JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

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Notes

1. Peter Applebome, “War Heals Wounds at Home, but Not All,” A1, 12, and Dov Zakheim, “Is the Vietnam Syndrome Dead? Happily, It’s Buried in the Gulf,” New York Times, March 4, 1991, A17. For a comprehensive account of what must now be considered the first Gulf War, see Philip M. Taylor, War and the Media: Propaganda and Persuasion in the Gulf War (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1992). For a more specific reading of the “syndrome,” see Michelle Kendrick, “Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome: CNN’s and CBS’s Video Narratives of the Persian Gulf War,” in Susan Jeffords and Lauren Rabinovitz, eds., Seeing Through the Media: The Persian Gulf War (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994). For a brief but critical view of the “Vietnam Syndrome” in light of the present war, see Christian G. Appy, “The Ghosts of War,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 9, 2004, B12-13.

2. Ari Fleischer quoted in Mike Allen and Karen DeYoung, “White House is Revising its War Message,” Washington Post, April 3, 2003.

3. A sampling of examples includes Walter Shapiro, “Hearts and Minds Prove Unreadable,” USA Today, April 1, 2003:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/
columinst/shapiro/2003-04-01-hype_x.htm
;
Susan Page, “Is Iraq Becoming Another Vietnam?” USA Today, April 14, 2004, A1, 2; Oscar R. Estrada, “The Military: Losing Hearts and Minds?” Washington Post, “Outlook” section, B1, June 6, 2004; “U.S. Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) Holds a Hearing on U.S.-Iraq Diplomacy,” June 15, 2004, FDCH Political Transcripts, LexisNexis Academic; Douglass K. Daniel, “GOP Senator Says Iraq Looking Like Vietnam,” The Associated Press, August 21, 2005. For an incisive reading of the politics of language linking these wars, see Geoffrey Nunberg, “Iraq-Vietnam,” Fresh Air commentary, aired May 18, 2004, text posted at:
http://www-csli.stanford.edu/
~nunberg/vietnam.html
.

4. Peter Biskind, “Hearts and Minds,” in Lewis Jacobs, ed., The Documentary Tradition (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1979), 552.

5. David Grosser, “’We Aren’t on the Wrong Side, We Are the Wrong Side’: Peter Davis Targets (American) Hearts and Minds,” in Linda Dittmar and Gene Michaud, eds., From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers UP, 1990) and Thomas J. Slater, “Teaching Vietnam: The Politics of Documentary,” in Michael Anderegg, ed., Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1991).

6. Thomas Waugh, “Beyond Vérité: Emile de Antonio and the New Documentary of the Seventies,” in Bill Nichols, ed., Movies and Methods, Volume II (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1985).

7. Emile de Antonio, “Visions of Vietnam,” in Douglas Kellner and Dan Streible, eds., Emile de Antonio: A Reader (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 359.

8. One notable exception to the largely ahistorical treatment so far of the Iraq war in the documentary field is Why We Fight, Eugene Jarecki’s 2005 film that demands its own full-length study.

9. One of the extra scenes on the DVD release also takes place at yet another orphanage, the accumulation of which forging an implication that U.S. soldiers fear being orphaned by an indifferent people back home.

10. The next sequence, titled “Gunnerpalooza 4: Post-Raid party,” is also heavily laden with intertextual allusions. Several shots of bare-chested young soldiers dancing together in the pool, to a live version of “My Girl,” are reminiscent of the scenes in Platoon depicting the homosocial underworld of the “heads,” with young male soldiers dancing together to the sounds of Motown. Additionally, an earlier pool scene in Gunner Palace further echoes degrees of mediation, this time much more directly, as one soldier floating in the pool recites nearly word for word the “interview” with Private Joker in Full Metal Jacket expressing the life-long dream of being the first kid on his block “to get a confirmed kill.”

11. For powerful counter-testimony on what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such raids, see Riverbend, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq (New York: the Feminist Press of the City University of New York, 2005).

12. This approach to representing the war that privileges the personal over the political appears to be the reigning trend in documentary work, reinforced more recently by Deborah Scranton’s The War Tapes (2006) as well as Off to War (2005), the 10-part Discovery Times Channel production that, claims the ad copy, “tells the story of a war in a way it has never been told before — through the eyes of the soldiers and families back home who endured it.” Even Patricia Foulkrod’s documentary The Ground Truth (2006), which is obviously critical of the war, refrains from contextualizing it in order to maintain a strict focus on the suffering of returning vets and their emotional struggles. And the documentary field is not alone in this individualized approach to the war. A spate of memoirs of the Iraq war by American soldiers similarly avoid the “big picture,” together insisting that, according to Lakshmi Chaudhry, the war is primarily “about them —their self-image, their needs, their emotions.” See Chaudhry, “Postcards From the Front,” In These Times, January 2006, 38-40.

13. The web site for the film features Tucker’s blog, “Baghdad Diaries,” which includes the following entry: “This has become their movie, not mine — each person with their own reference. For the older officers and NCOs it’s M*A*S*H. They brought aloha shirts for poolside BBQs. For others, it’s Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. You can see it in the way they ride in their Humvees: one foot hanging out the door—helicopters with wheels. For the teenagers, it’s Jackass Goes to War.” Entry March 1, 2004.
http://www.gunnerpalace.com.

