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The Short Timers
April 2, 2007 1:15 PM   Subscribe

It doesn't seem like it was twenty years since Stanley Kubrick produced Full Metal Jacket based on the out-of-print novel "The Short Timers" by Gustav Hasford. While out of print, the full text of "The Short Timers" is available on his (memorial) website as is the followup, "The Phantom Blooper". Hasford's bid for an Oscar was colored by the discovery of nearly ten thousand stolen library books in the same year. Some say the experience of being caught red-handed broke him, leading to his death from non-treatment of diabetes at the age of 45.
posted by Ogre Lawless (52 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post. I've been a faithful follower of the Hasford saga for a long time now. I almost plotzed when I first found his website.
posted by OmieWise at 1:25 PM on April 2, 2007


Yeah, this is good stuff. I found the memorial site some years ago and was really appreciative that his out of print work was made available.

Thanks for the reminder.
posted by BigSky at 1:30 PM on April 2, 2007


Ten thousand! Gods!
posted by cortex at 1:37 PM on April 2, 2007


Yesterday, I returned four library books that were all about two weeks overdue. I felt guilty and horrible.

I don't feel nearly as guilty and horrible anymore.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:40 PM on April 2, 2007


Joe Haldeman (Writer of The Forever War, surbvivor of being blown up by the Viet Cong) ripped The Short Timers a new one at a writing group...

Another oddity that I still have difficulty understanding was a story by Gustav Hasford, which turned out to be the opening chapter of his novel The Short-timers. Harlan Ellison was the first respondent, and he actually stood on a table and said that this was the best thing he had ever seen at a Milford; we should all get down on our knees and thank Hasford for letting us read it, and on and on in that vein. Damon and Kate commented next, and they both liked it, too (it was evidently the story that Hasford had submitted for admission to Milford), and everyone around the circle liked it, until it came to me. I was almost speechless, but did manage to say that I couldn't believe that the person who wrote this silly piece of tripe had ever been in combat. (Hasford made much of being a Vietnam vet.) If memory serves, everyone else liked it except Gardner, who said he'd never been in combat, but he had been in the army, and couldn't buy soldiers acting like that except in a cheesy movie. It did wind up being a movie, Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, which I thought was a silly melodrama, but no doubt made money all around. (Hasford was in the news some fifteen years later, when he was arrested for having stolen thousands of library books, a houseful, from libraries around Los Angeles. I have to admit that the newspaper story filled me with joy.)

Oddly the story is on gustavhasford.com.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2007


IIRC Lee Ermey also thought it was balls, and threw his lines out and made up his own.
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2007


Centered white-on-black text - yum.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:51 PM on April 2, 2007


If you read that last link to the article about his death, it claims that the total number of stolen books was (only) 748, and that the press and police had to keep revising down from the original number of 10000:

the AP finally reduced its count to "hundreds of stolen books." Later, Bruce Miller, the San Luis Obispo bookseller, was appalled to discover that the campus police investigating Gus' collection often confused university-press books with university property.

and

Superior Court Judge Warren Conklin ordered Hasford to serve six months in jail and five years' probation for the theft of 748 books from nine libraries and "one individual."

So while it's still an impressive record, it's not quite the amazing feat it sounded at first.
posted by dilettante at 1:59 PM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love when people like Haldeman watch a film like Full Metal Jacket and obsess over such minute banalities. Who in their right mind watches that film and thinks, "Geeze, soldiers wouldn't act exactly like that." No kidding. It's called satire. I'm pretty sure neither Hasford nor Kubrick were interested in making war porn.

And, years later, when I was watching Fahrenheit 9/11 and hearing heart-warming tales about soldiers pumping "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" through their headsets while they gunned down Iraqi soldiers (and what a rush it was), we find out that maybe Kubrick wasn't even that far off the mark, no matter how satirical his intentions.

I wasn't familiar with the short story, only the film, but the story about the library books is fascinating. You know, at some point, I can't help but feel that such an endeavor becomes almost laudable. Sure, it's pretty fuckin' crazy, but it's the kind of "fuckin' crazy" I can get behind.
posted by The God Complex at 2:10 PM on April 2, 2007


A bit off-topic, but I remember my reaction to Haldeman's ungracious remarks on Hasford, who'd committed suicide by the time of their composition. I thought, and think, that the line "Hasford made much of being a Vietnam vet" was quite rich coming from Joe Haldeman. He's dined out for years on his Vietnam service, and if you've happened to have forgotten he was in combat, wait a minute or two and Joe will be sure to remind you. I've always wondered if his seemly implacable hostility to Hasford was resentment over having to share the honors.
posted by mojohand at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2007


This quote seemed odd to me:
"For the past two years I've been forced to devote absolutely all of my energy to resisting a vicious attack launched against me by moral majority fanatics backed up by the full power of the Fascist State."

