Warning. The following opinion piece contains strong adult language, disturbing images, and a campaign spoiler for Yager/2K Games' Spec Ops: The Line. The views and opinions here do not, in any way, reflect the views and opinions of BeautifulPeoplesClub.org. This article should not be viewed by young children, or by individuals that may find the following images used as offensive. As stated, this is simply one man's opinion. Differing viewpoints or counterarguments are, as always, welcomed. I do, however, ask that the discussion remain civil, polite, and respective of opposing opinions.***
When people use the term, "War is Hell," they're not that far off. Despite the rosy tint that various news media and outlets attempt to paint over war and the aftermath of war, you're not even seeing half of what really goes on beyond the scope of the camera. War is brutal, cold, shocking, sickening. War is dirty. War is bloody. War is death's little playground, and we're all invited to play.
War is also, oddly enough, a little honest. It brings to the surface of some people their true form. That dark and sinister.....thing
that, in the eyes of civilized nations, would be considered something abhorrent, something almost inhuman. War is almost like, if I had to put it in another term, something that releases a person of their inhibitions. Like some sickening drink. The more you drink it, the more you let go, the more you let go, the more you do things that you normally wouldn't do. That's what also makes War very addictive. Because it gives you a sense of power. Power over life and death, entire nations, the course and flow of the world around you. Being "drunk on power," as it were.
At eighteen years old, a few months shy of my nineteenth, I saw my first dead body. Shit, I can say, without trying to come off as being a braggart of any kind, that I've seen things that would break most men. Things that would make someone want to put a bullet through their fucking skulls. When I arrived in Saudi Arabia, the oil fields had been out for a few months. But you could smell it, that pungent oily, heavy, acrid stench of smoke. And that almost sweet, sickly sweet, smell of dead bodies. But it's not the soldiers and the insurgents that you'd think you'd find. No.
On the border between Kuwait and Iraq, in that disputed grey area between nations, you found civilian life. Children. Mothers. Fathers. Infants. Bodies that had been baking for months in the sun. Kids in their mother's arms, or ripped from them, bayonet marks through their small bodies, or even the all too telling boot heel that have literally crushed in their heads. Stomped it into the muck. Some of them burnt to skeletons and ash. Even still were the people strewn across the street, executed en mass. They were staring off into the sky, never to see it again. Dead, pale faces. The young. The old. Civilians all.
And all of them unarmed.
And we're not talking about an indiscriminate killing here and there. We're talking about an entire village of people. Dead. Everything that could live there. Dead. People. Animals. Dead. Homes looted, burned down. Genocide reduced to one tenth the scale. But still genocide. When you kill like that, it's not noble. Or right. It's hate. It's murder.
I am....I will always....be haunted by these brutalities. By these crimes. Because that's what they are. War crimes. Men drunk on power and this hubristic sense of immortality. All based on something as simple as that unseen border, or a different religious belief or, God help us, the skin they're born with being just a little darker than their own. Shit, it can even be as something as them having a different flag flying over their heads. But it's the representation that comes with that flag, I suppose that makes it legitimate to some, to some nations specifically, for attacking another species of man with the sole purpose of extinguishing their very existence and way of life forever.
Wounds. Scars. Try as I might, and as some people will also do, they'll never fully heal. I don't think they ever will. Because it marks you in ways for the rest of your life that.....It's indescribable in words. These things, these experiences. You can't just talk about them. Simply talking about it doesn't do it enough justice. It can't. The only way you're ever going to know what a soldier is or has gone through in war is by being one. That's the only way you can understand just how horrible war can be. Hell, simply writing about this right now is bringing up some brutal shit in my head. Stuff I haven't really thought about in years.
That's not to say I've forgotten about it all. Far from it. But if I fucking sat there every damn day and dwelt on all the just.....monsterous shit I've experienced and seen, well, it'd be unhealthy. It'd fuck you up mentally, if you let it. You'd sit there in a fugue, just reliving it all, like some people have, before you do something brutal in return because you can't take it anymore. Like drive up to a Wal-Mart and open fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Or, in some instances, take your own life. So I don't dwell on it. But I also don't forget. To simply forget is to allow these past atrocities to be repeated. I've said it before and I still mean it. Not just as a soldier, not just as a person. But as a human being:
"No man comes away from a war without scars. Physical, mental, spiritual. We all suffer them. Some hide them better than others. But they're there. They always will be. But it's what we do with this...with these scars.....that is what makes us survivors. That is what makes us vigilant. That is what makes us soldiers."
It goes against our nature to actively want to kill another human being. Because, for the most part we are social animals. And this idea of a mass murderer, well, you have to already be a little broken on the inside to actively want to kill.
That's why our government.....that's why they have to train you to kill. To prepare you for it. To...in a way, justify it mentally for you. I'm not trying to say that inherently our government and our armed forces are evil. They teach you this shit so you can survive. To be ready when you have to make that decision. But they're not exactly pure either. Especially when we have less than honest fucking people pointing their finger and saying, "Kill this thing."
