Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Evil prevails

Two movies recently made an impression on me: Tears of the Sun and Lord of War. Both movies utilize the same famous quote which goes something like this: "Evil prevails when good men fail to act."

Tears of the Sun stars action hero Bruce Willis and takes place in wartorn Nigeria. The backdrop of the movie is civil war and ethnic cleansing. Willis's Seal Team is sent in to rescue an American doctor, a priest, and several nuns. The nuns and priest refuse to leave their mission/hospital and are soon killed by rebels.

The lady doctor refuses to leave without the indigenous people in her care. Her morality is never in question. Thus, the stage for a heroic rescue is set, as rebels chase Willis and his Seals, the doctor, and Nigerian civilians through the jungle en route to the Cameroon border. Of course, military air support for the rescue operation is delayed until the last part of the movie.

The movie is entertaining, if you enjoy action-packed military-style violence. The action is very graphic, not for the faint of heart. It is particularly difficult to watch a scene in which rebels are murdering civilians. There is an attempt to set a man on fire. One women's breasts are cut off. The Seal Team intervenes as the Nigerians watch in horror.

While plenty of the Nigerians are killed, along with several Seal team members, good eventually triumphs over evil in this film, as Willis's desire to do the right thing overrides his duty to follow orders and complete the mission. The movie has a very satisfying ending, as Willis and the doctor reach the Cameroon border, along with the son of the assassinated Nigerian president. You are left with hope for the people of Nigeria, who begin to rally around the son. You are proud of the Navy Seals and the intervention of the U.S. military. You think: gosh, this is what the military should be used for!

Lord of War, on the other hand, does not have a satisfying ending, at least from the stand point of humanity. But, perhaps its ending and message are more realistic, especially in today's world. The movie stars Nicholas Cage, as a Ukrainian-born American who enters the arms business as a young man in New York's Little Odesa. Cage's character finds success as an international arms dealer, with few scruples. When he is finally apprehended by Interpool, he is released and returns to his murderous occupation, despite the death of his brother and being disowned by his family.

Cage's character is not brought to justice because his illegal arms dealings often serve the foreign policy interests of the United States and her allies. Governments cannot tolerate having their arms merchants jailed. They may need them later to get "around" an arms embargo. While arms dealers sell their wares to anyone who will pay, governments supply their allies or the enemies of their enemies (remember Iraq before the first Iraq War?) for political gain.

At the end of the film, text points out that while the private arms trade is thriving, the five biggest arms dealers in the world are the five members of the UN's security council: United States, Britain, Russia, China, and France. The movie's conclusion is not the full quote from the Bruce Willis movie, but rather "Evil prevails." This is because getting rid of one or many private arms dealers will do little, if anything, to stop the carnage in the world, not as long as governments of the world continue to support armed warfare and wage their wars in developing countries.

Ethan Hawke plays the relentless Interpool agent who finally "gets" his man (but not really). His character calls small arms the "weapons of mass descruction." Nuclear weapons, while frightening to all of us, just sit in their silos while AK-47's and other small arms kill and maim people, many of them innocent women and children. Unforunately, movies such as these, with serious messages, are never as popular as Spiderman or the Transformers.

I recall the time I worked for an arms dealer. It had nothing to do with guns or grenades. I worked for one of his "legitimate" businesses, a sheep farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. From what I read, my one-time "boss" worked for the Pentagon and CIA for over 40 years. Sometimes, I wonder how many people this one man's "weapons of mass descruction" killed.

Yes, I know guns don't kill people. People kill people. But people don't kill people with guns, if someone doesn't sell or give them the guns. By the way, the name of the farm where I worked was "Black Eagle," a symbol of Nazi German. This arms dealer fought for the Nazis as a teenager. I guess selling weapons wasn't too far from his roots.

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