It didn't read like irony to me; did he really think that 6 months for grand larceny was the unfair move of a fascist state out to kill him?
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:22 PM on April 2, 2007


The God Complex - Thisis probably small minded of me to point out, but actually he reada portion of the book and obsessed over the minute banalities, the film not being in existance at the time.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2007


The God Complex - Thisis probably small minded of me to point out, but actually he reada portion of the book and obsessed over the minute banalities, the film not being in existance at the time.

He also called the film "a silly melodrama". But you're right. Either way, I think on both counts he's missing the point.
posted by The God Complex at 2:39 PM on April 2, 2007


The Phantom Blooker is a character in Richard Roth's 1973 Vietnam novel/quasi memoir. I wonder if Hasford borrowed?
posted by A189Nut at 2:39 PM on April 2, 2007


The God Complex... fait enough, I suppose he didn't like either.

In other derails: Apparently Haldeman DIDN'T write The Forever War to piss off Starship Troopers fans, which makes the other Joe Haldeman anecdote I was fond of a load of old rubbish.
posted by Artw at 2:52 PM on April 2, 2007


GOOD EVENING MR. KUBRICK.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:55 PM on April 2, 2007


War: my experiance is much more valid than yours.

(actually I had a very nice night jump listening to “Moondance,” I mean - satire? Ooo, they’re listening to violent music. ‘nother reason I’m not enchanted by Moore. I mean what should people do/say/think when they kill someone (for folks back home) for it to be more acceptable (to the folks back home)? Why does THAT part of it matter? Hasford’s right about at least one thing - everyone shits on/but fetishizes trigger pullers)

Was Hasford a biblio...maniac (I forget the term for obsessive book collector - hell, we just had it on metafilter a bit ago) Either way, that’s just freekin strange. And yeah, those “odd chapter in author’s whatever” headlines are a bit hackneyed.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:07 PM on April 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Such a sad character study. I don't mean to trivialize the crime of stealing library books, but surely the judge could have thought up a more creative sentence for the crime? I remember reading about the "10000 stolen library books" in the news, but the story quickly ran its course and I never learned what happened afterwards. Great post.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 3:27 PM on April 2, 2007


(actually I had a very nice night jump listening to “Moondance,” I mean - satire? Ooo, they’re listening to violent music. ‘nother reason I’m not enchanted by Moore. I mean what should people do/say/think when they kill someone (for folks back home) for it to be more acceptable

I agree. "Satire" now seems to be defined by a lot of people as:

a) stating something obvious that can be cheaply interpreted as "meaningful" (Moore)
b) preaching to the choir (Stewart, Colbert et al)
or c) shooting fish in a barrel (the rest of the "bush is dumb" crowd)

And "Full Metal Jacket" was an excellent film. If it's not a literal depiction of how soldiers act in combat, it still works thematically. I doubt anyone in Vietnam literally sailed up a river looking for an insane colonel and then watched an ox get slaughtered whilst listening to the Doors, either.

If you're looking for a stylized piece of shit where soldiers act as no real human being would, rent "jarhead."
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:05 PM on April 2, 2007


drjimmy11, you have Kubric's "Full Metal Jacket" all mixed up with "Platoon", by Oliver Stone. Stone was an actual Vietnam guy, while Kubric sat out the war in London.

I was a war resistor back then, but my cousin saw combat in Vietnam. He wasn't killed there, but he died before his time nevertheless.

About 20 years ago he took a gang of us to a re-screening of "Silverado". He said it was the best movie ever made. I disagreed at the time (and have conditionaly recanted) but went along with the program.

Later that night, in a nice haze of smoke, I asked him what movie came closest to the real thing vis a vis combat in Vietnam. He said "Full Metal Jacket".

Judging from the reports out of Iraq, things haven't changed much in 30 plus years.
posted by Huplescat at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2007


I doubt anyone in Vietnam literally sailed up a river looking for an insane colonel and then watched an ox get slaughtered whilst listening to the Doors, either.

Dude, that TOTALLY happened...

Only it wasn't in Vietnam, it was in the Congo.

