Dirty War, The Peacemaker, Air Force I, The Siege, Enemy of the State, True Lies, Left Behind, Gladiator, Enemy at the Gates
Several reviews on movies about threats to America’s move towards empire as terrorisms and threats of terrorism will cause the ending of American liberties and the growth of empire. Even just a key line of dialogue may be very significant (See AIR FORCE ONE below).
Why We Fight lies and military industrial Congress complex
Kingdom of Heaven About the crusades, noticeably a critique of religious fanaticism with some extraordinary dialogue. The soldiers show themselves as honorable (on both sides) while war is instigated by fanatics (read the settlers on the West Bank backed up by Armageddonites in America), while most Christians, Jews, and Moslems were all living more or less peaceably together. Adults may be disappointed by the leading role, a young man much missing the gravitas of a Yul Brenner or Kirk Douglas, but movies now are made for teens.
Dirty War in London terrorists set one off, HBO movie in U.S. quite well done B grade movie, some expected lines by captured terrroist, “We expect your retaliation, it is what unites us and divides you” and “You kill Moslems every day in Baghdad, Kabul and Ramallah.”
Battle of Algiers The classic about France’s lost battles –lessons for America
Star Wars–Part 2 How the Empire used Terrorists as an excuse for domination
GLADIATOR –its Analogy with America, showing Rome’s move from Republic to Empire reviewed by Lew Rockwell
ENEMY AT THE GATES reviewed by Lawrence Reed –very human, refreshing, truthful, encompassing depiction of battle of Stalingrad, equating communists and nazis
New Kosovo Video–See Below
Hollywood is onto the risks of terrorism and reprisals, even if the President and the Republican leadership behave as if America can bomb around the world with impunity. When even a couple of traffic accidents at vital locations can tie up major American cities in knots, just imagine an easily carried tactical nuclear bomb. Several movies have come out which deserve comment. Most received mediocre reviews, but they’ll surely be more coming. The WASHINGTON POST 11/27/98 reports about the ease of theft of fissionable material from the collapsing Russian military (see MIDEAST UPDATES), the main missing ingredient for many nuclear development programs.
First was AIR FORCE ONE where the Kazak terrorist said to the American President’s daughter, “Your country killed a hundred thousand Iraqis to save a nickel a gallon on the price of gasoline.” This line was later brought up on the TV Program Politically Incorrect with the host asking his guests to comment. There was no answer in the movie nor on the TV program.
Then there was the PEACEMAKER (now available in video rental stores) with Nicole Kidman, where a bitter Serbian brings a stolen Russian tactical nuke to New York. It’s great showing the inside workings in Russia today and how they stole or bought a bomb. The move got bad reviews, but it’s really pretty good. The Serb’s motive is to destroy the United Nations building. The tactical nuke which he carried on his back would take out about 5 or 6 city blocks and leave a lot of dirty radiation. An earlier scene shows him with his dying young daughter in his arms after a mortar attack, presumably by Bosnians. Today Serbs are just another bitter minority filled with desperation and hatred and willing to die on suicide missions.
And now there is THE SIEGE about Palestinian terrorists blowing up the FBI headquarters and assorted others in New York City. One chilling line come from one of the terrorists at the end of the movie as he is about to die, saying, “I’m not the last, I’m one of the first.” The terrorists are composed of three cells of three men, each group not known to the others. (This is unlike our CIA where one traitor in Washington knew the names of all the spies and agents in Russia and East Europe. His betrayal wrapped up the whole CIA operations over there.) The Palestinians, according to another line in the movie, have been learning since they were 12 years old.
The movie drags a bit at the beginning, but then goes pretty fast. Another very key part of it buttresses our arguments that among the first destructions will be the loss of Americans’ own freedoms as suspects are rounded up and the U.S. Army takes over part of a major city under martial law. In that the movie makes a big point, that our own freedoms are at risk from terrorism. The loyal FBI investigator of Lebanese descent has his child arrested during sweeps of Moslem neighborhoods and disappear into the holding camps. He throws away his FBI badge and the hero asks him if that isn’t what the terrorists want, to cause civil chaos and the disaffection of all Moslems. Although the motives of the Palestinians were ostensibly because they had been fighting Saddam Hussein and then were abandoned by Washington, the real motive doesn’t need explaining to anyone; everyone knows why Palestinians and now millions of other Moslems hate us. Still, as in the real world of terrorism, the FBI gets its man. Terrorists know everywhere that almost always, American police work is superb.
