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Can't Put a Lid On It
November 19, 2013 4:58 AM   Subscribe

What Combat Feels Like, Presented in the Style of a Graphic Novel. An animated film based on a true story by Iraq veteran Colby Buzzell (previously).
posted by cenoxo (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I guess I am not surprised that a day of combat begins with an advertisement for Goldman Sachs *bringing people, capital, and ideas closer together* but I always imagined that the reality would be a bit more subtle and much more ironic than the way it is presented here.
posted by three blind mice at 5:09 AM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


I guess I am not surprised that 'What Combat Feels Like' is told from the point of view of the invaders rather than the invaded. As such, love the smell of War Pr0n in the morning.
posted by signal at 6:38 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


"What combat feels like"

The effects of combat? Very definitely graphic but certainly not novel.

"Put all those things that bother you and keep you awake at night and clog your head up in a shoebox and deal with it later"

Not very sound advice.

Comic book graphics maybe not the best way to portray the horrors of war.
posted by manoffewwords at 7:04 AM on November 19, 2013


As such, love the smell of War Pr0n in the morning.
“I’ve put the events of that day in a shoebox, put the lid on it, and I haven’t opened it since” says Buzzell.
I'm not sure how strongly I can tell you that this isn't the oo-rah you think it is.

I can't imagine that anyone could watch an account of someone deciding whether or not to take other people's lives, for whatever reason, and think this is anything but a description of unthinkable decisions in terrible situations.

The second thoughts start right away, and the fact that the story is being told at all shows that there were second, third, fourth, hundreds more after that.
posted by lumensimus at 7:11 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't find it glorifying at all. It seems a fair attempt (for whatever it is worth) of showing how unsettling combat can be to the conscience.
posted by Thing at 7:17 AM on November 19, 2013


terrorist beard?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:26 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


US Government Says CIA Black Site Prisoners' Memory Of Their Own Torture Is Classified And Cannot Be Revealed
posted by jeffburdges at 8:02 AM on November 19, 2013



Even though the politics may not line up with mine, I'm glad to see a personal story about the conflict and thought it was really well put together (if maybe a little too close to a video game for my liking).

The Iraq invasion was a criminal act and I don't consider any Iraqi a terrorist for fighting coalition troops (or their force of "private contractors") but I took "terrorist beard" to be part of the vernacular of the moment.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:05 AM on November 19, 2013


This is entertainment, not journalism. "Terrorist beard"? Enemies you can see, combat that starts immediately without being preceded by days, weeks, months of waiting - these are not typical. If you want to get a truer idea of what war is like from an individual soldier's point of view, read Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" - or any factual account from any soldier that hasn't been dressed up for pop consumption.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:38 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's disturbing and sickening to think of this guy (and others in the Stryker battalion) firing hundreds of gigantic .50 caliber rounds on a residential street. Your tax dollars at work.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is entertainment, not journalism. "Terrorist beard"? Enemies you can see, combat that starts immediately without being preceded by days, weeks, months of waiting - these are not typical. If you want to get a truer idea of what war is like from an individual soldier's point of view, read Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" - or any factual account from any soldier that hasn't been dressed up for pop consumption.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:38 AM on November 19 [+] [!]


Or, you could read something a little more current and relevant. Start with David Finkel's "The Good Soldiers" and then read the follow-up "Thank You For Your Service" and wonder what the hell we think we're doing over there. Or did. Whatever.

EDIT - ugh. Read for comprehension. I somehow missed the last clause in your last sentence. Sorry. However, both the titles I referenced are pretty unvarnished, and pretty haunting. "Thank You For Your Service" had me in tears in several places, and not in the patriotic-yellow-ribbon-flag-waving kind of way.
posted by Thistledown at 9:11 AM on November 19, 2013


iirc Orwell says it smells bad
posted by thelonius at 9:15 AM on November 19, 2013


It's disturbing and sickening to think of this guy (and others in the Stryker battalion) firing hundreds of gigantic .50 caliber rounds on a residential street. Your tax dollars at work.


Indeed. He should have stood up, arms stretched wide, and made himself an easier target so that the ambush would have resolved itself more quickly.

