today, the president told us that we're done fighting in iraq. next summer, we'll start leaving afghanistan. perhaps this was a good day to take myself to a war documentary. let me tell you something right off the bat: you owe it to yourself as an american (or if you're not american, as a person) to see this film. it's, to my decidedly civilian eyes, beautifully done, and it pulls no punches. it's especially moving how, just for fleeting moments, we were able to see the guys find release in small and sometimes utterly silly ways. films like restrepo bear silent, non-ideological witness to what we do when we make war.
i expected to be deeply affected by the movie. i know people who served, and they are never far from my mind, especially in that context. hell, full metal jacket gets under my skin and it's 100% fiction. but this was a level of emotion that i can't really even articulate. i mean, some of these soldiers, sent off to this insanely remote and ridiculously dangerous corner of an intractable war zone, were BOYS. i don't say that to condescend; they were easily 10 years younger than me. to watch them in action, just dutifully going forward with their orders... well, i was in awe. it's like this. when i worked my 2L summer, my boss said to me a lot, "hey, drive down to the court house and walk this succession through." in the same tone, these guys were told, "hey, go into this valley where people are shooting at you. fire back at them. oh, and by the way, we're pretty sure they're our enemy, but we're not totally sure. oh, and there are kids and women down there. oh, and you may die." and they went and did it.
the question that kept popping into my head throughout was, "why the hell are we doing this to them?" these guys were amazingly poised, skilled and sharp. they're so well trained, and they're an asset to this country. it is my personal opinion that american soldiers are precious on so many levels, and that they should only be placed in harm's way if it's absolutely necessary. watching the officers try to get the mission advanced, i didn't get the feeling that these guys were being used that way. that's the thing that really boils my blood. i hate war, but i accept it as a necessary evil of human life. but by god, it does things to people. watching these boys talk about loss broke my heart in ways i can't describe. they will never, ever be the same. they'll always be in this war, in some way or another, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. and for what?
if there's not a really good answer to that question, we have failed our soldiers. and that is unacceptable.
so go see restrepo. if it's not playing where you are, get it on DVD when it comes out. give to iraq and afghanistan veterans of america or a similar group. and make damn sure you tell your government to respect our precious troops. use them smartly. honor what they do for us. god knows it's the least we can give them.