Now there is ENEMY OF THE STATE, a very interesting movie about government surveillance technology and its potential for abuse by errant police agents. It shows satellites being used to follow escapees, telephone and bugging devices, and how the government can track everybody and everything. It shows Congressmen demanding ever more police power and violations of constitutional protections. Conservative constitutionalists who are dismayed at Republican and Democrats all joining to establish the laws for a police state at least have Hollywood on our side in showing scenes which are unmentionable in polite conservative magazines.
(reviewed by Otto Scott–Advisory Board Member) Courtesy of THE COMPASS
(Vol. 8, Issue 87, November 1997).
Directed by Mimi Leder, starring George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Marcel Iures, Alexander Baluyev, Rene Medvesek, 1997, Rated R.
“Watching this carried us all the way back to the thirties, when Hitler’s threats made war seem suddenly not only real, but imminent. This is, in other words, a war movie for our time — not for the past, and not for fantasy.
“Such an idea at a time when nuclear stockpiles are rumored to be spilling out of Russia into the hands of Third World anti-American fanatics is, of course, a way of refrightening us all into the psychological mood of the Cold War. To reignite that atmosphere is irresponsible, to say the least. But it is underway — and this movie is it.
“The plot, as always in war movies, is quite simple. A suitcase-size nuclear bomb is stolen in a staged train wreck in Russia by a Serbian mastermind with connections. The suitcase-bomb, which is, by the way, implausibly small, is destined for Iran. This combines two contemporary villain-images assiduously promoted by the media. That is not to say that Iran is not hostile to us, or that we are popular in, or friendly to, Serbia. But it is to wonder why Christian Serbia, the enemy of European Muslims, would provide so terrible a weapon to Muslim Iran, and wonder why Russians would be so irresponsible.
“Pushing aside these improbabilities (after all, a Hollywood movie with only one major improbability would be considered almost sensible), the film then piles fantasy upon improbability by appointing slender Nicole Kidman (wearing dresses the length of bathing suits) a high Washington security official in charge of everyone except the hero, a colonel, to whom she becomes buddy, partner, twin-hero, and participant in all sorts of physical derring-do.
“As usual the opening scenes are exciting. The theft of the nuclear suitcase from a complicated train wreck is awesome, the trail to a Serbian village is realistic; but how the trail splinters to one lone terrorist in New York City with a nuclear bomb suitcase is difficult to follow. So are the leapings over cars, escaping from traffic jams and a finale for the hero and heroine huddled in a church decoding the nuclear bomb (There is of course no end to their knowledge). . . .”
“But with U.S. battlewagons being sent to the shores of Iran because France, Malaysia, and Russia decide to finance a large industrial venture in that nation, and with retired Russian General Lebed talking about missing Russian suitcase-sized nuclear warheads occupying our headlines, movies like this are simply too close to war talk to comfortably watch. It seems to us that Hollywood movie people may be too intimate with the Clinton Administration and its convoluted, muddy, and mostly secret foreign policy, for comfort. Entertainment so close to transitory governmental policies sends, it seems to us, the wrong sort of chills.”
Following is an interesting analysis of American society as reflected in the above and other movies dealing with the conflict with Iraq.
Sense From the Sand Spider
Michael Levin (Dr. Levin is professor of philosophy at the City University of New York. This article is reprinted with permission from the November 1997 Rothbard-Rockwell Report.
Movies supposedly mirror an amorphous quality called the
“national mood” or what Americans think, or what they should be
thinking, or perhaps what the cultural elite would like them to
think. Often the messages are right out there, sometimes they’re
subtle, and occasionally they contravene their creators’ own
One film I recently saw, COURAGE UNDER FIRE, belongs to the
hit-’em-over-the-head school. When I say I saw it I mean that
literally: it was the in-flight feature on a trip to the west
coast, and I would be darned before I paid for headphones to
listen to what I assumed (as it turned out correctly) would be a
propaganda piece. Fortunately, its plotting is so predictable
that I was pretty much able to surmise what the characters were
up to without having to hear what they said, as I later verified
from reviews of the movie.
