Thomas Wictor

How about movies that are not stupid?

How about movies that are not stupid?

I don’t like it when movies present the armed forces of western democracies as evil. That’s like saying, “I don’t like it when movies present young women as sexy,” I know. It goes with the territory. But I still find it irritating. I prefer movies that are not stupid.

The misrepresentation doesn’t keep me from enjoying movies. I really like 28 Days Later and Hulk, for example, even though the military are the bad guys. Still, stereotyping annoys me. It shows mental laziness that detracts from the art being presented.

For some people it goes far deeper. They get all their ideas from movies, and they unquestioningly swallow the image of military monsters murdering and raping a path of destruction through what would otherwise be heaven on earth. It’s insulting, yes, but most of all it’s just dumb. I’m continually shocked at how dumb some people are when it comes to military matters.

“Why do you study war?” people ask me in disgust.

My answer: “Why do doctors study cancer?

People take pride in their ignorance of military matters, as though knowing about war and weaponry would confer on these subjects an “air of legitimacy” that must be avoided at all costs. The thing is, if you’re ignorant, those with agendas can fool you. I saw an Italian documentary about the Second Battle of Fallujah, which took place November 7 to December 23, 2004. The documentary alleges the American massacre of Iraqi civilians as a matter of policy.

Now, you have every right to have opposed the Iraq war. Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not we should’ve invaded. But the documentarians interviewed an American man claiming to be a combat veteran of the battle. He referred to “chain-gun missile launchers” and “Bradley tanks,” and he called white phosphorus “whiskey pete.”

There’s no such thing as a “chain-gun missile launcher.” A chain gun is an automatic weapon that uses an external source of power rather than harnessing the gas from the fired cartridges to cycle the rounds. It’s not a missile. A missile is anything that’s propelled through the air, but in the military, a missile is a self-propelled guided munition. A rocket is a self-propelled unguided munition.

“Chain-gun missile launcher” is on a par with “nuclear-submarine motorcycle.”

A “Bradley” is the M2 Bradley armored fighting vehicle (AFV), also called the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV). It has a turret with a 25 mm Bushmaster chain gun, an antitank missile launcher, and it carries six infantrymen in addition to the three-man crew. It isn’t a tank. No infantryman would ever call it a tank. It’s an AFV.

Finally, white phosphorus isn’t nicknamed “whiskey pete.” It’s nicknamed “willy pete.”

Draw your own conclusions about whether on not the “combat veteran” featured in the Italian documentary was telling the truth. The point is, by knowing about military issues and weapons, you can weed out the frauds who are trying to hoodwink you in the name of an agenda. Maybe you agree with the Italian filmmakers’ agenda.

But what if someone with an agenda opposed to yours tricked you by telling you things that were blatantly untrue, and you lacked the ability to discern the lie? The Syrian civil war is a perfect example. What do you know about the Syrian Arab Army’s chemical-warfare capabilities and delivery systems? What do you know about the Syrian Arab Army’s command-and-control? Was it possible for someone to have fired chemical weapons at civilians on his own initiative? Did Bashar al-Assad give the order himself? Did the rebels kill the civilians and then blame it on Assad?

I know the answers to those questions because I study the Syrian Arab Army. I study all the world’s armies. We almost went to war in Syria. Was that justified? If you know what I know, you’d be able to answer the question yourself and not have to rely on a political leader or pundit to tell you what to think.

Movies that portray the armies of the western democracies as evil are not only irritating and insulting, they can be dangerous. Low-information audiences take them as gospel, and then those surface skaters can be led around by the nose. In 2005 I immediately knew this was a hoax because the vest is completely wrong.


Global news agencies centuries old were taken in, but I wasn’t.

Knowledge is power. When you know what’s real, you can’t be fooled. Though it’s hard to stand up to the crowd, we’re born alone and we die alone. The crowd isn’t there with us when we have to account for what we did and what kind of person we were. And the crowd doesn’t really care about you. It cares only that you join it. Being biased can sometimes save you.

The best war movie I’ve ever seen is A Very Long Engagement. It’s also one of the most satisfying love stories I’ve ever seen. Americans make fun of the French, but the French make better movies than we do. The film assumes an intelligence in the audience that most American movies don’t.

I too assume an intelligence in you. You’re not idiots. Not by a long shot. But I want you to know about important things. The popular culture has very strongly inferred to you that to have detailed knowledge about war is to support it. That’s a lie.

How can you know whether or not to support something unless you know as much as possible about it?

And enjoy this foul-mouthed video of a real marine pointing out in a humorous way the inaccuracies in popular toys. His greater point is something worth pondering.

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