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The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends

Ground Truth is a patriotic but distinctly anti-war documentary from the mouths of the military themselves. Is Iraq the new Vietnam? Discuss amongst yourselves.


As a thought-provoking and shocking look at the recruiting efforts for the war on Iraq, The Ground Truth is a gripping piece of educational propaganda told from the the military"s perspective. Is Iraq becoming as unpopular as the war in Vietnam, where Americans spit on and name-called the soldiers who fought overseas? Director Patricia Foulkrod makes a strong case about what's happening in Iraq being just as bad, if not worse, than that dark era of American history. The story follows teenagers going into the military, explains the recruiting process and shows in amazing detail how the young minds are turned into automaton killing machines. The premise is that the Iraq invasion is creating more volatile wreckage than any war in our history--a wreckage of trust, spirit and human carnage--and no doubt, The Ground Truth will provoke discussions.


These are all real people, and even though they know they're getting their moment in the spotlight, things sometimes come across as just a tad over dramatic. Yet, there's no doubt it's all very honest. The new recruits are shown being sucked into the military machine and then churned into killers who can take a human life even when they're not in a state of rage. The recruits talk about how their spirit is broken down, and the camera follows a few of the soldiers back home after their experiences, showing how they deal with home life again. Their post-traumatic stress isn't always treated, and soldiers wonder aloud: ''My wife thinks I'm a hero, but how can I tell her about the dead child I saw over there?'' The soldiers worry about being perceived as monsters. In one case, a soldier--disfigured after a bomb blows up in his face--is out campaigning for awareness, noting that those who are labeled as injured may come back without hands, or have crippling effects which last their entire lives. Then, there are the super-tragic, tear-inducing stories such as the young man who comes back and kills himself because he can't deal with his experiences. It's tough to watch some of this revealing and emotionally-charged footage of soldiers coming home. It makes Michael Moore's insights look like a Disney cartoon in comparison.


Foulkrod dances a delicate line between being overly maudlin and dramatic, and appearing too hard-hitting with her serious message. This is a patriotic vision of the military, and it honors the veterans who serve, but Ground Truth can easily be termed anti-American, especially when revealing personal emails and photos the soldiers have collected from Iraqi civilians, after they"ve been blown to bits. There's really only one side to this story as it's shown, and the filmmaker doesn't even try to get a military ''no comment'' about some of the brainwashing charges and the unscrupulous recruiting tactics. What could they possibly say, anyway? The documentary also has a distant feel to it, with upbeat music playing while some horrible things are happening on the screen, which shows how the world, particularly Americans, have distance themselves from the war. Already a winner at film festivals, it will be fascinating to see if the Academy has the guts to nominate something like this for best documentary feature, which it so richly deserves.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.