Some bloke told me this long winded story about it on a boat.
posted by Artw at 5:15 PM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


FMJ was stagey and cold. If I had a list of top 10 war movies it probably wouldn't be in there.
posted by wrapper at 5:18 PM on April 2, 2007


Huplescat writes "drjimmy11, you have Kubric's 'Full Metal Jacket' all mixed up with 'Platoon', by Oliver Stone."

No, man, I think he's thinking of that Sean Penn/Michael J. Fox movie, Combat Casualties or something like that.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


wrapper writes "[Insert title of Kubrick film here] was stagey and cold."

Matter of taste, my friend.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2007


Platoon? No, the movie with a lot of Doors music where they sailed up a river looking for an insane colonel was Brian De Palma’s “FOX PENN.”

I think a realistic war film would be one in which the audiance is actually being shot at (and hit), but has to stay and watch the movie.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:39 PM on April 2, 2007


You'all're a bit stagey and cold, but I like you anyway. Somebody kick me please.
posted by Huplescat at 5:59 PM on April 2, 2007


Great post Ogre, thanks. I knew nothing about this guy. As an Alabama native, I'm simultaneously proud of this homeboy for his writing accomplishments and ashamed of him for stealing 10,000 books from libraries, books that other people should've had the chance to read. I suppose this encapsulates my overall feeling about coming from the deep South. Pride and shame, all wrapped up into a tangled little package...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:04 PM on April 2, 2007


Thanks for the post. FMJ has always been a favorite, but I would probably never have otherwise encountered the wonderfully minimalist prose on which it was based.
posted by O Blitiri at 6:05 PM on April 2, 2007


I like to imagine that Stan and Pauline are floating quietly in the ether and chuckling about this.
posted by cortex at 6:06 PM on April 2, 2007


My apologies, drjimmy11, I came in late, jumped the gun and went off half cocked.

Nice post OL.
posted by Huplescat at 6:26 PM on April 2, 2007


s'alright Huplescat, everyone pulls a few boners.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:28 PM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anthony Swofford on war movies in Jarhead (p. 8):
There is talk that many Vietnam films are antiwar, that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young American men to fight and kill, they turn their fighting and killing everywhere, they ignore their targets and desecrate the entire country, shooting fully automatic, forgetting they were trained to aim. But actually, Vietnam movies are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in Omaha or San Francisco or Manhattan will watch the films and weep and decide once and for all that war is inhumane and terrible, and they will tell their friends at church and their family this, but Corporal Johnson at Camp Pendleton and Sergeant Johnson at Travis Air Force Base and Seaman Johnson at Coronado Naval Station and Spec 4 Johnson at Fort Bragg and Lance Corporal Swofford at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base watch the same films and are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of their fighting skills. Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man; with film you are stroking his cock, tickling his balls with the pink feather of history, getting him ready for his real First Fuck. It doesn't matter how many Mr. and Mrs. Johnsons are antiwar--the actual killers who know how to use the weapons are not.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:30 PM on April 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Kubric sat out the war in London.

Kubrick was born in 1928, a hair too young for WWII, old enough to be excused sitting out Vietnam.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:32 PM on April 2, 2007


Thanks for this interesting and moving post Ogre Lawless.

I've known a few cantakerous, eccentric writers/artists like Gus. Life isn't easy or peaceful for them, ever. They seem tormented, every moment is sand in their oyster shell and they are exhausted by the effort to make things manageable. Occasionally some incredible pearl of a book, sculpture, work of art or poem comes out, emerging out of their agonising -and usually deeply lonely- process.

Poignant story about Gustav Hasford's life and his being abandoned by those who profited off his story in more ways than one. Glad he had some decent, loving friends and family members in his life too, like the cousin who put up his memorial site. Gee, Gus was a handsome man.

The Wikipedia entry about him. Wonder if the access to books on the web would have brought him some bibliophilic satisfaction?

Want to see Gustav Hasford's books back in print? Then you can sign the online petition. Some moving requests for his books to be back in print.

At least he died in a nice part of the planet, Aegina.
posted by nickyskye at 6:38 PM on April 2, 2007


So I guess stealing books was his major malfunction?
posted by Rangeboy at 7:12 PM on April 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Awesome site and an interesting read, but WHITE TEXT ON BLACK BACKGROUND MAKES ME CAPSLOCK!
posted by HyperBlue at 7:50 PM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, kirkaracha, in other words, morons like violent movies. Big whoop.
posted by snoktruix at 9:05 PM on April 2, 2007


IIRC Lee Ermey also thought it was balls, and threw his lines out and made up his own.