Courage was hailed when it appeared as a reversion to the
old John Wayne spirit, but it is not. It is more like a morphing
of that spirit into a weird Döppelganger, as if the villains in a
Gunsmoke episode were being routed by a gung-ho Chester and Miss
Kitty while Marshall Dillon dithered in the background.
The story opens during Desert Storm, with American forces
relentlessly mowing down Iraqi soldiers. In the confusion of
battle, heroic tank commander Denzel Washington mistakenly
targets a friendly tank, killing several Americans. This troubles
him badly; you can tell, because back stateside he lies awake in
bed. Incidentally, no white is shown to exhibit anything
resembling a conscience.
Deep in his funk, he is given an important assignment. The
Department of Defense wants to award helicopter pilot Meg Ryan a
posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor, making her the first
female so honored, but there is some uncertainty about how she
died. Captain Denzel must find out what really happened (shades
of Rashomon), principally by investigating the men she rescued on
her last mission–a group of white lummoxes led by Lou Diamond
The rest of the story is told mainly in flashbacks. We first
meet Commander Ryan doing calisthenics as her little daughter
looks on, so we know right away she is (a) dedicated and (b) not
a lesbian. Next we see her in the thick of combat, landing her
chopper to rescue Phillips and his buddies from a dicey
situation. As the bits of narrative coalesce, it becomes clear
that she took a bullet but fights on, and stood her ground even
as the white males are saved by another extraction team. She
and all traces of what has happened are incinerated in a final
cataclysm as the men look stupidly on, with their jaws literally
The climactic revelation seems to occur in a locker room,
with Denzel in uniform and Phillips in an undershirt. Phillips is
well-built, so I could not tell whether the director wanted to
show off the actor’s muscles or emphasize the brutishness of
white males. In any case, Phillips is so embarrassed by the
prospect of the truth coming out that he immediately drives his
car headlong into an freight train (whose engineer was surely
ignoring Department of Transportation safety regs about suicidal
Denzel, having done right, can now get some sleep. And is
justice done to Meg? Can a hungry bear win a salmon-eating
contest? The last scene has Denzel placing a Congressional Medal
of Honor on her tombstone.
Desert Storm also makes its way, although less directly and
not by name, into the Arnold Schwartzenegger extravaganza True
Lies. Lies is played mostly for laughs and is quite enjoyable,
despite the piling on of crescendos that has become inevitable in
the action-adventure genre. Nonetheless it has a few disquieting
Arnold belongs to a supersecret antiterrorist government
organization, although his wife believes he sells computers, the
source of a engaging subplot. As the action begins he is on the
trail of the Islamic Jihad, led by a figure calling himself the
Sand Spider. (When asked why he chose that odd name, somebody
speculates “Maybe he thought it sounded scary.”) Exasperated by
Arnold’s relentless pursuit, the Jihad kidnaps him and his wife
to an isolated island in the Florida Keys, where they have also
secreted four atomic warheads stolen from the former Soviet
Here the Spider videotapes a message to the United States.
“You have occupied our countries, bombed our defenseless women
and children,” he begins, going on to promise the destruction of
American cities until other Jihadists are released from prison
and “the U.S. removes its warships from the Persian Gulf and
leaves that part of the world.” At this point the batteries in
the terrorists’ videocam run down, leaving the Spider to fume
comically at his underlings. Not long after Arnold takes the
offensive, saving millions of lives by wiping out the baddies.
But let us look past the low humor and the boilerplate about
imprisoned comrades to the striking modesty of the Spider’s
central demand. In itself it is perfectly reasonable. He wants
neither material gain nor self-aggrandizement, only that the U.S.
leave his part of the world alone. He shouldn’t threaten innocent
people–although without such threats there is no movie–but his
anger is also reasonable. I remember in particular Iraq accusing
the U.S. of bombing a shelter for women and children, and killing
every occupant, a charge never to my knowledge denied. Didn’t
anyone involved with Lies realize that some part of the audience
might think “Hey, that guy has a point”? I don’t know.
