In 2004, three national guardsmen (Zach Bazzi, Steven Pink and Mike Moriarty) filmed their experiences in the Iraq War, from the stateside weeks leading up to deployment in Fallujah, to their teary return to Fort Dix.
It is hard, now, to fully comprehend the optimism surrounding Iraq in early 2004: images of Abu Ghraib have yet to surface, Bush is preparing his flight-deck claims of “mission accomplished,” the transfer of sovereignty is on schedule for June, and, most importantly, American soldiers aren’t dying with any significant frequency. All the more poignant then, is the sight of soldiers from Charlie Company (the 3rd Company of the 172nd Infantry Regiment) making snow angels on the eve of their departure for the Sunni Triangle, unaware of the gathering fury of the insurgency and the imminent Battle of Fallujah. Once in Iraq, though, reality sets in all too quickly.
The candor with which these soldiers speak of their experiences is brutal and compelling. Contrasted with the bewildering euphemisms of the Bush Administration (and to a lesser extent, the mainstream media who parroted those pieties for so long), to hear Bazzi speak plainly about America’s desperate reliance on oil, or Moriarty talk about the tragic absurdity of poorly paid grunts who guard Halliburton truck drivers making six figures, or Pink describing in deadpan the flesh of his sergeant’s leg sliding from the bone like hot cheese off pizza, is humbling and devastating.
The 97-minute feature was culled from over 1,000 hours of footage, so there is much more of the same gripping imagery in the extra scenes. The post-release follow-up interviews are must-sees.
These video diaries — of three men stuck in a crummy war — transcend politics, and like the writing of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut, conjure the eternally tragic fog of war. Should be mandatory viewing for high school students.