The Patriot-News: The Situation

The Patriot-News

Iraq war movie focuses on cultural differences
Sunday, March 25, 2007
For The Patriot-News
CARLISLE – Resolving conflicts by understanding other cultures was the theme of a movie making its Pennsylvania premiere at the Carlisle Theatre last night.

“The Situation,” directed by Philip Haas, shows the Iraq war in 2004 through the eyes of a fictional American journalist and the people around her — Iraqi and American civilians, militants and soldiers.

Just before the lights dimmed, Carlisle resident Leon Blosser, who teaches Arabic at Dickinson College, said he believes the situation in Iraq would have been different if the American government had concentrated on teaching Arabic to its Middle East operatives.

The opening scene begins with a language gap and ends with a death.

A panel discussion before the movie featured a man once responsible for training American military commanders in strategic thinking, retired Army Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr.

Scales, the former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, said the military needs a new training approach. His generation of soldiers was trained to strike targets, he said.

But today’s military leaders need the education and tools to bridge cultural gaps, he said, because America’s enemies have learned that wars are “won or lost on human cultures.”

A former State Department official sitting beside Scales, retired Army Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, said the United States’ best weapon in the current conflict is that “our ideas are better than their ideas.”

However, incidents such as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses and long detentions at Guantanamo Bay have corrupted those ideas, he said.

“Most people in the world do not judge us by what we say,” he said. “They judge us by what we do, and what we do is pretty bad.”

Haas, the director of “The Situation,” said that his film has been screened with panel discussions before but that Carlisle’s was the first that “wasn’t geared toward a liberal bias.”

Haas said he hoped to enlighten audiences, including Carlisle’s mix of academics and military professionals.

“The film is quite even-handed, so I think we’ll get a more centrist response” in Carlisle, he said before the screening. “It’s not so much preaching to the converted that I’m interested in. I’m interested in educating an audience that’s dealing with a political situation.”

“The Situation” is not as much an anti-war film as a warning that policy decisions must factor in social and political complexities, Haas said. He said he is especially gratified by Republicans who have called the movie “illuminating.”

After the credits rolled, Cookie Redding of Shippensburg said she liked the movie because she appreciated “seeing both sides, which in the media, you don’t always see.”

The screening was sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues at Dickinson College.


“The Situation”: The movie will be screened in Philadelphia on Friday.