Monday, 24 January 2011

The Green Zone

And then on Saturday I watched a showing of the Green Zone on Sky Anytime a service which enables viewing to select the time of showing of selected films for a period of about month and includes although the latest released to Sky Premier Channel which in turn is about one to two years after the released to theatres, followed by the DVD’s and then to Sky Box office

(Atlantic City, Two Hearts, Fire, Because the Night, Long Walk Home and Lonesome Day).

The film is a work fiction but as others have also commented it is amazing that it was made and put on general release and appears to come close to truth about the second Gull war, and is designed as an indictment of George Bush for failing to understand the country being invaded and what to do after the military victory, and for accepting the advice of some senior officials that it would be possible to impose a new leadership who would be able to create an instant democracy after stripping the military and the Ba’athist Party of all jobs within the country at every level of government.

The main point being made in the film is that a senior Pentagon intelligence officer had a secret meeting with a leading Iraq General in Jordan before the war who revealed there were no weapons of mass destruction programme continuing in the country after the first war, The expectation was that after the war he would become head of the army for the USA and therefore maintain there balance of power over the other tribal ethnic groups

The film is not about the Green Zone as such but the immediate aftermath of the war and the search for weapons of Mass destruction. The Green Zone was a 10 square kilometre area of central Bagdad used by the occupying powers and the USA created Coalition Provisional Authority. Today under the Iraq Interim Government it is called the International Zone. It remains heavily fortified with entry and exits controlled and was previously the area of the Presidential Republican Palace, Government centres, and International Hotels. Immediately after the war the area was also used by ordinary citizens who lost their homes and these have remained technically squatters in the abandoned homes of former Ba’athist. It is estimated there are some 5000 of these individuals in the zone together with a similar number of private military contractors and security firms as well as major embassies with overall responsibility for security now with the Iraq government. The main hospital is also located in the zone.

Most of the action in the film takes outside the zone where my impression is that the film provides an accurate portrait of the situation about a month after occupation with the shortages, the looting and the breaking down of all aspects of civilian administration. The film was billed as an action movie designed to pull in the weekend teenagers into the cinema on both sides of the Atlantic given that the star is Matt Damon of the three Bourne Films among other’s of note.

(The Rising, Dancing in the Dark. Glory Days. I’m on Fire Born in the USA).

The film begins with the bombing of Bagdad and an Army General makes his escape with his senior officers, telling them to make for the safe houses where they will be contacted.

Matt Damon is the leader of a special unit sent to find and make safe the WMD’s only to discover that location after location, given by a high ranking source proves false. What begins to concern Matt is the loss of life involved in securing the sites so that the team can visit and take control and that their absence questions the justification for the invasion.

He attends a military briefing where he questions the intelligence on which they are acting. Senior officers tell Matt to shut up and get on with his assignments. Also present in the senior CIA officer for the region played by Brendan Gleeson. He also questions the existence of the WMD’s and the plans to remove the Ba’athist’s from power and abolish the existing army. He tells Damon to keep in touch.

During a subsequent mission he is approached by an Iraqi who has seen men arriving at a destination which looks suspiciously like to him a meeting of the members of the old regime who have disappeared as soon as the Bagdad was taken. Matt decides to follow the lead and at the house takes three men prisoner, kills guards and identifies one who escapes as a senior General of the Army. He was meeting his commanders to advise that they should lie low in the safe houses until either the Americans made them offer to help run the country which was rapidly descending into chaos with looting and a lack of water, food, electricity and basic security. If there is no offer then they will conduct urban warfare in order to prevent other interests gaining power.

Matt commences to interrogate those detained and one provides a book and appears to be willing to identify the location of the General in exchange for immunity and security for himself and his family. Matt uses the man who provided the information about the meeting as his interpreter. Before Damon can make progress a special section using helicopters arrives and takes control of the prisoners and on learning of the book demands it. A physical confrontation between Matt and the senior officer of the special unit occurs during which time Matt passes the book to the interpreter who runs off. He is found, the book retrieved and continues to work for Damon but is shocked at the idea that any deal could be struck with a member of old regime. He makes the point that he is not interested in money for his efforts but in want to help his country in its new era. He becomes the voice of the Iraq people.

