Still Fighting “Whatever” in Afghanistan

While CNN's Jake Tapper "Supports the Troops"

This just in:  Cable news presenter-hero Jake Tapper finds new spotlight at the Movies with the Millennium Media studio release of The Outpost, based on Tapper’s 2012 book The Outpost:  an Untold Story of American Valor. Tapper’s tale tells the story of a locally massive attack by Taliban-types on a remote American forward operating base, Combat Outpost Keating, in the precipitously rugged Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Nuristan, which borders Pakistan. This violent incident occurred on October 3, 2009, and is known as the Battle of Kamdesh, named for a village near the base.

At first glance, Mr Tapper’s literary foray into the American-Afghan war appears rather off-topic for a cable news teleprompter-reader, especially when Tapper was never “embedded” with the Troops “over there.”  So: what “American valor” is the Dartmouth-educated Tapper talking about?  What drove the perpetually peevish-looking Tapper to write upon a current conflict he never personally reported on happening in a galaxy far, far away?  Cable news anchor guilt?  A mid-career crisis, because our fearless Tapper has suddenly almost realized — even though he can’t quite form the words — that he’s just another paid tool echoing corporate War Machine talking points?  Recently, Tapper was interviewed by Yahoo Movies person Ethan Alter (July 2) in coordination with the roll-out of the film, and some of his answers are revealing

But first, a note about our man Tapper’s current employer (since 2013), CNN. CNN hit the jackpot in 1991 with its breathlessly promotional coverage of Iraq-Attack-One. Tapper’s elder-in-chief @ CNN, Wolf Bullshitzer, also cashed in on CNN’s “Desert Storm” news coup. Blitzer’s career as a hawking-head had suffered the great good fortune of joining America’s first 24-hour TV news network in May of 1990, as CNN’s Pentagon spokesperson, and he has been cheering on America’s “Whatever” wars from that desk ever since. Whatever Ted Turner’s original vision was for a round-the-clock TV news service (1980), by now it is quite clear that CNN was tailor-made for the War Department of the United States of America: “Only carefully scripted awkward questions, please!”

Now: back to that Tapper interview…

Our news hero Tapper’s spectrum of non-committance-to-cognitive-dissonance is more than manifest in his reply to a relevant question concerning the U.S. finally leaving Afghanistan altogether, as cartoon President Donald Trump has frequently falsely promised.  Indifferently chomping at the bit, Tapper blithely states that the “Taliban is the enemy,” but goes on to say that America should still maintain “…some sort of counter-terrorism presence, just in case ISIS, or Al-Quaeda, or whatever, rises up again.”  This “or whatever” really captures Tapper’s otherwise elusive conceptualization of the conflict.  Unfortunately, the interviewer — Ethan Alter — fails the Consumer-reader by not following-up with an uber-relevant question such as:  “Gee, Jake, but what would ‘whatever’ look like in Afghanistan today?  Are you so certain that We are not the Enemy over there?”  At this imaginary point in the “presser,” our successful info-tainment personality looks more peeved than usual:  Could we be the Enemy? ricochets around the echo chamber of his cable news brain…

Jake Tapper did eventually visit Afghanistan, that “galaxy far, far away,”  and was oratorically able to unleash this nugget from his “on-the-ground” experience there:

When we got to FOB Bostick, the mission was providing security for building a road so that there could be commerce, and improve the way of life for Afghans in that province. It’s just otherworldly, because you’d think building a road would be a basic project, and U.S. troops were killed for just being there.

This is a truly striking statement. Has our befuddled — or possibly even lobotomized — anchor-protagonist never heard of the “White Man’s Burden,” the sentiment of which he perfectly recapitulates in this quotation of his very own words? Again, one hears whizzes, zips and tiny bangs! whipping across Tapper’s unconsciously Kiplingesque mind as an Idea — behold, almost! — nearly forms there: Maybe the “Afghans” see the Americans as Stormtroopers like in a Star Wars movie — or whatever — as the Enemy, as opposed to how we prefer to Luke Skywalker ourselves...

Yet questioning nearly 2 decades of violent partial occupation of Afghanistan is not Tapper’s true mission; he’s “not a policymaker,” after all.  Instead, our Yellow Press agent concludes that “…we wanted to have respect and reverence for the fact that this story is about real people who died there.”  By “real people,” of course, Tapper means Americans, not Afghans, whom he barely mentions in the interview.

Despite Mr Tapper’s critical cluelessness concerning his subject of note, the fact that his book is now a movie reveals a curious collusion of interest between a Major Media News outlet and Hollywood.  Presumably, Tapper could have shopped his “story” to a documentary filmmaker, but instead chose the Hollywood outfit Millennium Media, which deals primarily in gung-ho testosterone fests.  A quick look at the trailer shows that The Outpost will indeed be an action-packed testosterone fest.  The tone of the film is most likely set in the last spoken line of the trailer:  “We’re taking this bitch back!” (Evidently, this movie is not being marketed to feminists…). By this mini-climax in the action of the film (which I will not be watching, as I have probably seen more than one-too-many jacked-up war movies in my time), Holy Camp Keating has been largely overrun by the Infidels, who were most likely not even Taliban, but fighters employed by the notorious Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who, ironically enough, is said to have received the most CIA funding of any Mujahideen leader fighting the Soviet Russians in Afghanistan during the 1980s.  Perhaps a figure like Hekmatyar fits the description of “or whatever” in Jake Tapper’s this-worldly, reality-challenged brain?  The Outpost, the movie, probably does not answer this question either, as one of the leading characters in the trailer informs his “men” that their mission is to “separate the Taliban from the ordinary people.”

How Many Green Berets Can be Physically Fit into a Hurt Locker?

