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I'm Ellie, and I'm going to be doing my very first internship this summer. It's pretty exciting. I've never had an office job.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Quite the Travesty

For a group project, my group and I came across an article called The Hurt Locker as Propaganda by Tara McKelvey. Now, The American Prospect is a well respected website, and Ms. McKelvey is a senior editor and published writer, however, this post, in absolute terms, is just bad. Her topic isn’t focused, her bias is like a suffocating blanket, and she fails to prove her argument that The Hurt Locker is propaganda. She starts by summarizing parts of the movie, and how those parts make us empathize with the soldiers when they shoot the Iraqi people--then she refers to an article that explains that there were certain orders to shoot all Iraqi men in certain areas. This is not related to her argument that The Hurt Locker is propaganda for military recruitment. She has merely justified the movie.

McKelvey’s article is almost entirely built on her opinion that The Hurt Locker is an anti-war film. She makes this very clear in her paragraph about the dark things in the movie, such as the “paranoia, rage, and brutal recklessness of soldiers trapped in the downward death spiral.” One of the biggest problems I found, however, is in the next paragraph, which I will quote in just a moment. I realize it is strange to talk about a direct quotation before putting it in the piece writing, however I want you to know what to look for when reading it. Aside from the grueling grammatical error in the first sentence, the biggest issue here is McKelvey’s diction disagreement with her structure. Here is the part of the article I am particularly referring to: “The Hurt Locker sets itself up as am anti-war film. It opens with a quote, "War is a drug," from Chris Hedges, a Nation Institute senior fellow and author of War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. Yet for more than two hours, the film imbues Baghdad's combat zone with excitement and drama.” What McKelvey has just said is like saying “War is bad, yet it is horrible and scary.” Does that make grammatical sense? No. Now, that isn't what she is saying--it's just an example. This whole paragraph, however, is a grammatical travesty. It should be noted that McKelvey still has not told us how or why The Hurt Locker is propaganda for military recruitment. 

McKelvey summarizes the movie some more, but if someone is reading her article, it is most likely they have seen the movie already and they do not need a recapitulation. She closes her post by pointing out the extremely obvious fact that The Hurt Locker makes a great distinction between the excitement of the warfront and the lackluster life back home. This still doesn’t not even remotely prove, or even relate to, her argument that The Hurt Locker is propaganda for military recruitment. Yet she still closes her post by saying, “For all the graphic violence, bloody explosions and, literally, human butchery that is shown in the film, The Hurt Locker is one of the most effective recruiting vehicles for the U.S. Army that I have seen.” She has not told us how or why the film is an “effective recruiting vehicle.” She has two different ideas in her post, but McKelvey fails to prove the one she chose for her title! 

McKelvey’s anti-war bias is so strong throughout this piece of writing, it is almost unbearable. She only has one source, and that is the quote at the beginning of the movie. That makes everything she is saying pure opinion. McKelvey’s thesis is that The Hurt Locker is propaganda. She opens her article by saying, “For a supposedly anti-war film, Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker serves as a remarkably effective military recruiting tool.” Firstly, the movie is The Hurt Locker. Secondly, she says that the film is an effective military recruiting tool. This is all well and good; Uncle Sam posters saying “We want you!” are propaganda and they promote military recruitment. McKelvey has a valid argument. The problem lies in her ability to stay on topic long enough to prove it. In the end, after reading the article several times, I still do not know if the film is actually propaganda or an effective tool for military recruitment.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Children Soldiers Phenomenon

     In the movie Black Hawk Down, we see children fighting in the great (and cinematically pleasing) battle sequences. However, the concept of children as soldiers, like those in Somalia, raises quite a few concerns for Americans. Should American soldiers be able to kill children? When is it deemed acceptable? It is acceptable at all? Is it morally and ethically just to issue and/or follow "kill anything that moves" and "shoot to kill" orders when children are present? Is it okay when they are shooting at American soldiers? All of these are valid questions, and the answer is a difficult one for some to swallow. If the child has a gun, they are no longer a child, but an enemy soldiers. If it comes down to it, they must be killed so that they don't kill American soldiers.

     Marines are prepared in their training to face child soldiers. The article "What Marines Need To Know About Child Soldiers" asks very similar questions. "If a 14-year-old points a weapon at a serviceman, what should he do? No Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman wants to kill a 14-year-old. But a 14-year-old with an AK–47 is just as deadly as a 40-year-old with an AK–47. If the serviceman hesitates, he and others in his unit might be killed; if he shoots, then he might have to deal with the potential psychological consequences of killing a child." The CETO (Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities) has started offering seminars and education classes to educate Marines before they enter the battle field. There are numerous preventative measures that American soldiers can take before resorting to killing children, such as shooting from a distance to scare them and controlling the main recruitment zones for the failed states and totalitarian regimes.

     Children are being robbed of their innocence in more countries than just Somalia. Many sub-Saharan countries in Africa recruit children ages 18 and under to their ranks. The military is doing its best to prepare service men for what they will face, however, this does not make it any less difficult on the battle field. In the end, what has to be done must be done. If a soldier has a weapon aimed at him, it does not matter if the person holding it is 10 or 30 years old. He is the enemy and could potentially hurt American soldiers. The right thing is hard to do, that why it isn't called the easy thing. In war, the lines between right and wrong can become fuzzy, but one thing will always remain. No American soldier wants other Americans to die, therefore he will do what he must to protect his country.

For additional reading on why countries use children as soldiers, check out this very informative and interesting article I found from Oxford Journals.