America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

14 July 2006

Valley of the Wolves Iraq- my thoughts

I finally watched this movie tonight for the first time. It was more or less what I expected, with a few pleasant surprises thrown in. I can understand completely why theaters in Turkey and Germany are packed with delighted Turks. You see, there are good guys and there are bad guys in the film, as with any John Wayne or Rambo picture... This time, however the ones who are usually good, are bad... Heaven forbid! Americans aren't all pure of heart!? What a stunner! Yeahhhhhh. Follow the news and the truth becomes stranger than fiction...
Here's what I thought about American soldiers as I watched Valley of the Wolves unfold: Forgive the generalization. I do not paint all of them with one broad brush. Just want to point out that military service is not compulsory in the United States.. It's hard to deny that many who enlist are facing a not-so-bright-or-wholesome future. Military is an escape, an adventure, an easy way out. Heck on my darkest day I went to a Marines recruiting office and took a test- aced it completely. Why??? I had big problems- both family and financial, and it seemed the only way to be free of them. Needless to say, the recruiter saw my score and became pretty aggressive about signing me. I snapped out of it and walked away.. My point is this: When a nation's military personnel is completely voluntary, you are bound to get some soldiers who sign up for the wrong reasons, who aren't qualified, who aren't enjoying good mental health, or who just plain want to have a chance to kill people, shoot them down, blow them up, whatever...
When military duty is compulsory, the overall characteristics of the soldiers is completely different. A good thing happens: the overall intelligence curve of the military is steepened. No one is immune: people with phds, masters degrees, people who would not voluntarily join the military, are forced into it. For this reason, there is a huge disparity between the US military forces and those of say, Turkey or Israel.. Technology and weaponry is one thing- but the character and integrity of the common foot soldier is another. So it comes as no surprise that in Iraq, detainees are abused and humiliated, innocent families are slaughtered or women are raped.. The nation with the highest rate of domestic assault, senseless violence and homicide is going to be pretty good at that kind of stuff, even overseas, and especially while at war... Makes sense to me!
I happen to have a very close friend in the military, a decorated veteran of Desert Storm. He's an exception to what I describe. But I think that my theory of the difference between voluntary versus compulsory soldiers is as clear as day. Americans- get over the fact that this film shows US forces in an unattractive way. It's merely a dramatization of the news reports, it's a Michael Moore'esque work of fiction, based in part on the truth.
If you refuse to see it, that's your prerogative, but the reason I believe every American should watch Valley of the Wolves is because it gives a very accurate depiction of how American soldiers are perceived, by Iraqis, Kurds, Turkmen, Turks, Arabs, and whoever else is under US military occupation.
Buy the Valley of the Wolves DVD here


metin said...

I think to simplify the American 'military' as comprising of just the mere 'soldiers' who may have signed up for 'unfortunate' reasons is not fair to the 'officers' and career military personnel who've graduated from fine institutions followed by lifelong achievement of continued service, as well as fine-tune their proper training and leadership qualities.

They are the true decision makers of the 'military,' representative of the Pentagon's war of 'words' or 'forceful activism.'

However, judging from the politicization of the decision-making process as displayed by the current 'war' on terrorism, maybe the 'foot soldiers,' as the 'end-users,' should be given more autonomy and prove their worthiness and deservedly even earn appraise from filmmakers who are too far removed from the actual situation but fall prey to the misinformed propagandaists who sway public opinion based on their own whim.

John said...

Hopefully I get a chance to see this movie sometime in the near future it's always good to see life from someone else's eyes.

I must disagree with your assessment on the US military though Murat. The entire military being comprised of nearly 2.3 million members and being defined by the acts of maybe (forgive me if it's a small estimate) 100 people in Iraq is ridiculous to me. Military crime(by my not so extensive research) is commited by .7% of servicemembers comparable to crimes in the greater US being commited by 11% of the population. Of course this doesn't take away from the horrible things that have happened over there, they are inexcusable and justice will be served in each case I'm confident. But fairness should be still be practised.

The argument that a compulsory military could have a better average soldier may have merit in some way but I can't fathom it. These people with degrees you note wouldn't be the norm, unless by compulsory you mean a draft. Mandatory military service in most countries is required before higher education is pursued, save for officer candidates. Also the leadership in a compulsory military is not comparable to that of a volunteer military. Leadership could be the single greatest strength of a volunteer military.

