“Just Another Day in Baghdad”

Working on my paper on war and documentary for the Visible Evidence conference in a few weeks. Initially I pitched the paper broadly as a treatment of “war and the everyday,” with the intention of looking not only at documentaries but also at some of the blogs authored by Iraqi citizens and, possibly, American soldiers. One of the goals was to see how blogs and some documentaries, particularly Gunner Palace, construct a concept of “the everyday” when it comes to the war in Iraq. And while I was rewatching the film last night, I began to think about how the film offers a compelling use of the everyday lives of the soldiers as an implicit critique of the war.

In particular, I was fascinated by Tucker’s use of camera movement throughout the film. Gunner Palace alternates between static talking-heads interviews and freestyle raps by the soldiers and the constant motion of the soldiers’ patrols and raids. It would be tempting to note the ways in which the camera clearly identifies with the position of the soldiers, especially when the camera’s POV is aligned with the guns the soldiers carry. And that identification is there. But the film also works hard to gesture towards the ways in which the constant movement of the soldiers in their (inadequately armored) Humvees lacks any real direction. I’m working on mapping out how those shot sequences contribute to an implicit critique of the war in Iraq.

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about a specific segment of Gunner Palace all morning. A soldier comments in an interview that an IED has exploded, destroying two civilian buses and killing dozens of civilians. The soldier is obviously deeply pained by the unnecessary death and Tucker’s film reflects that beautifully. After the first soldier completes his narrative of what happened, Tucker cuts to a second soldier who comments bleakly, “Just another day in Baghdad.” It’s one of the final segments in the film, as the event takes place just a few days before Tucker was due to leave Baghdad, but the placement of that scene near the film’s end now seems particularly apt, given the continued violence in Iraq.

I don’t have a specific conclusion here. In fact, I was actully simply planning to link to a few blogs, so that I’d have them nearby if I choose to discuss them in this paper. It probably goes without saying that blogs have, in some way, shaped the discourse surrounding the war in Iraq, in part because of the ability bloggers living in Iraq have to post their eyewitness accounts virtually every day. Here, I’m most interested in blogs such as Riverbend’s Baghdad Burning, Khalid Jarrar’s Tell Me a Secret, and Raed’s Raed in the Middle, all of which provide a much different take on the phrase “just another day in Baghdad.” Again, I don’t have a specific claim to make just yet, at least not here, but I wanted to put some ideas together and to collect a few links.

Also check out Lance Mannion’s discussion of Al Giordano’s Wounded Warroir Project, a national effort to help wounded soliders return to civilian life. As Mannion notes, the Bush administration seems determined not show that the war in Iraq has had any “nasty consequences.” One of the things I noticed last night in Gunner Palace is that we actually do see some of the effects of the war, including some of the wounded soldiers who are being transported in Tucker’s plane (also check out Salon’s recent article on the US government’s decision to review 72,000 cases in which soldiers have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, claiming that PTSD has been diagnosed too often, while the veterans themselves argue that this is just another attempt to cut costs on an increasingly expensive war.

5 Comments »

  1. Dylan Said,

    August 9, 2005 @ 4:45 pm

    There was one entry in Riverbend’s blog, I remember, when a family member was sent out to run an errand, and shortly after he left a car bomb exploded. They searched for him, and after a few minutes he came running up. He’d stopped to get oranges and so he wasn’t near the bomb at the time.

    “I was saved by oranges,” always stuck with me. That’s the “just another day…” mentality at it’s most base.

  2. Chuck Said,

    August 9, 2005 @ 11:27 pm

    I was actually planning a quick link post to a few Iraqi blogs, including Riverbend’s, but as you can see, the post turned into something else. The “oranges” story itself is pretty compelling.

  3. Chuck Said,

    August 9, 2005 @ 11:28 pm

    It has been a really long day….I didn’t realize that I already *had* linked to the Iraqi blogs.

  4. Sam Said,

    August 11, 2005 @ 5:13 pm

    You may want to check out this site (there is submission error because the url has “g o t d n s” in it) The man’s name is Yasaar Sheikosalaami and his website can be found by doing a search. He has a blog and a forum with several iraqi members.

  5. Chuck Said,

    August 11, 2005 @ 5:50 pm

    Thanks for the tip. I’m having trouble Googling it right now, but I’ll keep digging.

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