friendly fire

Ben Friedlander (
Sat, 13 Jul 1996 22:39:04 -0400

I just saw "Courage under Fire," a movie which finds a strange way of making
war heroic post-Vietnam. Not to give away too much of the story, but when
did friendly fire and PTSD become part of the iconography of the warrior?
The two are mutually dependant, central motifs in "Courage under Fire":
friendly fire makes it possible to reconcile the fantasy of invulnerability
with the reality of casualties (in the movie, the Iraqis are a frightening
nuisance; the only fatalities are due to American blunders); friendly fire
also helps make sense of war trauma (you don't feel guilty for inflicting
death on the enemy; you don't feel shaken because the enemy killed your buddy
or could've killed you; no--you drink, do drugs, give up on family life, or
commit suicide because you cost another American his/her life in the heat
of battle). I'm not sure what to make of all this. I'm surprised that such
negative aspects of war are so easily subsumed into an overwhelmingly
positive view of military life, and I'm disturbed at how easily the
realistic aspects of war are juxtaposed with a cartoonish view of the
enemy. The movie is no doubt well intentioned. The camaraderie between
media and military is given a nice depiction, and the meticulousness of
military grooming is lightly recast as image consciousness in the CNN
sense. But to what end?

Ben Friedlander
SUNY Buffalo