Tags: 'Winter | Soldier' | Vietnam | Distortion | Rides | Again

'Winter Soldier' Vietnam Distortion Rides Again

Tuesday, 09 August 2005 12:00 AM

And that fact has some Vietnam Veterans, who believe the film was thoroughly discredited, hopping mad.

The film's renaissance is scheduled for Friday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center – followed by other public screenings in Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Minneapolis and other venues.

The film's distributors claim that the war in Iraq has made the Vietnam-era film as relevant as when it was a campy favorite on the nation's college campuses.

But B.G. Burkett, Vietnam veteran and author of "Stolen Honor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History," tells NewsMax, "It's amazing how a paper like the New York Times would publish such a story without vetting or commenting on the claims [of atrocities] in the film.

"It's pretty much settled now that much of the so-called atrocities [were] the product of outright fabrications and some even offered by persons with criminal records.

"Some of this stuff is ludicrous on its face," adds Burkett, "but it's being offered as gospel."

Burkett singles out Scott Camil, a former Marine scout and forward artillery observer, who in the film confides, "If I had to go into a village and kill 150 people just to make sure there was no one there to kill me when we walked out, that's what I did."

Burkett recalls to NewsMax a gathering at Texas Tech University where the whole phenomenon of Vietnam Vets Against the War was being addressed. When Camil made a comment directed at Burkett, the author recalls firing back, "Aren't you the same Camil that wanted to assassinate eight U.S. senators?"

Indeed, the VVAW reportedly voted on the draconian assassination measure to off the hawkish lawmakers – a vote, Burkett says, in which Kerry participated.

"Kerry voted against the assassination," recalls Burkett. "I guess he was already thinking ahead to the time those guys would be his colleagues."

Made at a three-day gathering in 1971 of Vietnam veterans telling of alleged atrocities they had reportedly seen and committed, "Winter Soldier" was later shown at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals, on screens in France and England, and on German television.

"The context is why we wanted to do it," said Amy Heller, co-owner with her husband, Dennis Doros, of Milestone Films. "We have a 9-year-old son," Heller added, "but if he were 19 and wondering what he should do with the next stage of his life, I sure would want him to see this film before considering going into the military."

One of the apparent pretexts for releasing "Winter Soldier" now is that the U.S. is involved in an unpopular war in Iraq.

The distributor notes that with the Abu Ghraib coverage in Iraq, the old film manifests an eerie prescience.

Case in point, the backers claim: a sequence in "Winter Soldiers" where a former Army interrogator describes using "clubs, rifle butts, pistols, knives" to extract information – "always monitored" by superiors or military police – and backdropped by the admonition "Don't get caught."

Doros, who wants to broaden the potential modern audience even further, noted that he hoped the film would be shown on cable television.

"They [potential military recruits] should see that war isn't always what they imagine from movies and books and modern media," Doros said. "That the atrocities, the gore, the daily horror of bombs bursting out and bullets riddling your friends' bodies next to you, have been glossed over."

The Doros couple finds a segment with Rusty Sachs, a former Marine helicopter pilot, particularly instructive about how brutality in war inevitable evolves. Reportedly, Sachs describes contests to see "how far they could throw the bound bodies out of the airplane."

Critics then and now, however, chide the grainy documentary as including nothing to elucidate what it shows. There is no narration per se. Witnesses are left to tell their stories to the camera's eye.

No fewer than 18 unknowns working with borrowed equipment and donated stock shot more than 100 hours over that three-day weekend in 1971. The team then spent six months editing.

"We did a screening at NBC," recalls Fred Aronow, one of the original filmmakers. "We got the reply back that this was incredibly interesting material that the American public should see, and it's unfortunate that NBC cannot broadcast it. They did not give a reason."

The modern backers hope all that will change – if the new release builds any momentum, not to mention an interested audience.

Most recently the producers of "Stolen Honor," an attack on candidate John Kerry that was shown on Sinclair Broadcasting stations last fall, used outtakes from "Winter Soldier," but the film was never shown in its entirety.

Burkett shared with NewsMax his thoughts about the International Court at The Hague, a forum which deals with war crimes – offenses that know no statute of limitations.

His fantasy is that The Hague would someday charge those who claimed atrocities during the Vietnam conflict. "I'd like to hear their defense," he says.

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And that fact has some Vietnam Veterans, who believe the film was thoroughly discredited, hopping mad. The film's renaissance is scheduled for Friday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center - followed by other public screenings in Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Minneapolis...
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Tuesday, 09 August 2005 12:00 AM
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