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You may have seen a movie called "Acts of Valor" that is currently showing in some theaters.  I saw it yesterday.  It was a good movie. Suspenseful, with riveting action virtually throughout.  Many of the actors were real Navy Seals, so you overlook the slightly less professional acting of the non-actors.  As I sat watching the movie, it occurred to me that defense spending is set to be a huge issue in the next six months, as the legally mandatory budget sequestration process begins.  It also occurred to me that the 1,000 or so people who benefit most from defense spending are paying less for it now than ever before.  We need to make sure this movie doesn't unduly upset the political playing field for the political war to come later this election year.

I recommend the movie.  It was made, ostensibly or sincerely, in memory of Naval Special Forces members who have given their lives to protect America since 9-11.  We are emphatically reminded that "Damn Few" sign up to "go downrange" and risk their lives in operations conducted every day around the world to stop terrorists who try to attack America and Americans.  The plot resembles a theatrical version of the hit television show "24", made more substantial by the undoubted claim that the movie is based on real scenarios and operations conducted by the Seals.

Of course, the Seals themselves are portrayed in the best possible light.  There are no innocent people killed.  Nobody misbehaves in any way.  The Seals in the movie are like brothers, ready to give their lives without thinking in order to save the other members of the platoon.  They are devoted family men, bonded by a code of brotherhood that even the closest siblings do not share, and a love for country that not even Abraham Lincoln could have felt.

I believe that most of our armed forces are more like the soldiers portrayed in this movie than like the soldiers we hear about most in the news.  Mostly, we only hear about soldiers that misbehave in some way, killing innocent people or doing other reprehensible things.  We do not hear about the daily courage and existential commitment most of our armed forces freely give, and we probably take their sacrifice, unduly, somewhat for granted.  I am happy to see a movie that tells the good story about our armed forces, especially this movie that claims to portray realistic situations our soldiers must manage every day.  I think such stories need more voice, so that we remember what the world is really like.

So, I appreciated seeing this movie.  But as I watched, verisimilitude firmly suspended, hoping/expecting that everything would turn out theatrically optimized, I couldn't help thinking this movie had an ulterior purpose.  It occurred to me that this is the "Please Don't Cut Defense Spending" movie, timed for release just as the debate on massive defense spending cuts is set to begin in Washington.  With real Navy Seals as actors, the Defense Department must have had a hand in making it, and Leon Panetta has been vocal about the harm that will be done to our defense posture should those cuts be implemented.  In the last twelve hours, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has reportedly proposed suspending the defense sequestration enacted last year.

If we are to avoid the massive cuts enacted into law by this Congress and this President, those who benefit most from the sacrifice of such heroes must pay the most to redeem that sacrifice.  We cannot let this movie upset the perspective in which defense must be viewed.  It is not the poor and struggling who benefit most.  It is not the middle-class, increasingly having to choose between food and heat, that benefit most.  It is the 1% that benefit most, and who have been given a free pass from paying for the blood of others, blood shed to preserve the system engineered by the 1% and for the 1%.  The 1% should pay far more than they are now paying for the blood of heroes.

While this movie is a needed part of the debate, the sacrifices portrayed must be viewed in the broader context of "who should pay".  We must remember, and remind others, that "who should pay" is the group that benefits the most.  And they are not paying today.

Originally posted to rgembry on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 04:49 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Surely (12+ / 0-)

    The best argument in favor of a cut in defense spending is that there are so many highly trained special forces hanging around that they can be spared to go off and do their John Wayne thing for Hollywood?

    Fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 05:01:07 AM PDT

    •  Arguably (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, MPociask, varro, Churchill

      The movie certainly portrays the Seals as highly professional, committed, and skilled.  But the overall background message is, "It's a dangerous world out there.  You don't want to defund these heroes standing in the way of terrorists trying to kill you."

      •  The message should be (12+ / 0-)

        WHY do they want to kill us?
        Maybe it is because we have over thrown their governments for over a half century and installed brutal puppet governments?
        Or supplied the military muscle for the corporations, destroy whole countries with Shock and Awe.
        Kill millions of people just because they live on land that the corporations want the resource that are on it?
        If I had lived thru what the US had done to ..... country or government, I might have the same feelings.


        by snoopydawg on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 08:55:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Messages (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marleycat, cynndara

          Movies get made all the time that convey particular political messages.  That message (why they hate us) has been portrayed in movies before.  I wanted to write about this one because it appears to be the only political movie in theaters right now, and the timing is optimal for influencing the upcoming debate on defense spending.  We have to ground the message of this film in a proper perspective.

      •  Arguably on the other hand.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ....small, highly-trained forces are better-suited to the kind of military operations we should be doing than expensive infantry divisions, carrier groups, or Stealth Bomber wings.