Hasford detested Emery, but most of the drill instructor's rants are straight from Hasford's manuscript. Emery did add some memorable expletives and recruit-abuses.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:23 PM on April 2, 2007


I hate to say it, but I like FMJ less each time I see it. Great performances, some amazing scenes, but the second half just can't touch the first. That, and it only gets more obvious that they filmed the whole fricking thing in England. The imported palm trees only make the whole thing look more incredibly fake.
posted by bardic at 9:24 PM on April 2, 2007


Which is not to say that soldiers are morons, clearly this guy wasn't. But you'd have to have a few screws loose to read his description of boot camp and life in the field and actually want to put yourself in that position, which seems to me so evil and twisted.
posted by snoktruix at 9:39 PM on April 2, 2007


The second half of Full Metal Jacket isn't from Hasford's book the Short-Timers. Michael Herr, a journalist, wrote _Dispatches_, which is a pretty good collection of a war reporter's experiences in Vietnam.

If I remember right, the teenage female sniper was lifted from Dispatches. I think Michael Herr may have had a hand in writing the script for Full Metal Jacket as well.

There is a very strong break in the movie, not just in tone but also in the emphasis on characterization between the two halves. They don't fit together very well and that's why.
posted by BigSky at 9:46 PM on April 2, 2007


Who the fuck said that? Who's the slimy little communist shit, twinkle-toed cocksucker down here who just signed his own death warrant?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:59 PM on April 2, 2007


Emery did add some memorable expletives and recruit-abuses.

Including, famously, the improvisation of the "reach-around" line, which he had to explain to Kubrick and who was then so taken with it that it went into the film.
posted by cortex at 10:08 PM on April 2, 2007


the "reach-around" line

Heh. Heh. Heh.
posted by Wolof at 12:22 AM on April 3, 2007


cortex you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of shit. Get the fuck off of my thread. Get the fuck down off of my thread. Now. Move it. I'm going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:46 AM on April 3, 2007


I mean - satire? Ooo, they’re listening to violent music. ‘nother reason I’m not enchanted by Moore. I mean what for folks back home) for it to be more acceptable (to the folks back home)? Why does THAT part of it matter? Hasford’s rigshould people do/say/think when they kill someone (ht about at least one thing - everyone shits on/but fetishizes trigger pullers

What are you on about? Nobody, especially me, suggested Farenheit 9/11 was satirical. I said Kubrick's film was satirical, but that, sadly, the information coming out of Iraq today (and in Moore's film) suggests that his satire wasn't nearly as exaggerated as some may have thought.

As for the rest, perhaps you're right that it's better if the soldiers on the ground are able to reduce what they're doing to the minutia of playing a video game to a nu-rock soundtrack. Better for them--and indirectly for us--at least, but certainly not better for the people in whatever nation they're occupying.

Which, much like most of the "anti-Vietnam" films and literature, isn't a charge that's leveled at the troops so much as it's one leveled at the governments responsible for putting them in that position. That's the primary issue that I think most people have with both conflicts (Iraq War Redux and Vietnam).

I don't think any discussion of art and war is furthered by this "folks back home" / audience's-opinion-doesn't-mean-anything-if-they-weren't-shot-at rhetoric. You might have a point in that people are too quick to judge exactly how hellish warfare must be, but such a snide dismissal completely misses the point: if the depths that the people sent overseas to protect the interests of the American people is so inhuman and abhorrent to these "folks back home" when it's brought out into the light of day, if it's seen as something that makes this war (or any other in recent decades) seem like a bad idea, then why is it happening? The lesson the American government learned in Vietnam wasn't that it was a bad idea, only that the American people can't handle the grotesque realities of modern warfare if the conflict is seen as meaningless (or, at best, not meaningful enough).

I think for the most part the folks back home realize that war is hell, even if they don't understand exactly to what extent it is hell. I think, by and large, they're willing to accept that horrible things might happen to people they love that are fighting for the, and that the people they love might end up doing some truly horrible things. I don't, however, think they're willing to accept these things when they happen for seemingly no reason at all--which, from what I've seen, is the sorrowful, often angry, response from the families of so many troops that have died in Iraq.
posted by The God Complex at 1:24 AM on April 3, 2007


It's a hardball world, The God Complex. We've gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:40 AM on April 3, 2007


Anyway, about him plagiarising from Roth...
posted by A189Nut at 6:36 AM on April 3, 2007


BigSky, You're right about Michael Herr co-authoring the FMJ movie script with Gus. More about Michael Herr from Wikipedia. Apparently he, " recently completed a screenplay for On the Road based on the book by Jack Kerouac, due for release in 2007."
posted by nickyskye at 7:29 AM on April 3, 2007


“you'd have to have a few screws loose to read his description of boot camp and life in the field and actually want to put yourself in that position, which seems to me so evil and twisted.”

