Battle for Haditha is a heart-wrenching film directed by Nick Bromfield which delves deep into the sheer brutalities of war which leaves a gazillion shocked and hurt at the atrocities meted out to the commoners of the city by the soldiers of the United States of America. This film is a vehement effort that reconstructs the circumstances and events which led to the
colossal massacre in Haditha where twenty-four people were assassinated by the marines in the year 2005.
The film goes on to dramatize the horrific episode. The marines, civilian and the insurgents are portrayed in the film and their daily activities on the day before the assassination. The director portrays how the local women come and buy chicken for a party, being accompanied by their children. The marines are seen to patrol the city of Haditha as they expect and impending attack. The soldiers raid various places, leaving the residents of the region petrified and outraged.
The film focuses on the dehumanization of the Iraqis on the part of the US marines who hardly care about the state of the nation they are in and the pitiable disposition of the civilians. All they know is how to exterminate, their only language being the gun. The marines are heard chanting, “Train, train, train, to kill, kill, kill.” In their perspective, even the women and children are antagonists as they might carry bombs. The film shows an Iraqi man carrying shovel, which leads a soldier to claim that this could be an effort on his part to plant an IED. As a result, the man is killed with no further delay and without any proper investigation or surety of the claim.
Corporal Ramirez is the one who leads the way to the extermination of the defenseless people and the children when a member of their unit gets killed. He never resorts to proper retaliation against the criminals, but goes on to unleash his wrath on people who might have had nothing to do with the incident. The director evokes the emotions of the audience with her portrayal of the massacre. The filmmaker has depended on the accounts provided by American and Iraqi eyewitnesses.
The film shows how Ramirez and a few marines pull out a number of indigenous males from a cab which they stop nearby. These marines then kill these people brutally. The cinematic representation of the incident focuses on the families which resided near the place where the IED attack happened. After the attack, while the actual insurgents manage to get away from the rooftop, the marines take out their atrocity on the people who lived in the locality. They break into the houses and kill the civilians. They do not even pardon small children while carrying out their act of inhumanity.
There is an extremely horrific sequence which follows in the film where the marine snipers burst into laughs and even joke while they pick off a person who is running through this field. His wife hysterically kneels down over his deceased body. When Ramirez offers her a hand to get up, she goes on to spit at him. At this, he goes and pukes, although he pretends to be fine in front of the marines.
This sequence is extremely stirring and shows the brunt which is faced by the commoners during wars. The sequence is an expression of the fuming subversion of the hearts of the people who are victimized during such wars. What they go through, without even being involved in the matters behind war, is very painful.
The film also portrays the psyche of the marines through a close scrutiny of Ramirez. He suffers from nightmares. The day after the incident at the field, he breaks down in his quarters. He sees deceased bodies and women with children. He shouts about feeling guilty for the rest of his life for all the killings. He expresses his hatred for the officers who sent them to that harrowing land.
While the insurgents rejoice on their success, the film’s prologue shows that Ramirez has been arrested on charges of murder. Although someone else’s order triggered off the assassination, it is his fate that is sealed due to the killings. The director portrays a surreal sequence where Ramirez holds the hand of a little girl who is actually a survivor of the attack. Ironically, the killer and the survivor are both the hapless victims of the imperialist occupation of Iraq. The film uses the accounts of the witness and also the sound effects to accentuate the amount of influence on the audience’s mind.
The audience comes across three distinct groups in the film. The marines are alienated and feel that they have been left in the worst part of the globe. The commoner of Iraq are hapless and are left at the mercy of the marines who treat them brutally. There are the insurgents who plant the bomb which triggers off the brutal incident. The audience sees these three domains get intertwined as the brutality of the soldiers looms over the ambience.
The director goes on to exclude some details of the massacre from the film. Nevertheless, the scenes are extremely powerful and stir the audience to the very core with the imagery of ferocity and inhumanity in stark juxtaposition to the innocent and defenselessness of the hapless commoners. The director shows how the children are killed at point blank range and the soldiers chase one another with the parts of the body with laughs on their faces. The director wishes the people to understand the horrors of war and how it destroys lives and society.