        9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

        by varro on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 12:00:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How many SEALs could you get.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          .....for the price of the average carrier battle group? Inquiring minds want to know.

          "Given the fact of servitude, the feudal relationship is the only tolerable one." (George Orwell)

          by sagesource on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 07:47:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  our 11 carrier groups have 50 Naval Plains (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Odysseus, sagesource

            and about 10 support ships,  there are 5,000 on each carrier, so that's about 55,000 sailors on the the Air Craft Carriers, and about half the amount on the support ships,  at any one time there is about 110,000 sailors asea, which means they are not in port.  in comparison there around about 58,000 special operations which include special forces such as Seals and Green Berets.

            80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP! Corporate is not the solution to our problem. Corporate is the problem!

            by Churchill on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 10:34:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I'll take my chances. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mythatsme, gsenski, out of left field

        If there were as many terrorists trying to kill us as they'd have you believe, why isn't there an attack every week, or every day?

        They're selling horseshit. Doesn't mean you have to buy.

        Paternity rules, fraternity drools. - Rick Santorum (paraphrased)

        by VictorLaszlo on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 05:02:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  58k of the 1.4 service personnel Spec Ops (4%) (0+ / 0-)

        special ops personnel (which includes Special Forces), Navy Seals, Army Green Beret, Civilian Affairs, Army Rangers, and many other highly trained specialist, total about 58,000, which is about 4 % of the 1.4 million active duty regular army(530,000) US Marine Corp (203,000) Navy (360,000) and US Air Force (340,000), or about 1.4 million, there is another 1 million Army Navy Air Force USMC Reserve personnel, and National Guard Units.

        80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP! Corporate is not the solution to our problem. Corporate is the problem!

        by Churchill on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 10:30:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  DOD helped fund this movie according to David (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, cynndara

      Sirrota. I came in midway on his segment on this on his radio show, so I don't know where he got his info, but I trust his info.

  •  The DOD works with Hollywood (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rgembry, socal altvibe, Hannibal, Losty, chipmo

    on movies, making sure they get it 'right'

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 06:37:11 AM PDT

    •  It's a win win! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rgembry, chipmo

      straight from the DOD website

      The production was a win-win situation, Strub said. As Hollywood got realism, the military got the chance to show the American public something important about military people, equipment and missions.

      Strub said that’s the same reason filmmakers keep asking for military cooperation to this day and why, in many cases, the Defense Department supports their requests.

      How 'secret' can the Seals be if there's a movie about them?

      "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 06:43:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why can't the EPA work with hollywood? (0+ / 0-)

      Or the department of Education?
      Or Housing and Urban Development?

      When I worked for the government i remember being told that it would be unethical for the government to pay to fill the water cooler.  Tax dollars couldn't be spared for such frivolous things (never mind that the tap water was not legally potable).

      I never understood how some agencies ran the government and others merely begged for the crumbs.  I wonder if there are laws that allow some agencies to do what they do, or if it's just some sort of old boy's network.

      One man gathers what another man spills

      by John Chapman on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 11:29:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's a recruitment video (6+ / 0-)
    The movie Act of Valor, which opened in theaters last Friday and earned nearly $25 million, was commissioned by the Navy's Special Warfare Command to drum up recruits for its elite SEALs program. But it's by no means the first movie made with the military's cooperation.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 06:49:27 AM PDT

  •  There are war profiteers who won't be able to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rgembry, eXtina, Churchill

    house their family or put food on the table, etc.

    I'd rather have a buntle afrota-me than a frottle a bunta-me.

    by David54 on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 07:06:16 AM PDT

  •  Thought it was odd (3+ / 0-)

    That they were portrayed as such devoted family men, considering their divorce rate is over 90%.

    Nothing brings people together more than mutual hatred.

    by Hannibal on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 09:22:55 AM PDT

    •  I wish we spent 1/10 the amount of money we (7+ / 0-)

      spend on each soldier training him or her to be a nurse or a biochemist or an auto mechanic. And I wish we spent 1/50th the amount of money we spend on military equipment on R&D for carbon sequestration. The Cold War was much better for us because it spurred us on to innovation and invention and into space (except, of course for those pesky nukes) than these little dorky wars that allow our GOP leaders to play with their toys. I know Markos Moulitsas supports the troops, blah blah, but I wish we supported them a lot less. They're not all heroes. A lot of them are just poor men and women with limited job opportunities who just want health insurance for their families. And that's a tragedy.

    •  I live where the SEALS are stationed (0+ / 0-)

      As a young single woman I was warned not to date one because they have a huge rape problem.  HAven;t noticed that has changed much through the years. These guys are the most macho of macho and they are dangerous. Ok in a war zone, not ok at home.

      In the time I've lived here there have been several murder cases as well, usually of their wives and girlfriends.

      Personally I find it offensive that my tax dollars are being used to glorify these bastards. Maybe we should force a few of them to be implanted with dead fetuses that they aren't allowed to get rid of while they rot in their bodies. No wait it is Republican legistlators I want to do that to.

  •  nothing but bullshit propaganda (6+ / 0-)

    Bad is never good until worse happens

    by dark daze on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 09:38:10 AM PDT

  •  My sister worked at the DoD or this... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rgembry, eXtina, out of left field

    group as a consultant. There is an office in the Pentagon dedicated to alternative PR for the purposes of maintaining public enthusiasm, budgets, and recruitment. She worked on alternative media outreach for the purposes of recruitment. As such, the DoD "sponsors" (i.e., uses tax money to fund) Hollywood films, video game development, and even musical artists to promote the military's image.

    This is not tinfoil hat stuff. What you watched probably wasn't funded specifically to help the sequestration discussion - raging hormone badasses cutting their way through Afghanistan to loud metal music is aimed at the teen demographic - but it is part of an important PR campaign the DOD is waging.

  •  I just have to point out (8+ / 0-)

    that very little of what we've done since 9/11 has had much at all to do with protecting America.  And when the definition of terrorist has become so twisted that it can even be applied to people defending their homes from foreign invaders, it has simply lost all meaning.

    Sadly, most Americans can't quite tell when their emotions are being shamelessly manipulated for someone else's financial gain, so I expect this movie will have the desired result.

    Sort of adds a new twist on the idea of theatrical micromilitarism, though, doesn't it?

    •  Good Point (0+ / 0-)

      I agree.  We need to have the debate about how much defense spending is the right amount.  My only point here is that if people want to argue that we shouldn't cut defense spending, those making such arguments should agree to pay more for it.

  •  Special forces and drones are inexpensive, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    varro, Odysseus

    compared to F-22s and aircraft carriers.  There is always a battle inside the pentagon over big-ticket hardware that most benefits the defense contractors vs operationally and cost effective programs like the Seals.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 11:12:30 AM PDT

  •  I like action movies but this one seems like too (5+ / 0-)

    much propaganda. In the past I would have eaten this up. I just can't do it anymore. It's really past time to shut down the American empire.

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. G.B. Shaw

    by baghavadgita on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 11:35:16 AM PDT

  •  Horrible movie (full of spoiler) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Really, don't go see it. Maybe stream it on net flix someday. I went into it expecting it to be fairly realistic and action packed with lots of things blowing up; that was in fact my only expectation, and it failed.

    First of all, it is NOT action packed. The first 20 or 30 minutes of the movie were excruciatingly slow, with a very tiny bit of plot development kidnapping mixed in with horrible acting by SEALS about how much they love their families.  Seriously, as painfully stilted and false as any movie I have ever seen in a theater. The worst part was, I sure they were largely lines that that had really used at some point in real life, but the effort of acting made them look bad.

    Then there is a moderately good, but totally ridiculous assault on a drug lord/terrorists compound. The technology was altered to make it look like a video game, with the drone pilot's screen even putting helpful little friend-or-foe boxes around people in the video like a game of starcraft. Then there is an absurdly unnecessary race through the jungle with stolen trucks, while being pursued by enemy trucks.

    Then there is about a half hour of "plot development", where we find out Al Qaida is going to send a few chumps over with mexican border with the help of mexican drug cartels; definitely hitting the hot buttons there! They have undetectable explosive vests that can get through security and WILL BRING THIS COUNTRY TO ITS KNEES!!!! with fear. Oh, and the SEALS commander apparently also thinks that this is an enormous existential threat. Nevermind that if you could get 16 people into the US who really wanted to terrorize, they could just buy what they need at any sportsman warehouse and walmart.

    Then there is a very brief boat capture, and a really bad night raid on a mexican village, and then the "climatic" attack on a factory near the boarder where there is a tunnel that will carry people 7 miles into the US. Apparently even with forks in it. FEAR THEIR POWER, US CITIZENS!!!!

    Then the funeral for a SEAL who died, and a list of all the SEALS who died since 9-11, offered without noting that most of them died in helicopter and plane crashes, not fighting terrorists JUST ACROSS THE BORDER!!!!!11!!1!eleventy-one!

    The tactics were not realistic, the equipment and their uses were not realistic (hey, lets light up the sleeping enemy village with red dots!), and you won't see much technology you didn't already know about. The minisub was probably the only really cool part.

    I don't spend a lot on movies in the theater, and I really resented spending it on this one. I expected jingoism and a simplistic plot, but I really expected to see some quality, "Way of the Gun" level combat sequences.

    There are two worthwhile scenes in the movie.

  •  pay off those 1000 plutocrats (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Guyer

    Calculate how much they make in salary and stock options and offer them each a straight-up subsidy direct into their Cayman Islands accounts in exchange for no more opposition to ending the wars and cutting the military down to size.  I bet they'd take it.

    Never attribute to stupidity what can be adequately explained by malice; stupid people couldn't hurt us so effectively.

    by Visceral on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 02:42:08 PM PDT

  •  Ironically... (0+ / 0-)

    The special forces are USA's most cost effective weapon along with drones.

    It's the hardware heavy navy and air-force contracts that are bleeding us dry.

    •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Guyer

      twelve aircraft carriers at Billions each?

      I'm Ex-AF Vietnam era and love jet fighters, but 200 million dollar aircraft in quantities of 120 are crazy.

      My Son is a Special Forces Green Beret Medic, speaks Chinese, just deployed to Afganistan. His A-team and those like them will make more difference on the ground in the hearts and minds than any other force.

      Seals are the trained killers, assassinations, hostage rescue. stuff like that. NO surprise that have way too much testerone for living with normal people. I know, I'm generalizing...

      SF learns a lot about all that stuff too, but  the mission is different  - counterinsurgency - to be good to the indigenous population, win their trust, use them to inflitrate the enemy, get information. Even my son the Medic will say they are shooters first, because without security, everything else will fail. But once security is established, proceeding to talk with the village elders, the medic helps the kids and the sick, even maybe the animals.

      So a PTSD (probably) Shooter like the other day is ruinious to the mission, you have to start over again.

      I have a very good friend, an Advanced Practice Nurse, doing research work on PTSD and TBI for the Army. Close to 20% of returning soldiers have some form of one or the other. And there's a culture that if you complain about PTSD or something like that you put yourself on track for a medical discharge, maybe without VA services, because the Army still has a culture of watching for "Malingerers" and guys know if they even mention PTSD they might be discharged and then they have no job, and maybe no medical benefits.

      So on the one hand there's a culture that discourages asking for medical help (they're tough!) and then there's a medical system that is told they're spending too much money on medical costs, and if a guy can get by without asking for help and is deployable, the Army has one more body to deploy that's already trained and ready to go - until he goes berserk and kills a lot of civilians, and now we have a monumental diplomatic and PR problem.

      Too many consecutive rotations, too little checking returnees for PTSD, too little awareness of the real costs of running a system like this. And this is all related to Bush starting these wars on the cheap, using National guard and reserves, lowering taxes instead of raising them to pay for the war costs, waiving questionable cantidates into the Army to make the recruiting numbers....

      From my friend I know the Army is trying to get a handle on this, in several different ways, but the pentagon is still hard to persuade with old time Generals and bureaucrats still in charge, and under budget pressure. And the Military Industrial Complex Sure doesn't want aircraft and tank production cut, even though we probably don't need any more than we have...

      So in spite of the setbacks, I'm hoping SF and other Special OPS forces will do some good things. My son goes outside the wire from time to time but fighting season hasn't really started yet in Afganistan. Meanwhile, he's helped kids with broken legs, old folks with infection, getting people medevac'ed to real clinic facilities (he's on an FOB) back at the base. His training over three years probably cost a third of a million dollars or more, but it's a damn sight cheaper than one jet engine from GE for an F-35. And it's boots on the ground

      Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

      by blindcynic on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 08:00:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Beware the "gutting the military" talking point (4+ / 0-)

    Every time I hear a Republican congressman discussing this they say the cuts will gut the military.  After 8-10 years of increasing the military budget, a 3 to 5 percent cut will have no significant effect on the bloated MIC, and certainly won't make us less safe or unable to project our force to any part of the globe we feel like messing with next.  In my fantasy world we cut that budget by 25%, and build a world class high speed rail system in every heavily populated corridor.
    Productive, as opposed to destructive, steel.

    A rising tide lifts all yachts. But rowboats get swamped.

    by oddmike on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 07:46:18 PM PDT

  •  "Soldiers in the Movie"? Navy Seals are Sailors (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Navy Seals don't like to be called soldiers because they're in the Navy, and are technically sailors.  

    80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP! Corporate is not the solution to our problem. Corporate is the problem!

    by Churchill on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 10:25:17 PM PDT

  •  Sequest was agreed to in Aug 2011, already done (0+ / 0-)

    now the technical aspects of this will be implemented

    80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP! Corporate is not the solution to our problem. Corporate is the problem!

    by Churchill on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 10:26:22 PM PDT

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