The new movie, War Machine, on Netflix starring Brad Pitt begins as a hilarious and satisfying mockery of General Stanley McChrystal, circa 2009, as well as of militarism in general. Hilarious because of the deadpan sincere idiocy. Satisfying at least to those of us who have been screaming “What are you idiots doing?” for the past fifteen-and-a-half years.
Should we be glad that a Hollywood movie can still be made mocking the murderous malevolence of true believers in militarism, or should we be disturbed that theaters won’t show such movies and they have to end up on Netflix? Should we be glad that a war satire set in Afghanistan didn’t have to wait decades for a different war, in the manner of Mash, or should we be disturbed that most viewers will not know a current war is being mocked because they either believe the war on Afghanistan has ended or they simply can’t keep up with the proliferation of wars?
Regardless, I recommend making sure every movie-lover, Brad Pitt fan, young person, and old person watch this movie. Watch a sincere true-believing military commander and his sycophants consciously choose to win an unwinnable war, proposing straight-faced to work on protecting people while not killing them — or killing them less, or something.
The basic truth that people don’t want armed foreigners in their towns and would rather not be bombed is presented here in straightforward dialogue as well as comedic exchange. And Brad Pitt’s character, based on Stanley McChrystal, and on Michael Hastings’ account of McChrystal, is depicted as having turned himself into a human hammer, unable to see any problem as anything other than a nail — his ambition to “win” a war driving his blindness to the absolute unwinnability of foreign occupations or “counter-insurgency” or “counter-terrorism,” also known as terrorism.
The whole thing stops being funny three-quarters of the way into the movie, when the protests of troops that they cannot distinguish civilians from enemies becomes an actual demonstration of that inability. When we get to watch the General in charge articulate all of his usual platitudes and nonsensical pep-rally lies (even if lies to himself, still lies) to a man whose child has just been murdered by U.S. troops, the laughter is gone.
Even when we see a village leader ask the General to “please leave now,” there’s little satisfaction in this plea of the Afghan people for the past decade and a half finally making it into U.S. ears, because we know that the U.S. military will not ever listen.
We also know that this movie constitutes the extent of the punishment that the real Stanley McChrystal will ever receive for his crimes. There will be no trial, no legal judgment.
Speculation as to the cause of death of Michael Hastings continues, but speculation as to whether the individuals crashing the U.S. war machine into Afghanistan year after year have committed murder in a futile and criminal attempt to advance their personal interests should end. There is no doubt that they have done and are doing just that on a massive scale. They are, as this movie points out, and as no U.S. newspaper or television station dares to state, endangering the United States under the banner of slogans claiming they are defending and protecting it.
Here’s part of an open letter to President Donald Trump that anyone can sign here:
The United States is spending $4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment, much of which could be provided by U.S. businesses. Thus far, the United States has spent an outrageous $783 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers , and the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans. The Afghanistan War has been and will continue to be, as long as it lasts, a steady source of scandalous stories of fraud and waste. Even as an investment in the U.S. economy this war has been a bust.
But the war has had a substantial impact on our security: it has endangered us. Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan. In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, along with other U.S. wars in the region. There is no reason to imagine this will change.
In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare with a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses — all fueling anti-U.S. propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States.
Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much. That fact may help explain this one: the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is suicide. The second highest killer of American military is green on blue, or the Afghan youth who the U.S. is training are turning their weapons on their trainers! You yourself recognized this, saying: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”
The withdrawal of U.S. troops would also be good for the Afghan people, as the presence of foreign soldiers has been an obstacle to peace talks. The Afghans themselves have to determine their future, and will only be able to do so once there is an end to foreign intervention.
We urge you to turn the page on this catastrophic military intervention. Bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. Cease U.S. airstrikes and instead, for a fraction of the cost, help the Afghans with food, shelter, and agricultural equipment.