There is really nothing to gain from warfare. The only thing which emerges out of war is bloodshed. The innocent people are made to suffer a lot and colossal massacre follows. The loss of lives is irreplaceable and no reason can be good enough to lead to a situation where taking innumerable lives is the only solution. The world has seen many incidents of atrocity against the common innocent people by the soldiers. Still, humanity has not learnt anything from the tremendous loss. Nations wage wars in the name of supremacy and political issues. What it leads to is nothing but the cruel extermination of lives of people who have nothing to do with the war of the issue.
The civilians of an enemy state are left at the mercy of the powerful forces which invade, plunder and murder them and make the societal condition of the state go haywire. When gruesome incidents like that of Haditha occur, the authorities of the state butchers the soldiers responsible for the matter and do not let the onus of the incident rest on the shoulders of the establishment of the nation. The director tries to imply that this mass killing is something which is quite a standard procedure for the army. This kind of an action is sanctioned from the top of the administration.
But, the film does not stop there. It goes on to delve deep into the mental condition and perspective of the soldiers of the US army. These marines who engage in warfare and even kill innocent people are not totally monstrous, as they themselves are the victims of war. These soldiers belong to the working class of the American society and they are simply brutalized by the life in the army.
It needs to be comprehended that the director treats the marines with compassion and duly recognizes the pressurizing situation they are in. They are all left to fight this complicated guerilla war. Nevertheless, the very heart of the film is the Iraqi commoners. What moves the audience to the innermost core is the entry into their daily lives and the picture of their innocence. The director points out subtly that God is said to be on both of these sides. However, He seemed to be absent in Haditha when this harrowing incident took place.
The director wishes to ignite the debate on the futility of war and bloodshed. The world has seen many war poets who have had a first-hand experience of war. They chose to pen down their dreadful experience and disgust in their aesthetic works. These have exposed the true nature of war and the massacre which follows. The psychological condition of the soldiers who participate in wars is not that of demons, but of individuals who are themselves at times left secluded in the ambience of the battleground, like Ramirez in the film. They kill innocent people and rampage houses, but are themselves succumbed by the dreadful war.
One needs to understand that the main culprits of the innumerable deaths and loss are the ones who trigger off the bloodshed and warfare. These people go unharmed, while millions lose their loved ones and are driven away from their homes. Mankind has found a perfect way to lead the civilization toward the baleful end. The film evokes the anti-war sentiment among the masses and exposes that there is nothing to gain from war. The rampage and assassination by the US marines led to nothing as they had to leave the place empty-handed. The death of the innocent commoners was the most painful thing which emerged out of the scenario. The war would end, the situation would be normal at some point of time, but their lives would never be restored.
The film cries out loud against war. It shows the graphic images of the victims and makes the audience’s hearts pine for the end of war and bloodshed. The humane emotions of the audience are evoked as the film progresses. As it ends, it leaves the people thinking about the meaninglessness of war and how it hinders the advancement of mankind.
This is essentially an anti-war movie which vehemently criticizes the ills of raging warfare. There is no better future for human nature in the path of animosity and assassinations. Human beings should learn to live peacefully among themselves and keep their show of strength at bay. The imperialist aggression has to stop immediately and there should be no infringement upon the freedom of the civilians. The nation states have to remember that it is their welfare which is the primary objective to secure. Butchery of human lives in the name of war between two nations is nothing less than the most abominable crime in the entire world. There is no mercy to such heinous crimes which show their brutal clutches to the innocent men, women and children.
While the human race has failed to keep the sanctity of Mother Nature, they have also started treading on the path of self-destruction in the form of war. It is the paramount duty of every responsible citizen to stand up strongly against the insanity and futility of war. People should debate and come together for the cause of peace in the entire world. The weapons of destruction are created in the name of protection and defense. But, man has to remember not to be the victim of the race for show of strength and hegemony. If the wars continue, man would himself become a weapon of self-destruction and there would be no hope left for the advancement of the human race and the world society.
Battle for Haditha. Dir. Nick Broomfield. Hanway Films, 2007. Film.