What the writers do not do is answer the indictment with the
sort of upbeat defense of America that punctuated older war
movies. They must have known that talk about “drawing a line
against aggressors” would ring hollow, given the number of
aggressors in the world we don’t go after. Nor did they dare trot
out “Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait threatened America’s supply of
oil,” which is morally ambiguous at best. Kuwait’s oil does not
belong to Hussein, but it does not belong to us either. If
somebody tries to steal your TV set, you have a right to
repel him with deadly force, but I don’t. What I should do is
call the cops. The absence of a supernational 911 number–a boon
for individual liberty–also means that the United States must
butt out when nations with whom it is in sympathy suffer at the
hands of third parties.
Not that summer blockbusters are apt to dwell on economics,
but even the amorally self-serving plea “we need that oil” would
not have washed. Decreased availability of a previously plentiful
resource simply drives its price up, leading to its more
efficient use along with deployment of substitutes. If gasoline
suddenly became scarcer, Americans would drive less, eat at home
instead of McDonald’s, and walk instead of automatically climbing
into the car.
Nor is it likely that Hussein, had he grabbed all the oil in
the Mideast, would hoard it out of vindictiveness. After all, the
only reason to control a highly-valued resource is to sell it.
And not at so-called “extortionate” prices, either. Hussein-brand
oil going for $5 million a barrel would attract few buyers,
especially as competitors like Nigeria charged less. It would
stay in the ground, as useless to Baghdad as to us. Indeed, if
Iraqi engineers could not extract conquered oil efficiently, they
might have to ask American firms to do it more cheaply.
The moral issues ignored in Courage and raised in passing in
Lies are aired more explicitly in the recent Air Force One.
Lamentably, it argues in effect that every aggressor in the world
is America’s business.
The movie opens bluntly as American paratroopers armed with
high-tech weapons burst into a palatial building in Khazakstan,
kill all the guards and drag off Khazakstan’s new leader, General
Radek. This grabs the audience, but once again has–I hope–the
incidental effect of making it ask what the hell American
soldiers are doing in a foreign country kidnapping its head of
Matters are explained in a very Wilsonian speech given the
next night at the Kremlin by President Harrison Ford. “Real
peace,” he asserts in a phrase lifted from Martin Luther King,
“is not just the absence of conflict but the presence of
justice.” That’s funny; I thought peace was the absence of
conflict. He goes on to explain: thanks to a joint
Russian-American surgical strike, Radek, responsible for
“genocide against 200,000 of his own people,” now resides in a
Russian prison. (By this point it should be obvious that
“Khazakstan” is the movie’s version of Bosnia.) Ford then
promises the world more of the same, proclaiming that America
will no longer do things because they are “popular,” but
because they are “moral.” In other words, we will indeed make
every bad guy in the world our business.
Leaving Moscow in triumph, the President along with his wife
and daughter boards his eponymous airplane for the flight home.
But trouble lurks as six Radek loyalists gain entree to it in the
guise of Russian newsmen. With the unexplained assistance of part
of the President’s Secret Service detail, they take over Air
Force One and threaten to kill everyone on board unless the
General is released. Much hugger-mugger ensues, as Ford
eventually kills all the hijackers singlehandedly. As a bonus,
Radek also dies in a hail of bullets elsewhere.
Every detail of the story is politically correct. A black
secretary figures out how to get a message off the plane; a black
general devises the daring mid-air rescue. The firm yet
compassionate Vice President is female. Yet despite the
preachment, the explosions, and Ford’s star preening, the heart
of the film is Gary Oldman’s overwhelming portrayal of the
Khazakstani ringleader. No supervillain, he is a real,
recognizable, and bitterly angry human being. It must have been
especially difficult for Oldman to bring this off, given the
incoherence of his character, who is not only a veteran of
Afghanistan, a communist and a nationalist–socialism in one
country, anybody?–but a Khazakstani nationalist who deplores the
decline of mother Russia.
