US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The Green Zone

By Patrick McCormick | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The Green Zone
Directed by Paul Greengrass (Universal Pictures, 2010)

The Greek dramatist Aeschylus wrote, "In war, truth is the first casualty." But in America's war in Iraq the truth had been slain before the first bombs or boots hit the ground. In director Paul Greengrass' compelling thriller about soldiers looking for weapons of mass destruction, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his men begin to suspect they have been fed a steady diet of lies.

Miller is a tough-minded career soldier committed to finding and destroying Saddam Hussein's hidden caches of WMDs. But as one target after another proves to be an empty warehouse or bunker, he begins to suspect and complain that the intel on these locations is faulty-and that the secret source of this information is feeding American officials garbage.

Hardly anyone up the chain of command, however, wants to hear Miller's complaints. In the heady early days of America's occupation of Iraq, the president, the Pentagon, and the American press are hyping the military's victory over Saddam Hussein, and officials on the ground tell Miller to keep quiet and get on with his job-which, of course, he cannot do because there are no WMDs to be found.

So when a local Iraqi shows up with information about the location of high-ranking officers in Hussein's army, Miller is eager to sink his teeth into something real. But before he can question one of the captured officials, special forces troops assault his men and seize his prisoner. A bruised and angered Miller gets no response from his superiors and begins to suspect a connection between the lies he has been told about WMDs and the stonewalling he is getting.

The genius of Greengrass' narrative is that Miller is a serious warrior who believed in the justice of the war and trusted that his military and civilian leaders knew what they were doing. So his discovery of betrayal and folly is all the more disconcerting.

This article appeared in the June 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 6, page 42).