I don’t have cable TV, which in rural Wyoming means I don’t get any TV, period. So on the evening of September 11, 2001, while most of the world was probably still watching CNN or whatever, I went home from work and popped a copy of “Three Kings” into the VCR. It seemed the proper thing to do since it was immediately obvious that we’d be going to war in that part of the world again very, very soon and I felt the need to meditate on what, really that meant (my other alternative being, say, reading about Alexander the Great’s tour of Afghanistan a really long time ago. Maybe not so very relevant, that?).
Tonight I plan to do so again.
First of all, “Three Kings” is an incredibly entertaining film. David O. Russell managed to make what I can only describe as the “Reservoir Dogs” of war movies, managing to make even the journey of a bullet through a man’s gut and the resulting sepsis close to hilarious. There is ample comic relief in the persons of reservists Conrad Viig and “Bolo.” Etc.
Second and more important, though, is the treatment it gives to the issue of finishing what is started. While the main plot – a small and misfit band of reservists and one career officer concoct a plan to steal millions in Kuwaiti bullion away from one of Saddam Hussein’s bunkers – is gripping enough, what really haunts the viewer for days if not months afterwards is the subplot in which members of the poorly-supported Iraqi underground find themselves depending utterly on these would-be thieves to get them across the border to Iran. George Bush I told the people to rise up against Saddam and they would be supported. They weren’t. And many of them died in the aftermath.
The film is fiction, but the predicament of some of those brave, ordinary citizens was not, and is not. Think of that as you laugh and wince, and think of how much worse off those people have been under sanctions, oil for food deals, and other nonsense we kidded ourselves into believing were a better way to deal with Saddam than war.
We should have finished what we started 12 years ago, but better late than never.