14. Besides the previously mentioned entry in Tucker’s blog, see also his entry for September 28, 2003. See also Kevin O’donnell, “Q&A: Michael Tucker,” Rolling Stone 979 (July 28, 2005). With the noticeable amount of horsing around on display, one might be tempted to connect Gunner Palace to the wayward lineage of war films that use “black comedy” as a means for commenting on war. Such films as Catch-22 and M*A*S*H, both released in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam War, called upon the critical edge of satire and dark humor to reveal the absurdity of war, while a film like Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) took an irreverent approach to the war in its mockery of military authority. More recently, Three Kings (1999) incorporated farcical elements to undermine the hollow triumphalism of the U.S. military in the first Gulf War. The overall tone and structure of Gunner Palace, however, is deadly serious, easily absorbing the occasional performance by soldiers to act out and blow off steam. To the extent that such comedic moments always take place during down time, this containment of comedy is actually “an indication,” as Michael Isenberg writes of WWI comedies,

“that the halo of serious purpose cast its aura around the battlefield itself, and that the fighting still was seen as part of a sacred cause…” (133).

15. “President Bush Delivers Remarks at Dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia,” November 10, 2006, Congressional Quarterly Transcriptions, LexisNexis Academic.

16. Richard Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-Terrorism (Manchester and New York: Manchester UP, 2005). See especially pages 31-38. “The more powerful a nation becomes, the more it asserts its victimhood,” writes George Monbiot in a short commentary on the film Black Hawk Down and the post-9/11 “sense of unique grievance” to American nationalism:

“What we are witnessing in both Black Hawk Down and the current war against terrorism is the creation of a new myth of nationhood. The US is casting itself simultaneously as the world’s saviour and the world’s victim, a sacrificial messiah on a mission to deliver the world from evil. The myth contains incalculable dangers for everyone else on earth.”

George Monbiot, “Both Saviour and Victim,” Guardian Weekly, February 13, 2002, 13.

17. For a brief but valuable account of psychiatrist Robert Lifton’s notion of “atrocity-producing situations,” see Dahr Jamail, “How Massacres Become the Norm,” Truthout, April 4, 2006:
http://www.truthout.org/
docs_2006/printer_040406Z.shtml
.
For a critique of the military’s “few bad apples” defense over Abu Ghraib, see my essay “Picturing Torture: Gulf Wars Past and Present,” in Andrew Martin and Patrice Petro, eds., Rethinking Global Security: Media, Popular Culture, and the “War on Terror” (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 206-235.

Works cited

Pat Aufderheide, “Good Soldiers,” in Mark Crispin Miller, ed., Seeing Through Movies (New York: Pantheon, 1990).

Theodor Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, trans. Knut Tarnowski and Frederic Will (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973).

Loren Baritz, Backfire: A History of How American Culture Led Us into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985).

Peter Biskind, “Hearts and Minds,” in Lewis Jacobs, ed., The Documentary Tradition (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1979).

Lakshmi Chaudhry, “Postcards From the Front,” In These Times, January 2006, 38-40.

Gary Crowdus and Dan Georgakas, “History Is the Theme of All My Films: An Interview with Emile de Antonio,” in Alan Rosenthal, ed., New Challenges for Documentary (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1988).

Emile de Antonio, “Visions of Vietnam,” in Douglas Kellner and Dan Streible, eds., Emile de Antonio: A Reader (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).

Cynthia Fuchs, “Double Vision,” PopMatters, March 4, 2005, and “There Wasn’t a Front Line: Interview with Michael Tucker and Jon Powers,” PopMatters, March 29, 2005.

Tony Grajeda, “Picturing Torture: Gulf Wars Past and Present,” in Andrew Martin and Patrice Petro, eds., Rethinking Global Security: Media, Popular Culture, and the “War on Terror” (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 2006).

David Grosser, “’We Aren’t on the Wrong Side, We Are the Wrong Side’: Peter Davis Targets (American) Hearts and Minds,” in Linda Dittmar and Gene Michaud, eds., From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers UP, 1990).

Richard A. Hunt, Pacification: The American Struggle for Vietnam’s Hearts and Minds (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995).

Michael Isenberg, “War on Film: The American Cinema and World War I, 1914-1941,” in J. David Slocum, ed., Hollywood and War, The Film Reader (New York and London: Routledge, 2006).

David James, Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989).

Richard Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-Terrorism (Manchester and New York: Manchester UP, 2005).

Andrew Martin, Receptions of War: Vietnam in American Culture (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).

----- “Popular Culture and Narratives of Insecurity,” in Andrew Martin and Patrice Petro, eds., Rethinking Global Security: Media, Popular Culture, and the “War on Terror” (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 2006).

Ngo Vinh Long, “Moving the People,” booklet accompanying the DVD release of Hearts and Minds (Criterion Collection, 2002).

Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1991).

Riverbend, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq (New York: the Feminist Press of the City University of New York, 2005).

Philip Rosen, Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory (Minneapolis and London: U. of Minneapolis Press, 2001).

Arundhati Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004).

Thomas J. Slater, “Teaching Vietnam: The Politics of Documentary,” in Michael Anderegg, ed., Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1991).

Vivian C. Sobchack: “The Violent Dance: A Personal Memoir of Death in the Movies,” in Stephen Prince, ed., Screening Violence (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP).

Gaylyn Studlar and David Desser, “Never Having to Say You’re Sorry: Rambo’s Rewriting of the Vietnam War,” in Linda Dittmar and Gene Michaud, eds., From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers UP, 1990).

Anthony Swofford, Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles (New York: Scribner, 2003).

Thomas Waugh, “Beyond Vérité: Emile de Antonio and the New Documentary of the Seventies,” in Bill Nichols, ed., Movies and Methods, Volume II (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1985).

Evan Wright, Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War (New York: Berkley Caliber, 2004.