February 5, 2009 – It was with profound shame that I left the theater after the Film Festival showing of The Road to Fallujah – a hatred of myself for not having devoted every minute of my life these past six years to stopping this horrible war. For having gone about my life as if things were normal. For spending most of each day forgetting that a holocaust is being waged in my name on innocent people at this very moment.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” [Edmund Burke] Or not enough.
What could I have done? Witness filmmaker Mark Manning. A former Santa Barbara oil rig worker, Manning took a night class in documentary filmmaking, then headed off to the Middle East. There, he met an Iraqi woman and helped her smuggle medical supplies into a hospital in Fallujah, shortly after U.S. forces converged on and captured it in 2004.
Manning stayed on to film the destruction there and the stories of the Iraqis who had survived it, probably the only unembedded Westerner in the city. What he brought back was devastating, horrifying, shameful. Neighborhoods flattened. Blood-stained walls. Charred bodies and dismembered limbs. Mass burials. Traumatized children, wailing mothers. People who, except for their mustaches and scarves, look like us – only much, much sadder.
Where was the humanitarian aid, the rebuilding we promised the Iraqis? As one soldier said in the film, the military’s “not really set up for that.” I saw no reconstruction. Only utter destruction.
I hope it haunts us forever.