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December 2, 2005

War Is H(Sw)ell




Earlier in the week, I came upon a biting LA Times critique of the Army Reserve’s latest recruitment tool.  The reporter discovered the slick DVD (called "Stand Ready: Being a Soldier in the Army Reserve") in an ad on the MTV website.  (How perfect is that?")

I tried diligently to find a clip of it to pull a few images for us to study, but I was unsuccessful.  Still, the hunt led to several other somewhat glossy, if not solely promotional, military sites.  One charted the efforts and exploits of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

With war having become America’s primary export, no wonder it continues to reflect ever greater levels of glamour and production value.  Take a look at this site and check out the photo gallery.  The aesthetic quality really took me by surprise.  Dovetailing the reaction to the Army video in the LAT piece, there is only one conclusion to draw:  War is a model career.

(image 1: Chief Photographer’s Mate John S. Stadelman. TASMAN SEA. June 10, 2005. U.S. 7th Fleet. image 2: Corporal Bernard Pearson/Australian Army. Shoalwater Bay, Australia June 10, 2005. U.S. 7th Fleet. image 3: Corporal Bernard Pearson/Australian Army. Shoalwater Bay, Australia June 24, 2005. U.S. 7th Fleet.)

  • M. D. Benoit

    Yeah, war is sexy, these days.
    As an ex military officer, let me tell you, it ain’t. Not when your life is on the line…for real.

  • Lisa

    I am deeply concerned for our soldiers and their families. We have broken our promises to them as far as equipment, time on the front and pay/benefits. We have hidden our injured soldiers away.
    At the same time, our improvished high school students are given these false ideals of war and hunted by the recruiters. They have a video game for crying out loud!

  • momly

    Are these pictures going to show up on a calendar somewhere? The guy on teh bottom just screams “mr. july”.

  • Rafael

    Pic captions:
    Pic #1:
    “Gosh darn it, do I have to do this, AGAIN!”
    Pic #2
    “At least no one is shooting at me.”
    Pic #3
    “My other car is a Toyota.”
    BTW, doesn’t the guy in pic 2 and pic 3 look the same? Heck all three look alike!

  • Cactus

    M. D. Benoit said the magic words that fail to resonate with the W crowd: for real. As shown in “Victory Plan” Theater, it’s all stage setting for getting the neocons into power and keeping them there. For real.
    I looked at the photos on the site that the Bag referenced (at least those that my little computer would download) and it sure looks like they have well-trained photographers. Or do they “enlist” them from Vanity Fair and embed them?
    Some of the photos are almost ethereal, e.g., the tank in the bush with the background of lilac sunset (or was it a pink wall??).
    As a recruitment tool, I noticed that the less artistic images were frequently POV of the soldier/sailor. Since I’m not a teen-age male, I can only assume this leads one to fantasize about killing the enemy (or the latest arcade game about killing the enemy).
    Taken as a whole, I’d have to say war is swell. At least compared to some of the images I’ve seen out of Iraq of dead civilians and flag-draped coffins which show that war is hell. For real.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I think war is hell only if you live through it, especially if you end up with fewer body parts afterward. I don’t think war is hell if you die from it. I’m certainly not advocating that option, but I doubt people think about living the rest of their lives with a physical (or mental/emotional) disability when they enlist. Since we’re all going to die anyway, some people may feel that choosing a soldier’s life is a way to “control” when the inevitable is going to happen. And, if a soldier dies on the battlefield, his/her death has some meaning — he/she will have died for a country or a cause or an abstract concept like “freedom.” Whereas when I die, I’m just dead. A nobody. Unless I’ve made my life have some meaning, which is a much harder thing to do.
    The terrible irony is that those who are currently in power do not give a shit about the people they are sending off to fight in the name of abstract concepts. But the people who are volunteering don’t seem to know that. Not that those currently in power give a shit about the rest of us, either. I don’t think they care about anyone’s life but their own. In fact, I’m sure of it.

  • lytom

    It’s a “little boys dream playfield”…re Talisman Saber…
    The only thing missing is blood and gory!
    The glory is full of it! and so are lies in pretty propaganda.
    The nuclear arms are somehow pushed back from the pictures…
    I wonder why? Too much power? :-)
    One other thing missing – the reality of anatomy of the missing parts and the great health care! and finally the Arlington resting place!

  • jt from B.C.

    Catcus, (“this leads one to fantasize about killing the enemy”) yes I agree and the following prayer carries this thought a bit further.
    “O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle-be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.” Mark Twain

  • readytoblowagasket

    Thanks, jt_from_B.C. Mark Twain was the perfect choice.

  • RubDMC

    That ad campaign/brochure dovetails nicely with this -
    The U.S. Army has developed a highly realistic and innovative PC video game called America’s Army. You’ll face your first tour of duty along with fellow Soldiers. Gain experience as a Soldier in the U.S. Army, without leaving home.
    I’ve seen this game advertised relentlessly (sometimes twice within a 4-commercial bunch) on Comedy Central (I don’t watch much Fox “news.”).
    It reminds me of an old interview that I’m sure I heard many years ago on NPR (others have told me my story is apochryphal)- long story short, the Navy’s leading recruiter, a woman, shared the secret of her success, namely by finding candidates at video arcades.
    She’d find the best gamers who were drawing the biggest crowds and simply tell ‘em, “If you think that’s cool, you should see what we have for you.”
    Like I said, she was the leading recruiter. She was ahead of her time.