The Outpost will most likely not be separating any Oscars from the mitts or myths of the Motion Picture Academy any time soon.  However, a war film of the “War on Terror” era that did delight the hawkish Hollywood elites was the 2009 release The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, which gobbled up 6 Oscar trophies, including “Best Picture.”  Needless to say, Major Mainstream Media critics universally praised the movie as well, which is quite telling, since the Hurt Locker totally whitewashes the criminal invasion of Iraq (a country run by a well-known criminal, by the way), as well as any lingering “liberal” institutional guilt over that crime.

At its soulless core, this movie focuses on the personal trauma of the American soldier–this mercenary–while ignoring the civilizational catastrophe that Iraq-Attack-Two was, and still remains.  Really, it’s kind of clever how this much-lauded propaganda piece accomplishes its aim, by substituting  the “IED” for the “WMD” story that was used to sell — or “justify”– the invasion.  This is the same move that CNN-guy Tapper makes with his Afghan battle book:  Fucking focus on the heroic” American soldier!, while the larger — and illegal — context of the “war” blurs into a contour-less, unaccountable background; after all, you can’t charge a shape that you can’t identify with a crime — and Afghanistan is one of the most shapeless places there is from an American point-of-view.

 The Hurt Locker also serves up steaming piles of “White Man’s Burden.” The Iraqis depicted in the film are, stereotypically enough, either victims or villains, with nothing but a killing ground in between; they are never granted, as real world actors, an ounce of so-called agency — unless it’s absolutely malevolent, of course. The one Iraqi that the American Bomb Disposal Unit befriends, a teen-age boy, naturally, gets callously sacrificed to show both the Americans’ good intentions, while also proving the absolute viciousness of the Iraqi “Improvised Explosive Device” makers — as if the United States had nobly invaded Iraq in order to rid the former British Mandate of its “IED” problem (“Never mind the WMD, folks:  They never existed in the first place!”). Incidentally, an Improvised Explosive Device pre-existing condition was not a pre-existing condition in Iraq until the United States arrived “in-Country”, in 2003.  In any case, the one Iraqi who is granted any kind of “identity” is quickly reduced to a symbol, or plot device.  Deus ex machina:  Hello!

On top — or over-the-top — of everything else that is wrong with this movie, the Oscar Award winning  Hurt Locker, there is the fundamental visual issue that the camera work is shoddy-to-terrible.  The basic camera work is “shakey,” as if the camera-person needs a drink, because they are “shaking” because of their alcoholic condition. Or the camera zooms in too fast, which indicates that the camera-person’s medication was inappropriately taken, and contra-indicatory effects are formalizing, so the scene looks weird, even though it is, which is nothing unusual, even though it is.

In other words, strictly speaking, The Hurt Locker is not a very good movie — never mind the “Best Picture”; or, it’s a very gratuitous play on what Iraq-Attack-Two really was.  Nevertheless, Hollywood really loved it just as much as the Mainstream Media embraced it — all of which indicates the wildly pro-War bias of both institutions: Hollywood and the Mass Media.  Who knew that both were playing the same Pentagonal tune?

Nevertheless, in the storied annals of pro-War pornography, not all War movies are loved the same. Although paternity is still difficult to determine with absolute certainty, even in this advanced age of DNA testing, it is highly probable that the “War on Terror” baby’s-Daddy was the undeclared war on Vietnam. With this hypothesis in mind, one war movie the Major Media establishment lovingly loathed was John Wayne’s explicitly pro-War film The Green Berets, which was released in the summer of 1968 while the American war on Vietnam was in full-tilt boogie mode. Although a cliche-ridden testosterone fest in its own self-righteous right, The Green Berets is light years more honest than its bastard offspring The Hurt Locker, as the propaganda agenda of Wayne’s film is flaunted, not hidden. Still, there is a basic deception woven into the “Duke’s” attempt to re-enlist the movie-going Public’s support for an undeclared war that was fast becoming demonstrably unpopular.

The real Green Berets are an elite U.S. Army unit, whereas the vast majority of the half million Americans fighting in Vietnam were mandatory draftees who did not have a choice to opt out, unlike famous non-combatants like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Dick Cheney, etc. By dwelling on an elite fighting unit, Wayne’s instrument for winning back “Hearts and Minds” on the Homefront would appear to have been out of tune.  Nevertheless, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense because the American war against Vietnam was launched by elites — just as all subsequent American “undeclared” wars have been ever since. The average American citizen has zero stake in any of these foreign wars. I can hear Jake Tapper’s brain rattling: If we de-fund the Pentagon I’ll be out of a job, so…

Of course, John Wayne’s jingo Vietnam movie did not make too much of a splash — although the “Duke” did brag about the box office cash at the time. Live television coverage probably had as much as anything else to do with turning the American Public against the war, and so the plug was finally pulled on that atrocity. In the meantime, the Pentagon’s fixed that Media image problem; our current series of wars are “special access” only. We’re occasionally allowed the “Live Look-in,” but only with carefully curated framing. CNN’s Jake Tapper is just such a curator. If one were to say to Jake: “This Afghan War’s vainglorious genocidal bullshit!” the Tapper would shift or swivel uncomfortably, look extra peevish, and tell the too far left-or-right critic that it’s all about “valor,” which is exactly what he’s paid to do.

Just to wrap up:  even though I gave CNN’s Jake Tapper the “lead,” so to speak, in this article, I would like to give a real journalist the final words on the subject. Concerning the multiple Academy Award winning movie The Hurt Locker, the venerable John Pilger had this to say: “It offers a vicarious thrill via yet another standard-issue psychopath high on violence in someone else’s country where the deaths of a million people are consigned to cinematic oblivion.”

Todd Smith lives, writes, and observes the Brave New World Order in St. Louis. He can be reached at Read other articles by Todd.