You’d have to have a few screws loose to run into a burning building to save some shithead who started the fire in the first place because he was too drunk, careless and stupid to not smoke in bed. Position has nothing to do with it. Most people go for altruistic reasons (further explication below)


“Nobody, especially me, suggested Farenheit 9/11 was satirical. I said Kubrick's film was satirical”

Didn’t mean to imply that. Generalized comment really, not criticism directed at you. My apologies if it reads that way.

“...if it's seen as something that makes this war (or any other in recent decades) seem like a bad idea, then why is it happening?”

Pretty much exactly what my snide dismissal was meant to imply.

“the American people can't handle the grotesque realities of modern warfare if...”

Gotta stop you at ‘if.’ Ma and pa and ol’ aunt biddie just love war and marionette soldiers in their sharp little uniforms. And so does most everyone else really - even if they protest they don’t. ‘Cause even the hippiest motherfucker in the world gets off on the thrill of having a big nasty group of people who will destroy what you tell them to, when you tell them to do it. We gotta stop those ‘bad people’ don’t we? It’s just a question of getting the ‘right’ people to direct the troops. Of course, no one actually is happy when johnny comes marching home with blood-mixed mud on his boots. Everyone wants a peice of war - for whatever purpose: “Yeah, my buddy is over there, it’s the shit” But no one wants the actual killing - except by implication. Some sort of moral self-righteous association thing.
You see the same sort of thing when people talk about what they would do to a child molester or if they could get someone like Cheney in a room with no windows for 5 minutes. Of course, they don’t really want that. Otherwise they’d have grasped the sword and done it themselves. No, they just want it done and want to remain clean afterwards. Well, coming home with scars (I’ve got plenty) scares the shit out of ol Aunt Biddie. She just wants to know that the bad guys got their asses kicked. Not the gory details. Not the sacrifices made - especially to the ‘good guy’ ideal. Similarly - our state executions must be ‘clean.’ That’s why the lethal injection thing came about. We told ourselves the same lies about hanging (it’s quick). Truth is, there’s some killing going on. Truth is, there’s biology involved and it’s as ugly as watching your mom get laid or take a shit. No one wants to think about it.
The lie is not the war itself - the lie is divorcing the ‘grotesque realities’ from war. War IS the grotesque reality. There is nothing else outside of it. As you can couch the death penalty in whatever terms of justice or moral rectitude or whatever - so it’s still killing. Same thing with war. It’s killing. But people do just about anything to remove the focus from that. It’s like talking about football without talking about hitting. Or like virgins talking about sex. It is what it is. Not all that other stuff.
And whatever the reason - it does happen for no reason at all. Exactly why I say - the best war film would be one you have to sit through while being shot at and shooting and killing others. One can argue that you must sit through the film because of dedication to art or because you want to protect your friend or any number of seemingly great reasons. But it’s just a film. Maybe others have seen it and lived through it. They come home and tell people it’s not worth it, but people still go. They want to see it. Know for themselves. And if they knew, would they have still gone? I dunno. Would you go to a movie you know is going to suck - but all the critics praise and your parents and their friends and some of yours seem to think is the best film ever made (although they’ve never seen it) and so forth? And some people pan it and say it sucks and you suck if you go see it (although they’ve never seen it either).
Some people just have to know. Some will rescue the dumbass smoking in bed either way. And some simply excel and want to do what they do best. Sometimes it’s a mix. But really, it’s just a movie and you don’t have to go.
War is war, and it shouldn’t have to be waged. Someone wants it. And that someone is not ever going to go themselves. At least not in the sharp end.
Because war destroys meaning - no matter what the impetus. And that’s its purpose really: cause enough pain such that the reason for fighting no longer seems worthwhile. (Damn sloppy technique of violence if you ask me). And to anyone laying on the ground with their guts hanging out - I suspect the reasons for war seem pretty silly - whether they were good, bad, or whatever. It’s because old aunt biddie and her bridge club aren’t feeling that (rather than seeing it), that they still believe in the reasons. I get Sheehan for that reason. She felt it and went “oh...my kid died for no reason.” Well, we’re none of us about to bind our sons like Abraham to slaughter them. And there’s no God to resurrect Issac if we comply. But some people refuse to see that part of it. War is the absence of reason.
There are ideals people fight and die for, and that’s laudable, and that can happen during war, but war itself is not justified by that. And that doesn’t eliminate espirit de corps either - ask me while my guts are hanging out if I’d do it again for one of my men and the answer is yes. I’d do it a thousand times over for each of them. But that’s something between fighting men. It’s got nothing to do with the fighting keyboarders or aunt biddie or any of the reasons for war in the first place.
And that’s the difference. And it’s what everyone who fetishizes war wants in on. And why warfighters get accused of excluding people from loving their country or patriotism or any number of other things. Well, that’s where those feelings of exclusion come from. The whole “you don’t get it because you weren’t there” thing. And as much as I think anyone can have an opinion on war or the country or whatever - anyone who hasn’t made that commitment - no, they aren’t going to understand or be any part of that. Sorry, no, you’re not my brother that way if you’re not willing to bleed with me. And that’s the part everyone wants in on.
Tell someone that and suddenly they think you’re saying they don’t have a right to talk about war or politics or whatever their point is because you don’t trust them as much as you trust someone who would - and maybe has stood next to you under fire.
Because that’s what those people want to see and that’s what they want in on when they go to war films.
Ok. Let’s see how committed they are to the film - start shooting at them. We’ll see who pulls who out or who stays to the end or if they just split and run for the exit. But again - as strong as that bond is - it has nothing to do with the reasons for going to war in the first place. That I’m there for my brothers in arms doesn’t mean dick to the cause/reasons/what have you. As with dying or being severely wounded - outside the commitment to the guys in one’s outfit - everything else fades to meaninglessness. So it’s never going to be the participants who have some reason for war - it’s always going to be outsiders who buy into the illusion. Who want to be part of it while remaining apart. Who push to see it and drives their hunger for heroes. War is hell? Virgins talking about sex, man.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:44 AM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


