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News ::
Game Boys at War - from the ridiculous to the utterly puerile (english)
25 Apr 2003
The suspension of disbelief, so important to kids’ games and Hollywood movies, is even more important to military operations that are both rash and cosmically stupid. Vietnam was one such example
britkidsgasmask.jpg
The suspension of disbelief, so important to kids’ games and Hollywood movies, is even more important to military operations that are both rash and cosmically stupid. Vietnam was one such example
During the first Gulf war much was made of the video game aspects of U.S. military strikes in Iraq. Television audiences were treated to slam-cams and colorful combat graphics, all of it glorifying Operation Desert Storm. I suppose the junior high set of that period couldn’t be blamed for mistaking the whole thing for yet another Nintendo game, albeit sponsored by their own government and the corporate media. However, this time around, the name of the game is Operation Iraq Freedom (or something like that) and the graphics, special effects and nomenclature make Desert Storm look like Pong. I guess we just can’t get enough of a bad thing here in the Land of the Free.

What really grabbed this observer’s attention during the latest game boy adventure are the names given to the “bad guys”. “Chemical Ali” and “Dr. Germ” sound to these ears exactly like the archenemies of Saturday morning cartoon heroes or maybe G.I. Joe, the plastic doll-soldier with movable limbs and a bad attitude. It’s probably no stretch to assume that more than a few of our guys on the front lines in Iraq have a collection of those toys sitting in a dusty corner of the attic at home.

Of course, we can’t blame the grunts on the ground for such flights of fancy as much as we can those pencil pushers back in the Pentagon with their arrested development and too much time on their hands. More than likely, they are the source of such toy box tendencies. The Pentagon is infamous, after all, for coming up with twisted terms that tend to repackage reality; the most noted being the use of “collateral damage” for killing civilians. Perhaps some psyops operative musing at his desk in an obscure office deep within the Pentagon thought it clever to identify the flesh and blood enemy of choice in Iraq with the young soldiers’ fantasy enemies from childhood as a way of both locking in the simplistic notion of good guy/bad guy while also maintaining an element of entertainment so important to operations that defy common sense. The invasion of Iraq was, if nothing else, a remarkably idiotic departure from long-accepted diplomacy and practices in international relations.

The need to entertain and thus distract the troops from the realities of an illegal invasion while keeping them focused on the business of carrying it out, was brought home in the corporate media’s favorite fixation: the deck of cards picturing Iraqi leaders. Like Dungeons & Dragons or any number of childhood fantasy games utilizing trading cards, the bad guys deck struck a familiar chord to soldier and civilian alike. People identified with the gaming mentality, many having experienced it in their own lives, and were drawn into the surrealism of the operation without much resistance to its absurdities. It was a game AND a real war. It was entertaining at the same time that it was the business of killing and maiming. Granted, “spotter cards” had been used during the Second World War as a sort of educational tool to help people identify enemy aircraft, but today’s bad guy cards serve to fortify the boyhood concepts of good guy/bad guy. Add to that the dehumanizing labels of “Chemical Ali” and others and you have enough of a departure from reality to keep the interest going and the questioning at bay, both in the field and on the home front, but not so much of a departure that the intended targets, U.S. citizens, go spinning off message.

The suspension of disbelief, so important to kids’ games and Hollywood movies, is even more important to military operations that are both rash and cosmically stupid. Vietnam was one such example. Most Nam vets will tell you just how surreal was that particular conflagration. The film “Apocalypse Now” tries to convey it, but the reality of the unreality that was the war in Vietnam is said to have been much like the Land of Oz gone mad. War, of course, is so ugly and absurd that it invites surrealism, it IS surrealism. Yet, when one adds the not-so-secret ingredients of duplicity and dreams of world domination that initiated this recent “liberation” of Iraq, the finished product resembles the heights of absurdity, from the ridiculous to the utterly puerile: game boys at war.

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