The truth about Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

In our present degraded culture in which “conservatives” loyally cheer every left-wing cultural manifestation that comes along, so long as it has some element that could be called “conservative” or “patriotic,” a blindness that leftists understand very well and readily exploit, Spencer Warren is a rare cultural critic who has a steady grasp of conservative principle, a devotion to real standards, patriotism to a real country and not merely to an idea, a built-in phoniness detector, and a functioning historical memory; and who therefore is not fooled.

In October, FrontPage Magazine ran an adulatory article by David Forsmark on Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima movie, Flags of our Fathers. Forsmark described the picture as “faithfully based on the great book by James Bradley…” Mr. Warren, who had read the book as well as seen the film, found the opposite to be the case. In a devastating article published in December at the website of the American Conservative Union Foundation, he showed how, contrary to Forsmark’s portrayal, the Eastwood movie removes the heroic and sacrificial guts from the book, depersonalizes or eliminates the central figures, and transforms a brief section of the book about a government bond tour (occupying 23 pages out of 534) into fully half the movie, giving extra emphasis to cynical politicians and various hangers-on. Far from being an affirmation of patriotism, as Forsmark and many naïve and easily gulled conservatives imagine, the Eastwood film subverts it. (Also, the New York Times and the Washington Post had praised the movie as patriotic, which should have been a dead giveaway to Forsmark that something was amiss.) Thus, as Mr. Warren shows, the movie is a “conservative liberal” snow job in the manner of Saving Private Ryan, skillfully winning the eager plaudits of conservatives by showing something positive about America in World War II, while in fact deconstructing America and the war and the true devotion and sacrifice of our soldiers, and in the process fooling conservatives into calling anti-Americanism patriotism.

Now the companion movie to Flags of our Fathers has arrived which looks at the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view, and Mr. Warren comments on it:

I saw Letters from Iwo Jima last night. Perhaps the most morally obtuse, despicable film I’ve ever seen (competing with Easy Rider and a few others of the late sixties, early seventies, when the counter-culture virus was taking hold). It is the nadir of moral equivalence. Its theme: the Japanese who staged the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, who fought with fanatical savagery, and who murdered millions of Asian civilians and tens of thousands of Allied POWs, were no worse, and no better, than us. (The film ignores events outside of the immediate personal experience of its two Japanese protagonist-”heroes.”)

Even on its own terms the film is mediocre, with such a trite script. Eastwood himself is a mediocrity and I have to stay a stupid man. This film is less critical of Japan than his Flags of Our Fathers is of the US. (The latter film fabricates a defamatory scene about President Roosevelt and trashes Pentagon officials; Hirohito, Tojo and company are absent from Letters from Iwo Jima.)

For such a film to be showered with best pictures awards and Oscar nominations, and with widespread acclaim by the New York Times and all the rest in the mainstream media, demonstrates as clearly as anything that we are in a cultural civil war. I do not consider those who have embraced this mediocre, anti-American movie citizens of the same country.

This film desecrates the memory of every American who fought in the Pacific theater during the Second World War, in particular the many thousands, like Private Ralph Ignatowski, who on Iwo Jima suffered unspeakable torture at the hands of an enemy that Eastwood now claims was “just like us.”

Finally, in a world with standards, a no-talent, empty suit like Eastwood would never have risen beyond his second banana role in the TV Western Rawhide. But in our world he sits atop the once noble movie profession.

A full review of Letters from Iwo Jima by Mr. Warren will be published soon.

- end of initial entry -

Gintas writes:

From the little I know of film, I believe it was Eastwood who popularized the anti-hero with the Man with No Name character in those wretched sphaghetti Westerns, which—unsurprisingly—came out in the 60s. He is someone who should have gotten a Ph.D. in psychiatry, so he could study himself at length instead of churning out dreck.

Eastwood’s trick is to up-end our conception of our heroes. He did it with the Westerns, he did it for police with his “Dirty Harry” movies, and here he turns his attention to American WWII heroes by gutting them and turning them into victims, and shows us some Japanese WWII heroes, nicely whitewashed and pressed for American consumption.

LA replies:

I disagree, at least about the films Gintas mentions. The Good, The Bad, the Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone, had a moral structure (if a bit on the existentialist side). Dirty Harry, directed by Don Siegel, had a moral structure; it was a conservative and strongly anti-liberal movie. Eastwood acted in these movies, he did not write, direct, or produce them.

It was his own directorial efforts that went in a viciously liberal and nihilist direction, and that have made him a liberal icon.

David H. writes:

When I first read about a new Iwo Jima film, I was momentarily overjoyed, but the reality of Hollywood quickly extinguished any hope that I had for a realistic, honest depiction of one of the most fierce (and important) battles in American history. If one feels any enthusiasm for a modern Hollywood treatment of history, one is about to suffer terrible disappointment and insult—unless one is a leftist cretin to begin with.