There's an old saying about war and killing. "War is simply a trick on the young to fool them into fighting for old, bitter men." It's easy, sometimes, to think that, when our world's evils make those easy black and white choices, War becomes a simple thing. Some tyrant invades, we fight them back. Some dictator threatens the world, we take them out. Black. White. Clean.
But our world isn't so black and white. And war isn't so simple. Something that asks, as payment for living through it, for you to kill another human being. That's never a simple thing to live with. Or to do.
That's why I think things like this, they can't be shied away from. Or ignored. They can't be put in textbooks only. I think you'd have to experience it in some other form. Photographs, documentaries, experiences told by the very people who lived through it. So when we're told by others that we can't because it's too traumatic, it's too brutal to "trivialize" in a video game. First off let me just say that, although you have the right to say it, and I will die defending your right to say it, you have no damn right to make that decision for me. In fact, you're doing more harm that good by doing so. I'll get into more on that later, but for now, let's put the spotlight on the reason why I'm writing this article in the first place, that being Six Days in Fallujah.
The game is a recounting of events during a span of six days with the United States 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines during the Second Battle of Fallujah on November of 2004. In a GamePro interview with Atomic Games president, Peter Tamte, stated that "One of the divisions in our company was developing training tools for the United States Marine Corps and they assigned some U.S. Marines from 4rd Battalion, 1st Marines to help us out. When they came back from Fallujah, they asked us to create a videogame about their experiences there, and it seemed like the right thing to do."
The Second Battle of Fallujah is remembered for being one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq War. Coalition Forces consisting of U.S., Iraqi, and British forces suffered a total of 107 killed and 613 wounded during the offensive, of which 95 were U.S. casualties with 560 wounded. Insurgent forces were estimated at anywhere between 1,200 to 2,000 killed. An estimated 800 civilians were said to have also been killed during the fighting.
It's also remembered for its use of White Phosphorous as a weaponized device. Now, White Phosphorous (or WP or even "Willie Pete" as it's nicknamed), is normally used as a very effective smoke screening device and/or in illuminated tracer rounds. Fireflies we used to call them. Every third bullet fired from an M16 military rifle will usually be tracer rounds. This gives a soldier a visual aide on the battlefield as to where their shot clusters are going, particularly at night.
White Phosphorous is also a very dangerous
incendiary. From the time of ignition to the time that the WP element is spent, it will maintain its constant temperature of 5,000 Degrees Fahrenheit. That means, should you have the misfortune of being struck by a white Phosphorous "droplet", you have something that will continuously burn into you at 5,000 degrees from contact to finish. Imagine trying to live through that kind of pain, that....just sheer destructive force, if it landed on your arm, your back, or, God help you, your chest or face for even ten seconds.
These "droplets" burn anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. Each.
To give you and idea of the devastating effects of WP on the body, the following images are deaths/injuries attributed to White Phosphorus attacks.Warning: These are extremely graphic in nature and should NOT to be viewed by children or the easily upset.Again, viewer discretion is highly advised
You'd have to ask yourself, what kind of monster would do that to another person. As much as I want to believe that this kind of evil is only possible under the order of some fascist dictator, by the very evil we were sent to destroy, it wasn't.
It was us.
Initially, the U.S. Department of Defense denied using WP as a munition, stating that they had only been used as a screening and illumination device. However, in a report from the North County Times (California), reporter Darrin Mortensen, who had been imbedded with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Regiment, Mortensen described in detail how WP rounds were being used.
"....a mortar team leader who directed his men to fire round after round of high explosives and white phosphorus charges into the city Friday and Saturday... The boom kicked dust around the pit as they ran through the drill again and again, sending a mixture of burning white phosphorus and high explosives they call "shake 'n' bake" into a cluster of buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week...."
On November 15, 2005, Dept. of Defense spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Venable confirmed to the BBC Network that white phosphorus had indeed been used as an incendiary antipersonnel weapon in Fallujah.
"Yes, it was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants. When you have enemy forces that are in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on and you wish to get them out of those positions, one technique is to fire a white phosphorus round into the position because the combined effects of the fire and smoke - and in some case the terror brought about by the explosion on the ground - will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives."
As a soldier, as someone who never questioned at the time the orders given to him, I am at a loss for justification beyond the perfunctory "Yes, Sir." I cannot imagine any other response to it. When your commanders give you an order, you carry them out. You have to.
But as a man, as a human being, it is deplorable. It is a war crime. It is the very thing we, as soldiers, are sworn to prevent. And in the mind of a soldier, buried deep in that place we keep hidden from everyone, sometimes even from our own selves, I often wonder if any of them have even a single thought, an almost traitorous impulse, to say outright that this was wrong. Maybe. I'd like to think some did.
