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Barack Obama's presidency

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The Pleasantly Surprising 'Green Zone'

By David Swanson
August 5, 2010

Editor’s Note: Popular American culture tends to reflect the biases of the Establishment, rarely taking a hard look at the truly well-connected behaving in evil ways, sometimes teasing us along those lines before copping out with an ending that excuses the powerful. Think “The Da Vinci Code” veering away from a harsh critique of Opus Dei.

That’s the feeling that writer/activist David Swanson expected to have when he watched “Green Zone” starring Matt Damon, but didn’t:

I expected to be disappointed by "Green Zone.” I mean the movie, not the chunk of Baghdad we've spent seven years and trillions of dollars killing over a million people to steal for an "embassy" containing 21 buildings on 104 acres.

I'd been told that this movie was Matt Damon actually following the guidance of his teacher Howard Zinn. I'd been told this was a movie to expose the war lies. I remained dubious.

And then I finally got a chance to see it.

Have you ever fantasized about what it would be like if popular culture wasn't devoted to making our world a worse place, more hateful, more violent, more stupid and petty, more greedy and acquisitive? "Green Zone" is it.
This is a movie that looks and feels exactly like a truly stupid, meaningless, or revenge- and greed-based Hollywood movie. But it isn't.

I expected the war lies to get a brief mention, and the lesson taught to actually be that violence is fun and necessary. I expected underlings to get the blame for the lies. I expected the plot to fall down around the contrast between its protagonist's stupidity in believing the lies about weapons and his genius in grasping impossible connections during the course of the story. I was wrong on all points.

The characters are composites, to be sure. Names and details have been changed, although certainly not to protect the innocent. But the basic account of what happened is laid out clearly, as well as cleverly, and gets it exactly right.

The hero demonstrates the value of trust, including the importance of trusting Iraqis about Iraq, the importance of pushing back against authority, the need for restraint in violence but expansion in honest communication, and the crucial requirement that those guilty of the most serious crime imaginable -- lying a nation into war -- be held accountable, even if they wear nice suits and offer nice bribes to keep you quiet.

Yes, this is a look at the crazy WMD lies from the point of view of someone who believed them, rather than from the view of those of us who didn't. But that's an important angle to take, and one that a majority of Americans may be able to relate to, whether they are eager to admit it or not.

It has not, after all, been very long since all that nonsense saturated our airwaves. The war is in fact -- and it may be a little known fact -- still going on.
This movie is far more relevant than most movies revealing war lies. There aren't many such creations at all, and they tend to come out decades after a war has ended. In fairness, wars did used to end.

"Green Zone" has not been shown in any theater in my town. Places it has been shown may be done showing it now.

Buy, don't rent, the DVD. Show it to groups of people. Start a chapter of Screening Liberally if you don't have a local group that hosts such events: And invite your member of Congress.

David Swanson is the author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press.  You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: [This article previously appeared at]    

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