(the River, Hungry Heart, Darkness at the Edge of Town, Thunder Road, Born to Run)

Because of the incident Matt decides to meet with CIA regional chief and is invited to the hotel where he is staying and this provides the opportunity for a glimpse of the life in the Green Zone where the news people and top brass are located in the best of hotels within unlimited food and water, unlike the experience of the rest of the population outside the zone. He is offered and accepts an immediate move under the direct control of the CIA and a mission to visit the captured men and get a message to the man who said he could lead him to the General and give him a message not to talk to his interrogators in exchange for a new life for himself and his family in the USA.

Before he leaves on his new mission he is approached by the war correspondent of the Wall Street Journal (Amy Ryan) responsible for a series of articles disclosing the ongoing WMD programme including various locations. She has obtained this information from a high ranking Pentagon Intelligence official who appears to be acting on behalf of the President and his administration. He also makes contact with Damon on learning he has become a member of the CIA team and urges him to switch to his side, or else. At the prison visit he finds that the man who had the book has been badly tortured and is only able to provide one word of information Jordan. This leads to working out that the General met the Pentagon official before the war and was the source of the information. The Pentagon official has promised the Wall Street Journalist that she will have access to his information source as she is questioning the intelligence as no WMD’s are found.

The Pentagon official get authority to seize the record book from the CIA who contacts their Headquarters and are told to yield to the Pentagon. The Pentagon Official also tells Damon that he chose the wrong side and is going back to his unit and losing his luxury hotel room . He visits the journalist who admits that she based the story of seeing the same set of information documents used by Matt and the WMD units to locate the weapons without checking their authenticity or visiting the sites after arriving in the country.

My impression is that only later does Damon realise that the reason why the Pentagon official wants to locate the General first is to silence him before revealing he had told the truth about the non existence of the WMD’s Damon uses his interpreter to make contact with the General and arranges to have a meeting with him late at night at a bus station. He wants to bring the General into safe custody so with the information about the WMD’s it will put pressure on the administration not to disband the military and civilian structure, avoid civil war and the continuation of bloodshed. There is then a race to find the General with the Pentagon men tracking the whereabouts of Damon. He is seized by the General’s men and brought to the General.

Damon does not know that the Pentagon Official has called a new conference to announce the disbanding and outlawing of the army and all Ba’athist officials. The General and his men are preparing for an insurgency and Damon his lucky to escape execution as the forces of the Pentagon official arrives. Damon gives chase to the General who has admitted that he had revealed there were no WMD’s. He is just about to take the General into Custody when his interpreter executes the man, Damon complains that the General was the best chance of avoiding civil war. The man says such matters are not for the occupiers but for the Iraqi’s to sort out. Earlier there was a scene where the Coalition Council meet and those from the present day Iraq tell the allies that there is no question of accepting anyone brought in from abroad to become their puppet. Damon tells the interpreter to go home before the area sealed.

Damon is not done and the Journalist opens an email, also addressed to other news agencies throughout the world, attaching his understanding about the meeting in Jordan, that that no WMD’s were to be found. In reality he would have been stopped before being able to do this. The book which inspired the film is called Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

What should have been renewed publicity about the Iraq war and Inquiry was relegated later in the news after the resignation of the Press officer for the Coalition. He was the former editor of the Newspaper which illegal listened into telephone communications. He had repeatedly stated that he did not authorise the illegal activity or was aware that it was going on. He accept responsibility and resigned as the chief of those involved. There is media suggestions that the practice was widespread within the appear and three other dailies as a means of gaining exclusives on each other. The resignation was strangely times suggesting that that the matter is no closed. The police had been asked t undertaken further inquiries and the appropriate Commons committee is to also consider further. My impression is that general public interest in the Iraq war is dying down Mr Blair lives to make more money on other days.

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