Wednesday, June 18, 2008

War, Inc: Cusack's Savage Satire Strikes Chord

There are 217 days until Jan. 20, 2009.

War, Inc: Cusack's Savage Satire Strikes a Chord with Soldiers and Their Families

Arianna Huffington

Huffington Post

June 12, 2008

"Whose top advisers are linked to war profiteers?" asks

John Cusack in a new TV ad linking John McCain and

George Bush []

("Both...Bet you can't tell them apart"). The ad,

produced by, starts airing today and is

already being passed around the Internet.

Cusack's righteous rage over the billions being

pocketed in Iraq by companies like Blackwater,

Halliburton, and Bechtel is the beating heart of his

brilliant War Inc. The film, a corrosive, audaciously

funny takedown of the Right's push toward privatized

war, has become a surprise, grassroots-driven hit --

despite having almost no ad money behind it.

I saw the film before it was finished, and even before

the final edit, the music, etc., I was overwhelmed by

how it captured the insanity going on in Iraq . War Inc.

has pulled off the near-impossible: it has a found a

savage, reality-altering humor amidst the tragedy of Iraq .

It masterfully wields my favorite creative weapon:

satire. It punches you in the gut, making you laugh,

wince, and become outraged all at the same time. Naomi

Klein rightly calls War, Inc. "one of those rare

satires with the danger left in."

Political satire designed to confront the powers-that-

be with painful truths and to produce not just laughs

but change is rarely seen in today's multiplexes. And

that's not surprising; it's a high-wire act few even

dare to attempt. But when someone does and succeeds at

it -- think Stanley Kubrick, Paddy Chayefsky, Joseph

Heller, Billy Wilder -- the effect is indelible.

Lewis Lapham identified the satirist's project as "the

crime of arson, meaning to set a torch of words to the

hospitality tents of pompous and self-righteous cant."

And that great satirical arsonist Mark Twain wrote that

exposure to good satire made citizens less likely to be

"shriveled into sheep."

The great satirists have always been passionate

reformers challenging the status quo. "Sometimes," says

Paul Krassner, whose satiric and radical journalism

inspired Cusack and his co-creators, "humor is just a

way of calling attention to the contradictions or the

hypocrisy that's going on officially. ... That's the

function of humor -- it can alter your reality." Which

is exactly what War, Inc. does.

When in 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote the most famous work

of political satire of all time, "A Modest Proposal,"

he was seeking to light a fire under the indifference

toward the twin Irish crises of hunger and over-

population. His proposal was to feed young children to

hungry men. "I have been assured," he wrote, "that a

young healthy child, well-nursed, is at a year old a

most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether

stewed, roasted, baked or boiled; and I make no doubt

that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout."

You can imagine the blowback from those who failed to

grasp the satiric point Swift was trying to make.

Similarly, the satire-challenged Right has tried to

attack Cusack and War, Inc. as (all together now)

unpatriotic and a slam on American troops. They've also

gotten their knickers in a twist, outraged that someone

would try to find humor in the death and suffering of U.S. soldiers.

But Cusack's targets are not our troops but private

military contractors, war profiteers, and flag-waving

politicians who, as Cusack puts it, support "keeping

our troops in harm's way in Iraq but not the bipartisan

G.I. bill of rights to support them when they return

home." (And, yes, he's talking about you, Messrs Bush and McCain).

Indeed, since the film's release Cusack has received

many moving emails and postings on his MySpace page

from soldiers and military family members supporting

the film and its message. Their missives run from

disappointment to disillusionment and fury over being

asked to serve and sacrifice while mercenaries are

better paid -- and often better treated.

Among the emails:

From Sgt. Brent Sammann, an active-duty soldier in the

US Army: Sgt. Brent Sammann, US Army

I'm a first-hand witness to the exploitation by KBR

and other companies lending their services to the

war effort -- services us soldiers are fully

capable of doing ourselves.... The military is

being overcharged by these companies on a regular

basis. Also, the poor service and treatment we get

from some of their employees who make three times

as much as those of us serving our country that are

not in it for the money but are trying to make the

world a better place for everyone.

From SPC (P) Johnny Rhodes in 3/2 SCR Infantry based in

Diyala, Iraq:

After being awake for 3 days I may be a little bit

out of it, so excuse any rambling or incoherence on my

part. Off the top of my head, I can easily say that KBR

in particular is of no help here in my area of Iraq .

They do, jobs soldiers could do, get paid way better

for it, but the work is almost always substandard....

at any given time there are hordes of these guys tying

up the phones and internet, cramming the chow hall,

etc. Which makes the soldiers have to wait. And wait.

And wait. They also paid way more than me, for a job, I

could do with my eyes closed. _____

From Brenda Clampitt, of Baton Rouge , LA , the wife of a

soldier stationed at Camp Adder in Tallil , Iraq :

[My husband] drives the trucks and Humvees and

escorts the KBR around where they need to go. He

doesn't understand why they get paid way more then

he does when [he and his fellow soldiers] are the

ones doing the protecting, and are the ones getting

shot at and blown up. He has seen soldiers die in

front of him; he has seen lives destroyed and the

country torn apart. My husband would serve his

country whether he got paid or not, that is just

how he is. He loves his country and wants to

protect it but he sees first hand what is going on

over there and he doesn't like it.... I myself am

sick and tired of this war. It is dragging on and

on and it is all about the money. I am not anti

war. But I am FOR everything your movie is about.

Today's lead editorial in the New York Times, titled

"Interrogation for Profit," decries "one of the Bush

administration's most blatant evasions of

accountability in Iraq -- the outsourcing of war

detainees' interrogation to mercenary private

contractors" and calls on Congress to approve "measures

to make war-zone contractors liable for criminal

behavior." The editorial concludes: "The way out of the

Iraq fiasco must include an end to the outsourced shadow armies."

This indictment has the same urgency of War Inc.

Especially with John McCain reminding us that it's "not

that important" to him when our troops come home.


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