Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Humanity of our Enemies

I saw “Letters from Iwo Jima” today. The movie is from the viewpoint of the Japanese during the American siege of the island during WWII. It’s a complexly shot movie at times, with sweeping shots of American battleships and bombers bombarding the island interspersed with shots that look like they were taken with a handheld video camera of soldiers charging machinegun nests and dying on the beaches.

Despite the complexity of the shots, it’s a movie with a relatively simple message: our enemies aren’t much different than you and I. They have the same fears, they face the same trials that we do, and they have families that care about them, and will mourn their loss.

Humanizing our enemies today is something very hard to do. The uniformless, ski mask wearing militants that set roadside bombs and ambushes for our troops are a faceless enemy. They attack innocents, they capture and execute Americans working in Iraq, and then they melt back into the civilian population. It’s very hard, if not impossible for us to identify with them.

Over 60 years after the war ended, Clint Eastwood was able to make a movie where we empathize with an enemy that killed thousands of our troops, beheaded and tortured our POW’s and killed countless civilians throughout Southeast Asia.

Is that something that we’ll ever be able to do with this war? Will 60 years, or even 160 years be enough time to forgive? Will it be enough time for us to see their humanity? More importantly, will it be enough time for them to see our humanity?

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