Ross Douthat Despises Some Movie About Iraq


When we lastvisited New York Times Catholic Crusader furry Ross Douthat, he was discussing history's greatest riddle: "Why is there no Jewish Narnia?" His answer was something along the lines of "Not enough hobbits" -- a reference to the Holocaust, maybe. Since we now know why there is no Jewish Narnia, Douthat has moved on to other important questions, such as the one presented in today's column: why is this new Matt Damon movie so mean to George W. Bush?

The rumors are true, according to Douthat: Hollywood has made another one of its movies. And there are simplifications. What kind of a capitalist society tolerates such things?

Consider “Green Zone,” the new Matt Damon thriller that doubles as a meditation on Why We Are in Iraq. The director is Paul Greengrass, a talented Englishman whose quease-inducing “United 93” remains one of the few compelling films to emerge from 9/11. The source material is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” a dense and nuanced account of the Iraq occupation’s disastrous first year. But the film itself, a slam-bang account of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, has the same problem as nearly every other Hollywood gloss on recent political events: it refuses to stare real tragedy in the face, preferring the comforts of a “Bush lied, people died” reductionism.

The narrative of the Iraq invasion, properly told, resembles a story out of Shakespeare. You had a nation reeling from a terrorist attack and hungry for a response that would be righteous, bold and comprehensive. You had an inexperienced president trying to tackle a problem that his predecessors (one of them his own father) had left to fester since the first gulf war. You had a cause — the removal of a brutal dictator, and the spread of democracy to the Arab world — that inspired a swath of the liberal intelligentsia to play George Orwell and embrace the case for war. You had a casus belli — those weapons of mass destruction — that even many of the invasion’s opponents believed to be a real danger to world peace. And you had Saddam Hussein himself, the dictator in his labyrinth, apparently convinced that pretending to have W.M.D. was the best way to keep his grip on power.

"Not enough hobbits," basically.


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