Battle for Haditha – A Review

Posted on June 9, 2008. Filed under: Reviews |

 Battle for Haditha – A Review

On November 19th, 2005 a tragedy occurred.  A roadside bomb in Haditha, Iraq (located in the Al Anbar province) exploded, killing one U.S. Marine and injuring two others.  What happened next is still shrouded in controversy.  It is alleged by some that the remaining Marines may have sought retribution for their slain comrades and went on a rampage killing 24 and wounding 2 (15 of those that died were civilian non-combatants including a 1 year old).  A few Marines claim that they had received small arms fire from one of the houses and moved in to clear the area.  We may never know the true story of the events from that day but writer/director Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney, Biggie and Tupac) and first time writer Marc Hoeferlin (Ghosts) deliver to us an accounting of what may have happened on that fateful day and give us a peak into the lives of people who must deal with the realities of war.

From beginning to end, Battle for Haditha gives you the feeling that you are watching a documentary.  While the characters are fictionalized, the people they are meant to portray are all too real:  A Marine who keeps a picture of his kids in his helmet to remind him of why he’s fighting, a young couple attempting to live normal lives amidst the chaos of war, an aging insurgent (who is an ex-Iraqi Army officer) who plants a bomb because he needs money and for the love of his country not for the stereo typical religious reasons.  Each of these people could have been as real as your next door neighbor. 

Unlike other war movies of late, Battle for Haditha delivers its message without getting preachy.  You can feel the impact of a war on everyday people where there are no bad guys and no good guys.  Everyone is doing what they do for love of country and the belief that what they are doing is right.  Too often movies have demonized one side or the other in its attempt to make a point or to drive home an emotional impression.  Here we are given a story in which both Marines and insurgents are shown as victims of circumstances out of their reach. 

Patriotism and love for ones country is okay, even virtuous, but at times we forget that those we are fighting also love their country and do what they feel is best for it and their families.  If we were placed in the same position we may react the same way, using any means necessary to force out someone we may perceive as an occupier.  While it may not be popular to sympathize with your enemy in this way, we are called to love our enemies and one of the first steps to loving them is understanding that they are human just as we are and they feel just as we do.

 A final point that I’d like to stress is that Battle for Haditha illustrates, almost poetically, the fact that violence begets violence.  Each violent act, from the moment of the initial IED blast to a tape of a young girl who survived the Marine assault on her home being shown to a group of insurgents, creates a ripple effect in which more people become victims. This adds exponentially to those who wish for vengeance and retribution, continuing the cycle of killing and destruction.  Every one of the characters deeply wishes for peace and longs for the time when the world seemed safer.  This is what they fight for, this is why they are doing what they do but it’s a sad oxymoron:  fighting for peace.  We see that a radical break from the cycle of violence is sorely needed and it takes a God-given courage to be the one to turn the other cheek.

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