War Machine

Inspired by Michael Hastings’s book The Operators, director David Michôd has out-Oliver Stone’d us by deciding to tell the truth about the Afghan War. Although Barack Obama once called the intervention in Afghanistan as the “good war,” portrayal of the longest war in American history clearly seems anything but good. When Obama takes office, four-star General Stanley McChrystal aka General Glenn McMahon (played by Brad Pitt) is transferred from a “successful” tour of duty in Iraq to finish the war in Afghanistan. Although McMahon is satirized as a know-it-all, with all the braggadocio, he is clueless about what to do. Voiceovers from Sean Collins (Scoot McNairy), a Rolling Stone reporter, provide much of the quotable narrative, including the aphorism that there are two types of generals—those who pretend to think they can win even when they cannot and those who are realistic—, whereas only the former get promoted. The film begins with an introduction to the entourage around McMahon but then treats them as losers, questioning why they are patted on the back in the first place except to waste film footage–deliberately. McMahon asks Obama for 40,000 more troops to win, but only gets 30,000 from Obama in response to a Sixty Minutes interview to press his case. But he then goes to France and Germany to ask for the additional 10,000, though without a plan to use any of the additional soldiers. After saying that military force is counterproductive in a conflict with insurgents, he is determined to kill the insurgents in Helmand Province, even though the “enemy” is hard to find. McMahon’s effort to gain the approval of Afghan President Hamid Karzai (Ben Kingsley) for the operation in turn exposes Karzai as out of touch, almost indifferent to anything but enjoyment of his role as president. Meanwhile, the “enemy” are simply Afghans who want the Americans to leave their country, even if the Taliban rules. Then, after publication of McMahon’s interview in Rolling Stone is published, exposing his lunacy, Obama fires him and appoints another fool to take his place. War Machine is an honest account of why the “war” will never end, exposing Washington’s propaganda as fraudulent. As the voiceover puts it, “You can’t win the trust of a country by invading it. You can’t build a nation at gunpoint.” But do Americans want to hear the truth? The Political Film Society, accordingly, has nominated War Machine as best film exposé and best film on the need for peace during 2017. The movie chains, of course, are afraid to exhibit the film, but not a certain website! MH