Saturday, August 27, 2005

I realize that I'm a bit behind, but I watched the documentary "Control Room" last night which is about the Aljazeera news channel in the Middle East. This documentary is situated in 2003 when the US started to drop bombs on Iraq and follows through until the US supposeably "won."

Not that this is particularly helpful or anything, but I cried while watching it. It's utterly depressing, especially two years later.

A few particular things stick with me. Watching the initial air strikes in Baghdad at the beginning of the US attack (as well as later attacks downtown that killed a journalist and wounded many others). I couldn't help but wonder again (but this time more vividly because the strikes were filmed during daytime hours and you could really see what was happening) how did those people feel who were living in the downtown just like I live in downtown Philadelphia? What did they do to protect themselves? How did they spend those hours? ... In the movie, right before the air strikes began, you see men in a barber shop listening to Bush declaring unilateral war and the veins in their necks are pulsing. Now I don't know if they are in Baghdad or not, and I don't know what was going through their heads, but I know what was going through my heads watching them and seeing Bush speaking from where they are sitting. It is profoundly humbling.

Another thing that is amazing to watch is the work and reflections of the Army's press office who is stationed at Central Command. His answers at the beginning are so lame it's sad and you can see the stress on his own brow as he tries to hold his ground. This remains true throughout the film -- he stays in this position as press officer and must therefore uphold the Army's PR line with lesser or greater difficulty at times -- but you get to hear some amazing reflections from him throughout the film. The most telling one is his own notice that he reacted more viserally to seeing American soldiers killed and wounded in combat (on screen) than he did to seeing Iraqi's killed and wounded (again, on screen). A very powerful and deep discovery for him to talk about on film the way that he does here. I wonder where he is today.

Thirdly, there is this quote that you can also see via the IMDB link above (Hassan Ibrahim is a journalist, maybe even a manager?, at Aljazzeera):

Journalist: Who can defeat the Americans? They are so strong.
Hassan Ibrahim: The Americans will defeat the Americans. I have ultimate faith in the American Constitution.

Sigh. And here it is, 2005.

Anyway, the real point of the film I believe, is to show how Aljazeera focuses on the cost of war by showing its impact on human lives. The scenes of wounded children, soldiers (on both sides) and even of interviews of American prisoners are terrifying and despite how you feel about the war, draw you immediately into what is happening on the ground.