Politics & Policy

Dear Brian de Palma

Your film is an American tragedy.

I’m an American. Is that so wrong?

Apparently it is, since I live in Hollywood, where the “Blame America First” campaign has hit a crescendo. In the next few months, eight new films are arriving at our local theaters, and by early reports every single one is dedicated to the proposition that all Americans are created hateful.

Taking the lead, Mr. de Palma, is your very own new film, Redacted, which opened at the Venice Film Festival last week. It is reputedly your effort to “end the war.” That’s a great sentiment, and I applaud it. I just can’t stomach that you intend to effectuate that end by condemning the very soldiers, who through their own sacrifices, are permitting you to live the extremely privileged life you currently do. You direct your attack at the wrong combatant, and your film is perhaps in worse taste than O.J.’s book, If I Did It… We can only hope, I suppose, that it meets with a similar amount of disgust and failure.

In Redacted you tell a story, based on actual events, of U.S. soldiers raping a young Iraqi woman and killing her family. The event that inspired the movie resulted in the prosecutions and sentencing of those found guilty, an American justice that yet eludes most of the innocent civilian individuals who continue to be kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq.

Now that the movie is finished, it is being put on display as is the paradigmatic war story. The movie denigrates the American public, basing its “big news” revelation on the assumption that the public is so unsophisticated as to believe that each and every individual soldier is a morally upright human being.

Big news, you seem to think.

In reality, the big news is that crime statistics prove that we actually have the best-behaved military in history. In fact, if you extrapolate the figures, according to a New York Post article by Ralph Peters from August 3, a city of roughly equal size, like Ann Arbor, Mich., has shockingly higher rates of “equivalent” crime than the military. And let’s not forget that unlike the Birkenstock-wearing students of UMichigan, the military endures all the stress of combat to boot.

Consider as an even better example, laid-back Santa Cruz. As Peters points out:

The most dogmatically left-wing city in the United States is undoubtedly (the People’s Republic of) Santa Cruz, Calif. With a population of some 55,000 — about a third of our current troop numbers in Iraq — Santa Cruz, where the Age of Aquarius reigns, had 503 violent crimes in 2004 (the latest statistics available) and a total of 3,665 crimes that would qualify for court-martials.

“Extrapolate those numbers to match our current troop strength, and you’d have a requirement for more than 10,000 court-martial equivalents. If Santa Cruz were as serious about punishing its criminals as our military is . . .”

Any plans for a low-budget film exposing elevated crime rates in that mecca of liberalism, Santa Cruz? I didn’t think so.

De Palma, at the end of the day you seem to think that by exposing the American audience to horrific images of war, Americans will decide that peace is better. Well, guess what? We know that peace is good. But it takes an especially simple-minded person to earnestly believe that any sane person sees war as its own end, or to think that real peace is something for which the only requirement is ending war.

Let me explain what I mean: In theory, of course, I would prefer that the war would cease sooner rather than later, just as I would have preferred to sleep in on 9/11 instead of waking early on the west coast to reports of airplanes exploding the World Trade Center. I would prefer to think that the world is a civilized place, rather than that evil individuals live lives dedicated to kidnapping, torturing, and gleefully beheading the innocents. I would prefer to think that women are seen as equal to men, and that religions can coexist, and that mothers don’t teach their own children that suicide bombing is holy.

But my preference for a perfect world does not make it a reality. Peace is something to be worked for and to be protected, and when it is violated it must be won back — indeed, in some cases, protected and won by individuals who are themselves imperfect.

The existence of actions that are unjust in places at war is undeniable; the existence of actions that are unjust in places of peace (say, oh, Santa Cruz) is equally undeniable. To argue that the war in Iraq ought to cease because a couple of soldiers have committed acts of injustice is untenable. To believe that simply by ending the war we will have real peace is just plain folly. And to join the self-indulgent ranks of the Hollywood peace police, by emotionally manipulating the American public through exploitative film is beyond irresponsible.

So, Mr. de Palma, if you think that by showing us the horrors of war you are going to dissuade us from fighting for peace and our way of life, or supporting our troops who do, please understand that we’ve already seen too much of the other side; we are already too aware of what the enemy has in store for us if we don’t fight them.

And kindly pass this along to the rest of your useful Hollywood idiots.

— Anna Nimouse is a nom de cyber for an actress and mother living in Hollywood.

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