But as a soldier, you really can't say anything. Not when you're told to aim. And not when you do. Not when you're told to fire. And again, not when you do. You can only say two words. Two very polite words for the potential death you're about to deliver:
Which is why I wanted to know what this game might have delivered on that front. Would it have justified events that the world deems deplorable? Would it have looked at it, unflinching, unblinking, and allowed me to decide? More importantly, would it have given me a way to say two words that, as a soldier, you can never really say:
We'll never know. I don't think we ever will
know. Because the game is in limbo. Shortly after the game's announcement, Six Days in Fallujah garnered the ire of British war veterans from the United Kingdom, as well as from a British peace group known as "Stop the War Coalition."
Reg Keys, father of slain RMP Lance Corporal Thomas Keys:
"Considering the enormous loss of life in the Iraq War, glorifying it in a video game demonstrates very poor judgement and bad taste. These horrific events should be confined to the annals of history, not trivialized and rendered for thrill-seekers to play out... It's entirely possible that Muslim families will buy the game, and for them it may prove particularly harrowing. Even worse, it could end up in the hands of a fanatical young Muslim and incite him to consider some form of retaliation or retribution."
Tim Collins, former Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment:
"It's much too soon to start making video games about a war that's still going on, and an extremely flippant response to one of the most important events in modern history. It's particularly insensitive given what happened in Fallujah, and I will certainly oppose the release of this game."
Konami, who would have been the game's publisher, later backed out of their commitment.
While I applaud and understand their viewpoints, I think it's wrong. I think that, by not allowing the world to bear witness to these events, that by never allowing people like you or me from deciding, or to try and justify certain events for themselves that it was wrong or right, you are doing more harm than good.
Because the world will never know what the common soldier went through. What they thought. What they experienced. You've only hidden all of that away. And hiding something this dark, something this repulsive in the eyes of the world, only ensures that it is eventually forgotten. And we all know what happens when we forget."Those that learn nothing from their past are doomed to repeat its mistakes."
By never allowing people to make the distinction, by never allowing them to decide if Six Days' storyline was in poor tastes or not, you're effectively silencing the truth. You're confining the roar to a whisper by bottling it away and forgetting it even existed. And I think that it is, in so many ways, a travesty. Because, unless something is seriously done to allow these brave men to speak, to roar, their stories will soon be forgotten.
August 6, 2009. An article from Industrygamers:
Atomic Games said that they were unable to obtain a new publisher and would let go of some staff....
"Out of 75 people, less than a dozen are left and about a third of that isn't even developers. The remaining team is basically a skeleton cleanup crew that will be gone soon too. They are trying to downplay the extent of these layoffs, but the reality is that Atomic is pretty much dead."
So, as much as I want to see this story told, we may never. I think that the closest thing we'll ever get to seeing something similar, is an event that transpired in Yager/2K Games' Spec Ops: The Line.
Your team, when arriving at a heavily fortified (and heavily defended) position in the storyline, decide to use White Phosphorous mortar rounds to take out the alleged resistance/insurgent fighters. Normally, most games would vacuum up the aftermath of those kind of decisions. Kill a room full of enemies, they disappear the moment you reload. Bomb an area to hell and back, you move on to the next chapter without facing the consequences of your actions. Everything's sterile, clean. You never see the scorched, fire-blasted landscape, the mutilated corpses piled one atop the other.
The thirty or so civilians you just burned alive.
Would Six Days have even acknowledged the tragedies that came with the events it portrays? Maybe, maybe not. Again, we may never know. Which is why I think it's vital that the game sees the light of day, and not suffer the fate that old soldiers do.
We don't die, we just fade away.
I think, given the history associated with it, Six Days is just too damn important to do that. Even if it doesn't touch the controversy, even if it only tells the story of these Marines, the unsung but exceptional, never being allowed to hear and experience and see their stories would be its own atrocity. An insult to every man and woman who have put their very lives on the line to allow these very same people the right, the privilege, to protest.
Ultimately, I don't know what can be done, beyond the hope that Atomic Games takes Six Days to Kickstarter. I think that would be its saving grace. Let the people who want to hear its story decide. Let the world make its own choices. And in the end, even if that fails, then at least we'll know it tried.
But I think it will succeed. If we allow it. Or rather, if it's allowed to let us allow it. That's why I think we need to stop for a moment and decide a plan of attack. We need to get behind this game. We need to do something. And we need to do something very soon.
Do not let this game fade away. Do not let these soldiers' voices be silenced. Do not let this event slip through our grasp. That's why I implore everyone here, everyone reading this;
Help us to help them. Throw every last bit of energy and creative thought behind Six Days. Send e-mails, implore Atomic Games, the gaming community at large, to save this game. Beg them, if you must, to allow this story to be told. Do not let it go gently into the night. Do not let it fade to black.
Do not forget it existed. Because I can't. I won't forget that this game exists. You may not share my concerns or my beliefs that the game should be given a chance. You may think that the game is exactly what the protesting masses believe and that Six Days should not trample on the delicate nature of the events that transpired during its history.
But do not take the ability to have it made taken away from others. Do not take the ability to have it experienced
by the people taken away from them
. You have the right to voice your opinions, you have the right to protest its very existence.
But you do not have the right to cover someone else's eyes and never allow them to see it. You do not have the right to silence its voice. You do not have that right.
You just don't.