For all that, his outrage at what the U.S. has just done to
his country is wholly convincing. In one astonishing scene,
Oldman, beside himself with contempt, spits in the President’s
As in True Lies but more so, the attempt to motivate the bad
guy’s behavior gets out of hand. The President’s wife and
daughter remonstrate with Oldman about his having killed one of
the hostages. “Your father also kills people,” he tells the girl;
“he doesn’t shoot them; he wears a tuxedo, picks up the
telephone, and calls in smart bombs.” The first lady calls Oldman
a murderer. He snorts and replies, accurately, “You murdered
100,000 Iraqis to save a nickel on a gallon of gas.” Now, what
refutation of these canards do America’s spokeswomen come up? The
President’s 12-year-old daughter calls him names: “You’re not
like my father at all. You’re a monster.” And there the scene
I can’t imagine anyone thinking this is decisive. More
likely it was the best the writers could manage, given the
historical facts. I would like to think they knew Oldman’s line
could not be answered, and left it in as “hidden doctrine,” food
for thought for those who notice. One small further bit of
evidence of subversiveness is that Oldman’s chief henchman is
named Nevsky. This name might have been picked simply because it
sounds Russian, but Alexander Nevsky was the medieval Russian
folk hero who repelled the Teutonic Knights, and also the subject
of an Eisenstein film surely familiar to most writers, producers,
and directors in Hollywood.
The press has explained audience enthusiasm for Air Force
One as a yearning for a “decisive,” “principled” President,
unlike the one they have. I don’t know why people say this about
Clinton; he is very determined when he wants to be. He is
defending affirmative action to the last ditch, and never misses
a chance to side against whites. No doubt he does think he is
doing what is “right” rather than “popular,” which just shows how
dangerous it is for men with too much power to get on their high
So what do we learn from these movies? In one sense, Courage
Under Fire is a sign that post-Vietnam defeatism has been
replaced by renewed confidence in America’s military might. But
the movie’s real text as I see it is that it is OK to kill as
many Iraqis or anybody else as possible so long as the killing is
done by blacks and females. Not only are the toughest yet most
honorable figures a black and a female, this fact itself is
treated as entirely unremarkable. Critics, I might add, fell in
with this pretense, scarcely mentioning Denzel Washington’s
race and referring to Meg Ryan’s gender only to explain the plot.
The whole idea is to pretend this circumstance is unremarkable, a
non-issue. “The warriors are black and female? You don’t say. I
hadn’t even noticed.”
True Lies and Air Force One teach a subtler lesson. Artists,
it is said, don’t always fully understand what they are doing.
Satan is the villain of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but he is by far
the most interesting character, as Shelley pointed out. So here.
Many movie-makers want to create exciting fantasies that also
make people proud to be Americans. But they must also choose
protagonists and antagonists that permit the suspension of
disbelief, which requires some respect for the realities that
today’s sophisticated audiences know exist. Villains must come
from the enemies we actually have, and have plausible motives.
Some of these motives are a little too convincing, and putting
them on the screen inadvertently gives moviegoers more to think
about than explosions and chases.
VIDEO ON KOSOVO
For the benefit of JRL subscribers and readers, I would like to
recommend an excellent new video film on the ongoing conflict in the
Balkans. Titled, “Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War,” the documentary film
was made by George Bogdanich of New York and Martin Lettmayer, a German
television producer in Munich.
Completed during the NATO intervention in Kosovo, the two and half-hour
documentary investigates how serious errors and misjudgements made by
Western powers, especially Germany and the United States, contributed to
the violent break up of Yugoslavia, destabilizing the whole region as the millennium approaches.
Produced by Frontier Theater and Film, Inc. in New York, the film
documents how Western governments supported different sides in an ethnic
conflict while pretending to be peacemakers. It includes candid
statesments of such decision-makers as former US Secretaries of State James Baker and Lawrence Eagleburger, as well as EC Mediator Lord Peter Carrington and former UN Commander Sir Michael Rose. It also contains revealing interviews with such people as George Kenny, Justice Richard
Goldstone, Col. David Hackworth and Cato Institute’s Ted Galen Carpenter.
I am sure that JRL readers would find this film just as relevant to Russia.
If interested, contact George Bogdanich <SP105@columbia.edu>