A couple of nights ago, I watched a Frontline show entitled Bad Voodoo’s War, which followed a platoon of National Guard soldiers who were deployed to Iraq at the beginning of the Surge in 2007. The show’s editor/producer did not go to war with the men. Instead, she gave them video cameras, and they recorded their thoughts and activities and mailed the footage to her for editing.
As the narrator acknowledged at the beginning of the show, the unit, which named itself Bad Voodoo, was not the usual National Guard unit of men and women who are mostly civilians but have a military background. Instead, the men (I didn’t see women) in this unit were already seasoned combat veterans.
In many ways, it was a fine show, since it really did give viewers a day-in-life style view of a National Guard unit. The two men who got all the camera time were interesting men, who were intelligent, highly motivated, and deeply committed to their team.
One could tell from the way in which the editor tried to build tension that she wanted viewers to see the horrors of the war into which our troops were flung to support Bush’s madcap surge. The problem was that this wasn’t what happened at all. Instead, the unit was given the job of escorting convoys through Iraq, and keeping an eye out for IEDs and drive by shooters and crashers.
Theirs was clearly a stressful job, but the men’s main complaint was that they weren’t in battle. Contrary to the Progressive view of hapless lambs being forced to the slaughter in Iraq by a Halliburton driven government, these men lamented their passive role and wanted to be “boots on the ground.” They felt wasted as escorts.
During the six months that they filmed themselves for the show (which was the duration of the main part of the Surge), the unit’s convoy managed to run into two IEDs, neither of which even wounded anyone. Each took out the back of a truck, but the main damage was time, with the men waiting hours on the roadside for the necessary aid.
The supreme irony was that the main type of injury this seasoned unit suffered during the height of the surge was — bladder infections. Yup, because of the extreme heat, the guys drank and drank and drank. But the nature of their job meant that they couldn’t always relieve themselves when necessary and they got backed up.
I’m sure the Frontline people were disappointed to lose the dramatic storyline, as well as the properly stereotyped storyline. As for me, though, if the worst my troops are suffering in a battle torn country is bladder infections, I say Hallelujah!