The real war changes people, their minds and beliefs. The soldiers, who saw innocent being murdered, the cruelty, injustice and horrors of war, would never be the same. What is the reason of making war and why is there a need of killing thousands of innocent people on the way to achieving the set goals? There can be many purposes for starting the war, which are easily explained by the government of this or that state as a way to ensure peace. However, the expression “war for peace” sounds irrational itself.
The events of the filmtake placeduring the period of the Gulf War, to be exact, the period right after the end of the war and declaration of ceasefire by President Bush. The film tells the story of three adventurers serving in the Reserve of the U.S. Army, who find a map with the bunkers full of Kuwaiti gold stolen by Saddam Hussein. Instigated by Major Gates and driven by thirst of adventure and greed for money, Troy Barlow, Conrad Vig and Chief Elgin set AWOL to find the gold. For provincial American soldiers, who only obey the orders and follow the instructions, the war came to an end with the declaration of ceasefire. For people that actually suffered from this war, for civilians in Iraq that are in need of food, water and medication, this war against Saddam Hussein regime continued.
The four soldiers hunting for gold would not pass the borders of their own provincialism if they did not face the part of the war they had never seen before. When people encounter something that was not planned, something that was outside their vision, they cannot control the situation and behave in the usual way anymore. Even for those trained to kill and take hostages, war is an ordeal because of its unpredictability and terror.
On their way to gold, the main characters behave light-headed, fooling around, shooting the footballs. The only one, who seems to know the reverse side of the war, is Archie Gates. When the four soldiers reach the village, civilians welcome the American soldiers believing that the U.S. army will bring freedom to them and support them in fighting against Saddam Hussein. They try to climb the car, asking for food, water and medication and the soldiers gave it to them. The Americans were indignant when they saw the Iraqi soldiers taking the food and water away from the civilians, but they did not care about helping those people, thus violating the ceasefire.
This is how the system works. The soldiers are the pawns on the war chessboard to obey the orders from above. The characters did not even have in mind to rescue the villagers as that was not of their duty or responsibility.
When Major Gates understands, that they missed the bunker and need to come back, it comes like a sign for them. Archie’s speech on the necessity as the most important thing in life is a bright example of provincialism of the Major’s mind. They come back to the village, covering themselves with a purpose of taking stolen gold back to Kuwait, loading the bullions in the trucks. When taking the bullions out of the bunker, they use the opportunity to set the hostages free.
The culmination of the film starts when the Iraqi soldiers come and fight against the civilians, suppressing them and catching the hostages. The Iraqi woman asks the American soldiers not to leave, but the four gold hunters think only about running away with the gold in that very moment. Everything suddenly changes when the Iraqi soldier kills that innocent woman. The main characters’ eyes are finally open, they see the cruelty, the pain and sufferings of the people around, they cannot ignore it anymore. Major Gates is the first to break under this emotional pressure. His beliefs and mindset change rapidly. He forgets about the gold for one moment, thinking of people’s feelings. Chief Elgin agrees on helping the people first, but Troy is the only one to adhere to a plan, he is probably afraid of the consequences and troubles this encounter can lead to, thinking about coming back safe to his family. However, Archie Gates insists on the Iraqi soldiers’ leaving the village. That is when the shooting begins, the ceasefire is broken and the real war starts for the characters.
The further will of the characters to help and rescue the innocent people from oppression is struggling with their greed for gold and leads to the sequence of events, where Troy is seized by the Iraqi soldiers and taken to a bunker to be interrogated and tortured. Troy’s conversation with the Iraqi torturer opens his eyes, brings him the realization of the war as an instrument of the power above, of the government putting responsibility of what it does on soldiers like him, who just follow the instructions. He conceives how it feels to lose the most precious and beloved people in one’s life, and this thought brings him a lot of pain. Troy’s naive answer to the reasons of the war as a way to stabilize the situation, bring peace to the states and save people makes the Iraqi to show him the reality, and they put oil into Troy’s mouth. By not killing his torturer at the end, Troy shows that he learned the lesson and did not want revenge as it was a means of inhumanity.
Conrad Vig, an uneducated young man from Garland, Texas, also changes during the film, but gradually. War seems to be a game for him at first, but when his friend is seized, all others lie injured in the tunnel with the refugees, he begins to understand the gravity of the situation. He is surprised when gets the answer from the rebels, that they do not blame the U.S. or American soldiers in start of the war, but want it to stop and live their lives in peace. He was brave in saving his friend Troy, but died, and his last will was to be taken to an Arabic shrine, where he could get access to Heaven as he had heard it from the Iraqis and believed it.
The main characters and the Iraqi people made a deal on sharing gold, saving the American companion and then leading the villagers over the Iranian border. The last scene of the film takes place on the border checkpoint and shows the extreme changes in the main characters. When fighting side-by-side with the Iraqi rebels against the system, the real goal of the soldiers has changed. Now they were suffering on seeing how human rights and moreover, lives could be violated when the matter touched upon the law and obedience to the rules and system. Realizing the upcoming arrest, the soldiers did not stop rescuing people and leading them over the border. They agreed wordlessly on giving up all their gold in order to persuade the command to release the refugees. Major Gates told about the deal they had with the Iraqi people and made a speech on a soldier’s honor.
When going for gold, the main characters were not aware of global problems. Neither have they seen people so oppressed, starving and suffering from the terror of war. The soldiers thought about the achievable benefits, not about innocent lives. This short continuation of the war they took part in opened their minds, changed their beliefs and lives. They struggled for justice, for the most important and precious and that are human’s life, right and freedom to have and live this life.
|From Puritanism to Anti-Transcendentalism||Life in the Machine|