Friday, November 29, 2013
"A Second Knock on the Door: A Documentary of Friendly Fire": the military stalls on admitting its mistakes during the fog of war
“A Second Knock at the Door: A Documentary of Friendly Fire” (2012), a documentary by Christopher Grimes, takes a close look at the deaths of three soldiers in Iraq though interviews with family members, and also gives a thorough history of the problem.
The film opens with the story of Jesse Ryan Buryj, from Canton Ohio, a military policemen first said to be killed in a Humvee “accident”; only later did the Army admit he had died of a gunshot wound accidentally inflicted by friendly Polish forces. The Army feared offended an ally in George W. Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”. The film moves on to give the history of native American Lee Todacheene (from New Mexico) and finally Pvt. Dave Sharrett (Va), who died in a desert winter after his commanding lieutenant was apparently lackadaisical in getting him rescued. Tom Jackman has a detailed account of the Sharrett case and some additional video at the Washington Post site here.
The film traces the history of the way families were notified of the deaths of men (and women) in battle, back to WWI. Until WWII, cases of friendly fire were often discovered only when other members of a soldier’s unit handwrote letters to the families.
The film gives a chilling account of a friendly fire incident in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, where the brass was nonchalant. Only about 12 of the 31 cases during that war have been fully investigated, and the government held up notifying next-of-kin about friendly fire until the same time.
The film also shows a lot of chilling footage from the Sharrett incident, which would rival that of Bradley Manning’s leak of an incident in the 40 minute film known as “Collateral Murder” (My “cf” blog, April 7. 2010).
The official site (Cinema Libre) is here.
The documentary mentions the 1979 television film for ABC, “Friendly Fire”, with Carol Burnett (directed by David Greene), which I believe I saw while living in Dallas.
It’s worthy here to mention the 1992 Imax film “Fires of Kuwait”, directed by David Douglas, about Saddam Hussein’s torching the oil fields in Kuwait as he retreated after losing the war.