Did you know? War is hell. Soldiers kill enemies and civilians alike. In Iraq, American troops torture and murder innocents; many of the soldiers have serious doubts that they are indeed fighting for freedom and democracy. When they return to civilian life, they find themselves physicially, psychologically, and spiritually wounded, and they struggle to adapt. Their government does little to care for its veterans.
If any of this is news to you, The Ground Truth should come as a timely revelation. If it isn’t–if you’ve heard these things before, perhaps because you’ve read the right book, because you’ve been to war yourself, because you’re a conscientious objector or you’ve seen All Quiet on the Western Front, Full Metal Jacket, The Thin Red Line, Winter Soldier, or dozens of other anti-war movies, then The Ground Truth won’t offer much beyond updating the hideous truth with the latest sand-swept images from Baghdad, the latest mangled and anguished faces of returning soldiers. It is the latest in a growing series of documentaries that ought to be seen by anyone who still supports the war–but since it’s playing in art house theaters rather than on network TV, the audience will doubtless consist largely of the proverbial choir.
Directed by Patricia Foulkrod, the film is well-made, well-intentioned, and features veterans who show tremendous courage speaking out about what they did in Iraq, and what it did to them. These are harrowing stories of guilt and horror. Every war produces them, but in this one in particular, home front support seems to begin and end with yellow magnets. Lied to by their recruiters, turned into killers by their drill sergeants, sent into impossible situations by their superiors, and tossed aside by their government–these soldiers’ stories deserve to be told and heard. It’s an old saw, but so is war: if the film changes just one mind, perhaps it was already worth it. The Ground Truth ought to show in classrooms and outside of army recruiting stations.
The Ground Truth, Patricia Foulkrod, 2006. ***