  • marysz

    A story in today’s NYTimes shows how waging war is now a matter of images and public relations: Bush’s Speech on Iraq War Echoes Voice of an Analyst. I didn’t see any pictures of female soldiers on the Talisman Saber site (I didn’t scroll all the way down, though). The military here is all about being a good-looking young guy in a world without women (but lots of high-tech gadgets).

  • readytoblowagasket

    I guess it’s too late to hope those kids, especially the aspiring Navy pilots among them, read Seymour Hersh’s article in the 12/5 New Yorker:

  • readytoblowagasket

    Sorry, I’d meant to post the above New Yorker comment to “Victory Plan Theatre” (since I was referring to the Naval Academy audience), although I would want the audience for the nifty MTV Army ads to read the Hersh article, too.

  • jt from B.C.

    Marysz, women appear as, technicians x 4, cook x 1, with ‘special needs’ youth x 4, eating x 3, musicians x 2 and truck driver x 1, the latter an extremely attractive woman sitting on the front of her truck, is excellent promotional material for recruiting (males) and perhaps females. Of the approximately 30 photographs taken by women only two photographs suggest ‘action’ the remainder are mundane and boring as if shot on a lunch break outside the office, kitchen or wharehouse as an after thought. The majority of these were taken by two female U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mates 1st and 2nd class.
    So it was definitely an outing for the boys doing the hero stuff. I noted two Red Cross insignia one as a pull over partial arm sleeve and the other looked like it was pasted as an after thought on a vehicle. Strange with 11,000 troops playing at war for 14 days (which is often accident filled and dangerous) the virtual absence of appropriate representation of the medical corp I found striking but certainly not surprising.
    Some interesting things to ponder;
    Woman in the US and Canada serve in combat roles, not in Australia or the UK. Figures from 2000 indicate woman constitute 14% in the military of Australia, Canada & US while only 7% in the UK.
    I found this gem on ADF website:
    Direct combat duties are defined in a Defence Instruction on the employment of women in the ADF as ‘‘duties requiring a person to commit, or participate directly in the commission of an act or violence against an armed adversary; and duties exposing a person to a high probability of direct physical contact with an armed adversary.’’ Combat duties are declared under regulation 3 of the Sex Discrimination Regulations to be duties ‘‘requiring a person to commit, or to participate directly in the commission of, an act of violence against an adversary in time of war’’. Regulation 3 of the Sex Discrimination Regulations defines combat related duties as duties requiring a person to work in support of, and in close proximity to, a person performing combat duties, in circumstances in which the person may be killed or injured by an act of violence by an adversary.
    Wouldn’t it be interesting if all males were compelled to change gender for 30 days and become honorary citizens of Australia. I guess we would have to neuter the Candian and US ladies for that period of time as well.

  • Victor F

    indeed, those are some swell photographs.
    I watched the movie “Saving Private Ryan” with my dad and brother when it was released in theatres. It was a horrifying film. Spielberg made a “war is hell” movie, but it looked “swell,” just like these photos. An odd sensation, indeed. We left the theatre and we hardly said anything for 10 or 15 minutes.
    It was a good movie but it wasn’t. It was good because Spielberg’s message came through clear enough, for me anyway. It was bad though, because even if you know it’s a movie, even if you know the violence is fake, you’re taken back by how realistic it seems. It’s not a fun movie to watch.
    I watched it again a couple years later, when I just started college. I noticed some technical things I didn’t pick up the first time, but then I thought about what I was doing: why would anybody want to watch a movie like that a second time? It’s just something to do, I guess. Just another movie to watch with your friends. But I don’t think that was the point of the movie any more: war is not something people want to see again and again.
    So perhaps the people who would be succeptible to falling prey to these images were the kind of people who would enjoy multiple viewings of “Saving Private Ryan,” who would perhaps filter out the painful moments of the movie and focus in on the “cool” explosions. And hey, explosions are cool. Remember all that footage from Gulf War I of airplane cameras watching bombs explode on highways and buildings from miles above? Cool!
    That’s the image of war my generation is getting: war from a distance. War through night vision goggles. War where you don’t see the “enemy,” or anybody else who happens to get in your weapon’s way. You see yourself and your friends: that’s what a lot of people think, anyway.
    I don’t think the Army would see a movie like “Saving Private Ryan” as encouraging to potential enlisters, but then again, I didn’t see the movie that way. When the movie first ran in theatres a lot of people thought it glorified violence. I didn’t see it that way. In these photos, you don’t see what these weapons do to people, you just see the glamor of the ideal American soldier. Well, that’s propaganda for ya. The Army isn’t going to show us what happens on the other side of all those bombs and guns, because the message would be less effective.
    I have no interest in playing the Army’s official video game. I’ve seen more TV ads for it than I’d care to see. I swear, one short video clip shows a soldier getting shot, although that’s just what it looks like to me. It’s horrifying but, like rubberneckers, I’m sure there are thousands of kids out there who get the game “just to look” and get sucked into the wreckage.

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