[8 June 2012]
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
“That’s me,” says Former Army Specialist Ethan McCord, “Running across the street carrying a child in my arms.” You’ll likely remember the image, an airstrike that was recorded on 12 July 2007, then released by Wikileaks in April 2010, grainy footage with crosshairs showing the deaths of civilians, including two Reuters journalists. McCord remembers finding two children alive inside a car, next to a man, he says, who must have been their father. When he saw the clip on TV In 2010, McCord narrates, “The cries of the child came back to me.”
McCord’s narration shapes Incident in New Baghdad, nominated for last year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Short and airing on the Documentary Channel on 8 June, as a visual corollary to McCord and Josh Steiber’s open letter of reconciliation and responsibility directed to the Iraqi people. For James Spione’s film, McCord reveals further context for the incident, meaning his own experience with PTSD, and in particular the official response to his first efforts to deal with it. “Get the sand out of your vagina,” he remembers being told. “If you go down to Mental Health, there’s gonna be repercussions, one of which is being called a ‘malingerer,’’ by which the military means a criminal, someone angling to get out of his or her contracted duty. McCord took the threat seriously, completed his tour, and came home to his two children. Now, the film shows, he’s looking after them and looking forward to their futures by speaking out against a broadly conceived military-industrial system that not only produces “collateral” deaths and puts young Americans at risk for wrong reasons (“There’s nothing patriotic about what I was doing over there. What I was doing was trying to survive and make it home”), but also doesn’t admit mistakes or attend to effects.