I attended a screening of the film at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland a week ago tonight. It was, as they say, “eye opening”. My interest in this film as opposed to all the other films on the war and occupation of Iraq, such as No End in Sight and Gunner Palace, is its emphasis on the reasons for and perpetrators of the violence in Iraq not stemming from US and coalition forces themselves. In exploring this dimension of the debacle in Iraq the directors Steve Connors and Molly Bingham do western audiences a great service.
The film follows 8 resistors in depth, blurring their faces or taping in the wrong direction with only a partial face/forehead in the periphery of the screen. They are categorized – and I’m at a loss to remember them all – as “The Warrior”, “The Teacher”, “The Traveller”, etc., all names related in some way to their real life identity and occupation. Their stories are hard stories, filled with events that most people in the pampered confines of the West would find, if they weren’t so grim, as almost adventurous. What animates most of these men (and a few women) interviewed is sheer outrage at foreign destruction and occupation of their homeland (think “neighborhood” or “community” if “homeland” sounds too unfashionable), and in many cases their very homes! The ideological framework which buttresses these rather universal feelings run the gamut from nominally secular Arab nationalism to outright Islamism. At one point in the film one of the more religious interviewees breaks it down in terms that any red-blooded – and most assuredly red-stated – American can understand: “What if Iraq invaded America and occupied your streets?”. Indeed.
The point of the film is to make viewers realize that opposition to US and coalition forces in Iraq is a grassroots, local and relatively non-ideological phenomenon. The resistance is not primarily due to Iranians, Syrians or Saudi Arabians (though the largest single source of foreign fighters is Saudia Arabia), nor to Al Qaeda or Ba’athist holdouts, but to ordinary Iraqis. Supplementing the deliberately anecdotal and emotive interviews and footage is information regarding the target of attacks, taken from military sources themselves. Coalition forces are approximately 3/4 of all targets, with collaborators – some Iraqi police, Blackwater employees – and civilians constituting what remains.
At one point during the viewing one of the mostly leftist fellow audience members actually applauded when an interviewee, I believe The Warrior, discussed how rag tag groups of teenage Iraqi boys would manage to obtain RPGs, and without the sanction of authority figures in the community proceed to attack US tanks. Another round of applause came when the attack on Paul Bremer was highlighted. Curiously, there wasn’t a single boo when same “warrior” waxed eloquent upon how he wouldn’t even wish the American wrought harm on a Jew.
More information, with links to statistics and other details, here.