iraqis. And I have given American names and designations to the Russians (Try doing the same with the scenes above as well):

Salim: War’s different up close.

No response

Salim: You get used to it after a while.

Bashir: I can see that.

Salim fumes quietly.

Salim: It must be something to kill a man from ten miles away. To sit warm in your plane and see that little flash in the distance. No body, no blood, no screams.

 

***

Sgt. Strickland: Put a medal on the boy… shot dead and he still got us down.

The troops drag two torn rag dolls into a pile — Ghalib, Bashir. Their weapons are stacked beside them.

A soldier with a movie camera films the spectacle from various angles, then turns the camera on Strickland.

POV – CAMERA

The picture is reframed to avoid the dead pilot in background.

Pentagon official: I would estimate preliminary enemy body count to 12 K.I.A., wouldn’t you, Sergeant?

Strickland: I see two.

Pentagon official: But they carry off their dead.

Using his boot, Strickland lifts Ghalib’s head for a closeup. There is a distant, dull explosion.

 

***

If these exchanges make sense when relocated from Colorado to Iraq, it’s because as a cycle of violence progresses, the actions of one side become harder and harder to distinguish from those of the other. The original motivations of the invader and the natural desire of the invaded to defend their home territory both get lost in the chaos.

Inexplicably, the Pentagon assigned the code name “Red Dawn” to the operation that captured Saddam Hussein in December, 2003. Clearly, no one involved in selecting that name was familiar with the movie — or maybe they had a keen sense of humor. And the irony of the choice, at a time when a heavily armed United States was playing the role of an invader battling a ragtag army of locals, was overlooked by all but a few in the press.

But more than 20 years after it first landed in theaters, the much-maligned Red Dawn may finally have found a useful role in society, by prompting us to put ourselves in the shoes of Iraqis — or Palestinians, or any other people — who are living under occupation.

STAN COX is a plant breeder and writer in Salina, Kansas. He can be reached at: t.stan@cox.net

 

Stan Cox is a senior scientist at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas and author most recently of Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, and Future of Rationing (The New Press, 2013). Contact him at t.stan@cox.net.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail