Gunner Palace

| March 12, 2005

If the Republican administration decided to put out a “controversial” documentary about our Iraq expedition that shows the truth without any of the really bad stuff, they would have come up with Gunner Palace.
Gunner Palace is the new name for one of Sadaam Hussein’s bombed out palaces that have become the home for American soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery (a group known as the “Gunners”). This film tells their story beginning 4 months after George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations. The 2/3 has been trained to send shells long distances but in the new situation, they have become policeman in a city where the bad guys have automatic weapons and bombs.
This film shows the soldiers on their daily patrol duties, showing the fear and tense situations without sharing the gore that is certainly part of it. When seeing them check a bag of garbage as a possible bomb and going into the home of suspected bomb makers in the dead of night, two things came to mind: First, the unbelievable bravery and professionalism these men and women show. Most of them are just out of high school, and this is their first time outside of the city they grew up in, let alone any other country. And second, the unmistaken parallel to all other wars our country has fought where booby traps were the norm, but in this case the bombs can be disguised in plain sight instead of hidden in the jungles of Vietnam or among the hedgerows of France.
As an example of documentary filmmaking, Gunner Palace is rather disjointed. There is no one story line you can hold on to and at one point, filmmaker/narrator Michael Tucker tells us he is going home, we SEE his home… And then we are suddenly back in Baghdad.
I remember hearing stories of war where the soldiers would say that it is hours upon hours of boredom followed by a few minutes of adrenaline rush and action. Gunner Palace shows that clearly, showing the soldiers doing many of the mundane things that fill the time, but also many of the Peacekeeping functions as well. Scenes we mostly see as brief background or “B” footage to broadcast news stories about events in the war zone.
This is not a political film. It is as nonpartisan as it can be in showing the lives of our soldiers. We hear many background broadcasts of the Armed Forces radio that puts the time frame of other events back into order, telling us what the administration was saying at the same time we see actual events in the city. But it is very microcosmic in that we see just one battalion of the vast military complex we have stationed in Iraq.

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