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By David Finkelstein | September 11, 2005

“Anaconda Targets” presents more or less raw cockpit footage from a US military plane. The footage comes from Afghanistan in March of 2002. The film immediately shows us large explosions from bombs which the plane has just dropped. A cross-hair, to facilitate targeting, is centered in the black and white footage. We overhear the detached, clinical radio chatter of the pilot with his commanders, discussing which targets to go after. (Apparently it’s not OK to hit a mosque, but it is OK to hit “the people coming out of the mosque.”) In blasé tones, they discuss which people on the ground are dead, and which are “still moving.” For some reason, the footage which Angerame has obtained is subtitled in Spanish.

For a viewer such as myself, who has never been in a war, and who is fundamentally opposed to war and violence, this film creates a visceral shock and disgust. It doesn’t show me anything I didn’t already understand intellectually, but to actually experience the cold, mechanized mental and emotional state in which these men distance themselves from the mass murders they are committing, calmly carrying out the US agenda for world domination by destroying one of the poorest countries in the world, is a chilling experience. (The debate of the relative justification for the war in Afghanistan and other wars is another question. Suffice it to say that, since the 9/11 attackers were Saudis, and the Saudi government is at least as reprehensible as the Taliban, yet Bush left his family friends in Saudi Arabia alone, the rationale for the attack on Afghanistan isn’t exactly consistent.)

The governmental and media control of images depicting the reality of the current wars is a major factor in public apathy. One of the most striking examples is the Iraq prison torture scandal. There had been stories in print about the torture of Iraqi prisoners almost since the US invasion began, but the stories went nowhere. But there was no public outcry until the striking images from Abu Ghraib prison became widely available. The Bush administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to control the flow of images from the war, not even allowing images of flag-draped coffins to be published. In this context, Angerame is doing a major service, helping to wake up the comatose, image-starved American psyche, by presenting this material in film festivals. If only the mass media would pick up this film, we might actually get somewhere.

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