Sorry to start an argument on military organization but it seems this movie and recent events are causing you to draw a comparison where there isn't one. Just because something bad happened recently in one type of organization doesn't automatically make the opposite of it better. I just can't see where someone pressed into military service fundamentally would act of better conduct than a volunteer, even though many times the two are all too similar.

Military duty is an ugly job that virtually and all too often actually nobody wants to do, it could be likened to wiping shit off the walls of your house with your bare hands. Somebody has to clean it off and you don't have anything else to clean it with. Not even paper towels. It's a bit harder to keep in touch with yourself with each handful you grudgingly scoop. And who wants to be friends with someone who's been scraping shit all day?

Murat Altinbasak said...

Metin, I qualified my thinking in advance. Of course there are officers and wel educated people in the military, but the perpetrrators of the cowboy antics are typically not.

Brooks, thanks for commenting. I mean no disrespect to our military. Hopefully my casual observations and opinions are not offensive to you. Thinking out loud right after viewing the film was probably not a good idea on my part, but I wanted to capture the moment.

Murat Altinbasak said...

Brooks, one other thing.. In Turkey as well as other countries where service is mandatory, those who elect to pursue higher education are able to postpone or delay their service until they graduate. With all of the competition for entrance into the good schools, going from high school directly into the military makes it much more difficult to go to college afterwards. So HS graduates apply for postponement and get it, especially when they can prove they have been admitted to a school.

metin said...

When you refer to the 'military,' are you referring to the 'soldier' and his makeup or are you suggesting/judging the military by its policy and decision making generals who are career military personnel (by their own choice) in running the military.

Even in a 'draft' based or 'compulsory' military, these career military folk have voluntarily submitted their allegiances to their country and are responsible for the operations and use of the 'soldiers,' whether that pool comes from a no-trade no-education pool in a voluntary environment or those who've been able to enjoy 'higher education' but still end up serving their military, albeit in a deferred basis, and are of the compulsory persuasion.

You work with what you are given. And in fact, if the argument is correct in that a military of voluntary nature is going to attract the lower economical class of people, then the officers must be extremely talented if they are responsible for the transformation of such a pool to be able to fight and win wars. Tactical warfare is the key here.

Litmus said...

I find this rather silly. To claim that Turkish soldiers have better "character and integrity" than the US, Canada, or European countries with voluntary service on account of being "forced into it" sounds pretty ridiculous. I also find it odd to claim that Israeli soldiers have not engaged in activity that is morally equivalent to Abu Ghraib or some such. One also does not need to go into our fight with the PKK to know that Turkish soldiers have engaged in acts that would question their character and integrity--the 1980 coup for example (torture during which was background material in this year's uber-popular Turkish tearjerker Babam ve Oglum). In fact, during one of the news broadcasts on Turkish television (Haber Turk) one pundit delivered a recorded account of torture during the coup to a retired general on the program: A suspect's pregnant wife was brought into the cell, stripped naked, and forced to watch her husband being tortured in front of her. Asked who would give the order for such an act, the general said that their must have been a break in the chain of command and that the discipline of the soldiers must have deteriorated because of it. High-level geberals, he said, would never order such an act and that the most they might have said was, "Do what is necessary." Sound familiar?

The mandatory service also results in a lot of people applying to grad school, not because of any academic passion, but in order to avoid serving. From my experience, this does not have a positive effect on the academic health of the departments in question.

Murat Altinbasak said...

Litmus, I was stating my thoughts immediately following the movie "Valley of the Wolves", so please take it with a grain of salt. To me, there's no such thing as an "innocent soldier", no matter if they served voluntarily or compulsory. Turkey back in the 80's... That's history. We're talking about recent events involving US soldiers. I dig your point about Grad school being used as a tool to avoid or delay service. It's a valid one. But my opinion of this was not intended to belittle the armies of the US or Canada. I think it's probably more marginal than I originally thought, but extremely smart and gifted people GENERALLY avoid military service in the US, whereas in Israel or Turkey or even Syria, those great minds MUST eventually serve. This to me is enough to steepen the intelligence curve of the military in those countries. It's just a theory, maybe ridiculous, but not completely without merit.