“sadly, the information coming out of Iraq today (and in Moore's film) suggests that his satire wasn't nearly as exaggerated as some may have thought.”

And to clarify (if it wasn’t clear) and more directly address your point - it’s irrelevent. To paraphrase ‘my cousin vinny’ - you’re an Iraqi schoolteacher on your way to teach class. You walk across the street into, unbeknownst to you, a free fire zone where U.S. forces are engaging whomever. A gunship rises over a building, targets a car in front of you where someone is hiding with a missle and boom - half your face is blown off, your jaw and lips are lying in the gutter twitching as blood pours from the hole where your nostrils used to be - I ask you - do you give a fuck what music the soldiers who did that are playing?

Same thing - people fetishize everything but the actual work of killing and dying. “Wow, they’re listening to Pantera.” “Wow, their uniforms look like- whatever” “Wow, our troops are - blah blah blah”
Crap. It’s killing and dying. Carnage and destruction. That’s it. Everything else is song and dance. My problem with Moore is he clearly thinks there are bad guys - he is not, as far as I know, a pacifist. So he’s as much a hypocrite as the people he films. Doesn’t mean I wholely disagree with him on all points. But this bickering over the morality of how war should be waged - in terms of accouterment is bovine scatology.
Someone who gets a 1,000 lb bomb dropped on his house isn’t going to be more upset if white phosphorus was used. I grant there are degrees in inhumane weaponry, using radioactive materials and gas, etc. - are rightfully outlawed. But demanding soldiers be - what? Sorrowful when they kill someone? They must look properly solemn? Wear black armbands? They’re killers. They kill. If they think they need to wear clown makeup and a g-string to be better killers I’m happy to outfit them. But - and I think this aligns with your later comment - we should question why we let slip the dogs of war in the first place if we’re repulsed by it. We should be repulsed by it. All of it. It’s foolish to think any bit of war is in any way good or clean. It’s not. The only debate should be over whether it’s necessary. And it very rarely is. But as I’ve stated that point is so often occluded by other considerations it’s very nearly moot.
The pure sentiment of that would make a lousy film though. No drama.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:05 AM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


...that Sean Penn/Michael J. Fox movie, Combat Casualties or something like that.

Pfft, you're all wrong. The best war movie set in a boat?

Hot Shots! Part Deux.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:11 AM on April 3, 2007


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