While I have a bit of a problem with what seems to be a central premise of the film, I very much enjoyed Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers.” A lot of people are saying it’s intended to be an anti-war film about Iraq, but I just didn’t get that message. The horrendous battle scenes are very disturbing, but I’d question the judgment of anyone who’d see it and maintain that the battle of Iwo Jima was not worth the sacrifice. Even the film concedes that many lives were saved by having a usable airfield so close to the Japanese mainland.
The Iraq tie-in appears to involve lying for propaganda purposes. But this argument assumes we should be morally indignant over the fact that the U.S. government in World War II lied about the identities of the soldiers who were actually in the picture. Does anyone really care? The picture became a symbol, and a very talented photographer was lucky enough to be there just when they were raising the flag for a second time (the first one was ordered removed because some grandstanding politician wanted it). Half the guys in the picture subsequently died, and while the act of raising the flag might not have been particularly “heroic,” the picture came to symbolize heroism, and the survivors were recruited to sell war bonds, and basically employed for that purpose. They told white lies about who was in the picture to best fit the national mood and the families of the men who later died. So what?
If anyone can tell me what is wrong with employing such propaganda to sell war bonds at a crucial moment in a war, I’m all ears.
But I suppose someone will complain that it was an indictment of Bush’s Thanksgiving turkey or something.
Uh-oh.
I spoke too soon. It turns out that someone has:

Reading Stephanie Zacharek’s review of a film made around the iconic photograph of six soldiers raising the US flag at Iwo Jima, I was led to wonder what might become the iconic photograph of the ongoing misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq:
[…]
— Saddam Hussain’s gigantic statue being pulled down in Baghdad?
— GW Bush in his flight-suit (well-stuffed with handkerchief’s to display his ‘manhood’), swaggering off a plane that had flown 2.5 miles to land on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, to announce “Mission Accomplished!” ?
— GW Bush handing out phony (plastic display) Thanksgiving Turkey to US soldiers stuck in Baghdad?
[…]

That so-called “plastic turkey” has sure had a long life. If the turkey wasn’t plastic, it sure as hell should have been!
Again, “Flags” is a good film, even if it does promote the idea that wars are won or lost based on “a single picture.” I don’t know whether he actually said it or not, but the film portrays the lead character in his old age opining that the Vietnam War was “lost” once Life ran the Pulitizer Prize-winning picture of a South Vietnamese general calmly shooting a VC suspect. That’s not my memory of how the war was lost. It certainly factored into the perceptions of many people, but so did the napalmed girl running in the street. However (amazing as it may sound to some) there were many people then who already knew — from personal experience — that war is hell, and that war has always been hell. Graphic portrayals of hell do not make hell stop.
It may even prolong it. During the Vietnam War, military officials as well as officials in the Johnson and Nixon administrations were quite sensitive to the effect these pictures had on morale. Attempts were made to create counter-propaganda. But despite all the propaganda, what brought the enemy to the peace table was the military campaign, especially the relentless bombing. It could of course be argued that anti-war propaganda led to a lack of public support for continuing to back the South Vietnamese government, but I think the removal of Nixon from office did more than anything else.
Propaganda is one factor among many, and these days, people are more inured to propaganda than ever before. A similar picture of Marines raising a flag in Iraq would fail to encourage massive public support for the Iraq war, just as America did not react to the Abu Ghraib photographs in the same way they reacted to the photograph of General Loan shooting the VC suspect. Propaganda these days seems mostly to please the chorus on one side while irritating the chorus on the other.
Not only does propaganda invite counter-propaganda, but even the charge that something is propaganda invites a counter charge that the propaganda charge is propaganda — all with supporters on each “side.”
Thus, even if Bush’s turkey did turn out to be plastic, that would matter no more to Bush’s supporters than the fact that it turned out to be real mattered to his opponents.
We are now living in a world where the “might as well” matters so much that it might as well matter.
(And, of course, it just as well might as well not!)