Band of Brothers

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Every
time I turn on the TV, I'm bombarded with ads for the Band
of Brothers "epic miniseries event" on HBO. Buoyed
by the success of Saving
Private Ryan
, Steven Spielberg gives us a longer, more
intense version of the European Theater World War II drama. With
a budget in the millions, I'm sure it will faithfully recreate
the terror, adrenaline, and dizzying action blitz of the European
Theatre.

The
contemporary view of World War II is that it was the last really
good war, the last one with a clear moral mandate for the United
States to join. Hitler was evil incarnate. The Japanese attacked
us. Our Allies needed us to save democracy. Never mind that Stalin
killed more Ukranians
and Kulaks
in the previous decade than Hitler killed in the
entire war. Never mind that the only thing separating Stalin's
gulags from Hitler's concentration camps was that the gulags killed
10 times the number of people the camps did. Never mind that Hitler
and Stalin divvied up Poland, and exterminated millions while
we sat and watched. Never mind that Americans killed around a
half million civilians ourselves by firebombing and atomic bombing
cities full of non-combatants.

I'm
sure the only moral predicaments in Band of Brothers will
be those on the small scale: an individual soldier's struggle
over killing other soldiers; coping with the horror of war from
the individual perspective. I have a suggestion for HBO and Mister
Spielberg. Why not do something more contemporary? The chance
to film in downtown Belgrade during NATO's "humanitarian
bombing" is gone, but with bombs falling on Iraq every few
days and the action revving up in Afghanistan, our intrepid filmmakers
have fantastic locations for some live action footage. With the
special effects supplied by the US military, this is one can be
realistic, without high production costs for the studio.

I
wonder what effect footage from Iraq would have on HBO's audience:
starving people, deformed children, a smashed country without
clean water, electricity, medicine, or hope. The only exposure
Iraqis have to the United States comes at the unfriendly end of
a Tomahawk missile with the Stars and Stripes painted on the tip.
It's funded by our tax dollars. It's carried on by our consent.

26
years ago we pulled out of Vietnam. Officially, we got in to fight
communism and contain the Soviet menace after “they fired first”
in the manufactured Gulf
of Tonkin
incident. We left not because of the 3 million dead
Vietnamese, but because of the 60,000 dead Americans.

Apparently
the US Military learned from Vietnam. The lessons: when invading
another country, every US military casualty counts, but soldiers
on the other side do not. Civilians don't count much as long as
they are killed by bombs, or in small numbers by Navy SEALs who
later become Senators. Civilians killed by secondary effects like
disease and starvation don't count at all. So far, the military
has been right about us. As long as we're killing the other guy,
and not losing any Americans, everything's ok with the majority
of Americans. Killing a few thousand Iraqi POW's will get you
a post-military career as Drug Czar. Bombing a Yugoslav
civilian passenger train on its regular route might get you in
a bit of trouble. But, have some CIA functionary
speed
up the footage so it looks unavoidable
, and you won't even
get a reprimand for hitting it not one, but twice. Ditto for bombing
an open-air market, or a refugee column with those military-style
red tractors.

Psychologists,
Sociologists, and other pseudo-scientists have a legion of theories
to explain how a civilized, seemingly normal people like the Germans
could participate in a bloody Holocaust. One of them revolves
around our human ability to see things only in the light we want.
Get a few of the really evil Germans to do the concentration camp
dirty work, and the rest can pretend that the worst really isn't
happening as neighbors and friends are shipped off in the box
cars.

How
does this compare with our willful ignorance of the conditions
in Iraq. The greedy and soul-less in the military industrial complex
keep up the illegal patrols of Iraq and bomb anything that locks
on to them, in self-defense, of course. When bombing even gets
mentioned, the late night news shows an F-15 icon in the corner
as the anchor relates the latest sortie in our ten-year Iraqi
bombing campaign. I wonder if things would be different if they
showed the graves of half a million Iraqi children.

Maybe
things would be different if HBO made a miniseries with the visceral
effects of our contemporary war. Our latest in Afghanistan may
give them the chance to get some real “live action, uncut footage”.
Here's a link to some pictures of present day Afghanistan. The
people know they're screwed. Over a hundred thousand refugees
have been milling around Afghanistan after heading for the sealed
off borders with Pakistan and Iran. International aid, the only
thing heading off mass starvation, has picked up again. For now.
HBO
probably won’t show
any
of these.
Some things are too realistic even for them. As you click through
in your air conditioned room, with power and a computer, think
how long it's been since you were hungry for more than an hour;
think how awful it is to behold human misery. Think how much worse
it is to realize it can be prevented.

Bring
our soldiers home now, while they're alive, instead of later in
flag draped boxes. Remove our 26 "forward deployed"
bases from Italy, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Korea,
Okinawa, and elsewhere. Get our troops out of the one hundred
plus countries they're in. Reap the benefit of instant world goodwill
and the economic benefit of hundreds of thousands of able-bodied
Americans contributing to the economy here instead of abroad.

Bin
Laden and the al-Qaeda can be brought to justice using letters
of marque and reprisal, as suggested by Congressman Ron Paul.

It won't be a Band of Brothers style fireworks show, but privateers
may be just the answer to our dual objectives of capturing or
killing bin Laden and al-Qaeda, without further radicalizing the
Muslim world. That's been bin Laden's plan all along, or so it
would seem based on his pre-taped call for jihad among all Islamic
nations. So far, only a minority of Muslims have heeded the call,
but escalating and widening this war with our conventional army
is a sure way to increase that number.

October
11, 2001

John Keller
[send
him mail]
owns a Technology
Consulting
and a Real
Estate
business in Atlanta, GA.

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