Anyone who assumes that Turkish-American relations are rock solid may want to acquire a copy of “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq.” This unapologetically anti-American production details Dubya-inflicted abuses in Iraq with equal parts of bile and camp.
The film is centered on a real incident during the early part of the occupation of Iraq: the detention of Turkish soldiers and civilians by American forces in northern Iraq by the 173rd Airborne Brigade (the so-called “Hood Event,” because the Americans forced the Turks to wear hoods over their heads after their capture). The incident was barely acknowledged in America, but it was a major news story in Turkey and it quickly soured the population against the U.S. actions in Iraq. The recreation of the event in this film is actually quite disturbing and professionally shot.
But after that, all hell breaks loose. This film presents a wild phantasmagorical round-up of American abuses in Iraq (the Abu Ghraib torture, the Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre, various military checkpoint indignities and suicide bombings) with a new tale of Turkish intelligence officers seeking revenge against American operatives who are running amok in Iraq. There are also plenty of potshots at the Kurdish rebels who are seeking their self-determination (something that is none too popular in Turkey).
The film, however, becomes unexpected amusing with the presence of two B-list Hollywood jokers trying (and failing) to become genuine objects of Turkish scorn: Billy Zane (sans hairpiece) as the head of American operations in Iraq and Gary Busey as the head surgeon at Abu Ghraib. Zane, maintaining an air of oleaginous serenity while clad in a white suit, is easily the least likely military planner to saunter across the screen – he seems to be auditioning for the Ricardo Montalban role in a “Fantasy Island” remake. Needless to say, his “troops” (mostly long-haired bodybuilders in tight white-beater shirts) don’t exactly call to mind the best of the U.S. Army. Whose military do these guys belong to?
But Busey is even more jolting, since his role is meant to be an anti-Semitic caricature: his surgeon harvests kidneys from Abu Ghraib prisoners and ships them in freezer boxes to Tel Aviv. However, the has-been actor is so ashamed of this career comedown and so obviously out of touch with his surroundings (he and Zane have their dialogue dubbed into Turkish) that his role is more pity-inducing than offensive.
As anti-American claptrap goes, “Valley of Wolves: Iraq” offers its fair share of unintentional giggles. However, it also serves as a sorry reminder of how the occupation of Iraq is viewed by its alleged allies in the Islamic world – and that is nothing to laugh about.