Guy doesn't make policy. Guy signed up to serve his country and ended up in a bad spot with bullets plunking all around him. That's about survival and nothing else.
posted by kbanas at 9:21 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you are not disturbed by the thought of firing heavy weapons at civilians likely cowering in the houses, and instead want to wrap yourself in the flag and trot out the "support our troops" bumper decal, well...
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're talking past each other. It's disturbing that a .50 caliber weapon was being fired on a residential street, and the guy was doing what he had to do to survive. Neither he nor either of you are the enemy; it is the interests that would send him there and put him in a position where he must fire a .50 caliber weapon in a residential neighborhood to survive.
posted by Mooski at 9:43 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm going to bounce around a bit:
This is just an excerpt from Buzzell's book. This vignette is, if I remember correctly (and I probably don't), Buzzell's first slice of live combat. There's a whole bunch in the book about how he got into the Army, training, the waiting for combat, the bromance of wanting to be in combat, and a whole mess of other stuff. Go read My War. It's entertaining in a stoned-surfer-goes-to-war manner and you get an excellent view of a grunt's life.
To some extent, yes, this is war porn. But that summation is only half of the equation. War is pornographic and warps the soldiers that have to perform grotesque acts against strangers. Buzzell (in his book) and the film both talk about both the immediate and delayed physical and emotional reactions he has. He is afraid to go back to the site of the original firefight. He questions the "rightness" of his actions.
If you want to talk about the appropriateness of the tactics, strategy, or politics: cool. But simultanesouly be honest that you're bypassing that Buzzell isn't trying to address those things. He's trying to reconstruct and relay those individual moments. I think he does an excellent job in his writing and to a lesser extent in the film of portraying the absolutely insanity of a firefight and how (and to a lesser extent why) you have to ruthlessly suppress your emotions both during and after combat (which is the definition of sociopathy).
To address the film itself: a comic book rendering removes most of the viscerality that Buzzell brings to the tale. E.g., the section where no-one moves behind the tires after he fires on the men with the RPG would have been MUCH more effective if the 'bad-guys' didn't simply disappear like a video game. I'm not creative enough to find the balance between the the punch in the gut a graphic picture of torn-up human bodies and making this accessible to the general public would be, but that just didn't work well. The rush to get ammunition from exterior of the Stryker; the fear and freeze as the first enemy opened fire while looking directly at him: those both lack the in-your-face directness I felt when I read his book. Returning to the war-porn thought: the rendering seems to function the way sex-porn does: it detaches the viewer from the emotional content of what's happening which in turn removes the best portions of Buzzell's stories.
posted by mfu at 10:03 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


And somehow in the US national "debate" on gun control the idea that the US Military and the baggage of its guns rarely gets discussed.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:08 AM on November 19, 2013


As long as we have a volunteer military any excuse for soldiers made under the banner of "just following orders" is basically weasel words to me.
posted by planetesimal at 10:50 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


As long as we have a volunteer military any excuse for soldiers made under the banner of "just following orders" is basically weasel words to me.

This isn't an unreasonable position to take if you ignore the social and economic pressures that cause many of the 'volunteers' to join in the first place. Why have a draft when you can create an underclass that sees (or is tricked into seeing) military service as a bright, shining door to the middle class or better?

I understand your point of view, but I think it is sometimes too easy to view others' choices through our own circumstances.
posted by Mooski at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It IS sickening. I think that Buzzell makes that point several times during the narration. It is gut wrenching, whole-body-trauma sickening to experience combat. US soldiers shooting .50 caliber rounds in a neighborhood with civilians running around? Terrible. Iraqi combatants who decided that this neighborhood was the spot to setup an ambush putting all those civilians in danger? Terrible. To me, that's the whole point of essays like this. There is no glory in war. It's ALL terrible. Sickening and humanity-destroying, and with every war it finds new ways to be worse.

But I think it's wrong to call this war-porn and entertainment. I saw no glory depicted here, no joyous "Ooo-rah's" or flag waving through the night. It was a fucked up day, in a fucked up place, and a lot of people were killed. That's war. And war is about the most messed up thing we can do to each other and to ourselves.
posted by gofargogo at 12:31 PM on November 19, 2013


Fitting perhaps that his seargent's advice is taken from fighting in Vietnam???
posted by telstar at 12:51 PM on November 19, 2013


Very fitting indeed. The US doesn't have the manpower to fight a proper counterinsurgency war, and so it tries to make up for it with hi-tech weapons. Vietnam or Iraq?

I mean, what the hell were these guys doing, rolling into town? They'd figured out they were being set up for an ambush, right?

In all likelihood, a good intervention would have required enough troops to encircle the town, which they didn't have. Instead they did something, but what they did was completely counterproductive.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:38 PM on November 19, 2013


Up to 15,000 U.S. troops to 'remain in Afghanistan until 2024' according to new deal that leaves door open to a 'war without end'

Yup, just can't put a lid on it eh?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:37 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


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