Empty Days

Wednesday, April 07, 2004



Ben-Hur in Iraq

I've been watching the classic Ben-Hur movie tonight - this film runs at least 10 times a year on different channels and most of the time I avoid it because I've seen it too many times already. But tonight there was nothing better on tv and I have avoided it for so long I forgot enough for it to feel like a novelty - and, fuck, it totally moved me to tears.

That was probably due to the way I've been worrying about Iraq so much in the past days - and so much of this movie is so close to the situation out there now.

Ben-Hur: "You want my advice on how to deal with Judea? Move out your roman legions."

Here you have Ben-Hur, who is an educated cosmopolitan jew in occupied Judea, and his friend is a Roman, who has no respect for Ben-Hur's religion, people, and values and is convinced of Rome's utter superiority over this uncivilized people with their strange absurd religion. And this Roman childhood friend asks Ben-Hur to help him pacify Judea - he asks Ben-Hur to help him establish contact with the local leaders and then he asks him to betray those who are unwilling to cooperate with Rome, because in a Roman's eyes they are "criminals". And that ends their friendship.

You can't be friends with an occupier if he sees your people as criminals.

I mean, the dialogues in this movie are a succint transcript of the dialogues that are happening in Iraq right now between CPA and the locals. There is this same american self-importance and contempt, and the same distrust by the locals. And all of this rests on one simple thing: narrow-mindedness, stupidity, contempt, self-interest.

Isn't it strange that a movie about a jew in ancient Judea should be so reminiscent of the war in Iraq? It's a story of grave injustice and the struggle against this injustice. In this classic american film the bad guys are the all-powerful highly militarized Roman occupiers with their supposedly superior values, and the good guys are a small people who resist this violent arrogance through faith and personal honor.

Too bad the bad guys in this movie are so damn close to the american administrators in Iraq right now. It wasn't supposed to be that way.





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