Since Eastwood (et al) apparently feels the need not only to insult American veterans of that cataclysmic war, but to show a “kinder, gentler” side of the Japanese, perhaps his next project could be a sentimental, sympathetic look at the life of a Unit 731 “doctor” at Pingfan. After all, the Japanese who we fought were just like us, right? Family men and so forth? Or perhaps a Letters from Nanking?

To add further insult to injury, there are literally hundreds (if not more!) of compelling, incredible stories from World War Two—some on Iwo, many in other theatres; true stories that would inspire great films and attract huge audiences. But then that’s not the point of the Hollywood propaganda machine; making money matters far less than the death of America.

Robert R. writes:

I’m glad to read your comments about movies that are basically Liberal, being praised by Conservatives. When I first saw “Patton” starring George C. Scott back in, what?, 1972 or so. I was shocked to see it was basically an anti-war movie which also painted Patton as a complete nut. Imagine my surprise when a few years later I realized it had become a much-praised movie among Conservatives.

LA replies:

Gosh, I only saw “Patton” for the first time a few years ago and I don’t remember the things about it that you point out. Could you pinpoint how it was anti-war?

David B. writes:

By coincidence, about a half hour before I read your thread on “Letters From Iwo Jima,” my brother called me, asking if I had seen it and would recommend it. He had apparently seen the gushing TV previews. I told him that although I hadn’t seen it, I had seen reviews and would NOT advise him to see it. I told my brother that it doesn’t give an accurate picture of the Japanese, while “Flags of Our Fathers” failed to give the US Marines their due. By the way, two of my uncles took part in the battle for Iwo Jima.

LA replies:

Any person with even mildly conservative convictions who believes gushing mainstream movie reviews nowadays is dangerously naive. The movie review industry routine praises to the skies left-wing and nihilistic movies while also remaining silent about their objectionable contents. The purpose is to draw people in unawares and propagandize them. One recent example that I think I’ve told about is “The History Boys.” After seeing the movie, I checked out several reviews to see if they gave any hint of the sheer prominence of homosexuality in this film (all of which is presented approvingly), including the extremely raw culminating scene in which a student seduces a teacher into an assignation. Most reviews gave no idea that the movie was like this. They made it sound as though it was just about the academic life.

There has never been the culture that is evil in the specific way that our modern liberal society is evil. It is a culture run by and for the benefit of traitors and perverts, whom the culture presents as mainstream.

Paul Henri writes:

Eastwood has produced an artistic atrocity. He equates the Japanese with moral human beings. The Japanese followed an evil code: non-Japanese were subhuman. My Daddy does not engage in these discussions because he is of the precomputer era. So I must inform that he earned a Purple Heart at Iwo Jima and has told me of the unspeakable Japanese atrocities on Iwo Jima and elsewhere that he and his fellow Marines endured. As a forward ship-to-shore fire controller, he was at high risk. He, as so many WWII veterans, is so humble that I had to write his application for a hearing disability, which was granted by the VA.

Any sympathy towards the Japanese is misplaced because they were as evil as the German SS. The rape of Nanking and the Death March are mere examples. Assuming Eastwood wants to explore the qualities of the Japanese in the 1930-1940’s, he provides merely the sensitive side of the Japanese. This is like showing how loving SS fathers were to their wives and children. This is so revolting that we must expend effort to rebel against this liberalism.

Gintas writes:

You said, “There has never been the culture that is evil in the specific way that our modern liberal society is evil. It is a culture run by and for the benefit of traitors and perverts, whom the culture presents as mainstream.”

We are living in occupied territory.

Alan Levine writes:

I did not see either Eastwood movie nor did I read the book. However, I did look at James Bradley’s other book, “Flyboys,” and was not impressed. It is by no means free of the problems Spencer Warren and others allude to. For one thing, Bradley several times makes guilt-ridden allusions to the Mexican War and has the people of 1944-1945 brooding about this (!) He also seemed to be entirely unaware that “flyboy,” which sounds frivolous enough by itself, was a derogatory term used by the ground forces and the surface Navy for aviators——-not a term of respect.

As for Patton, I thought the movie did portray him as something of a nut, but the real problem with the movie was that it just did not give any clue as to why the man was a great general.

By the way, though it may anger some people, it happens to be true—Patton was nuts! This was widely believed at the time, not only by some of the public after the slapping incidents, but by Patton’s colleagues, including Omar Bradley and Ike himself. Fortunately Ike was smart enough to tolerate Patton’s instability because he recognized his friend WAS a great general and was still functional. I suggest anybody interested in Patton read Carlo D’Este’s wonderful biography

Robert R. writes:

[The movie shows] Patton as a total whack-job and a buffoon. The much-lauded opening speech by Patton is clearly trying to show him in a negative light, but the subtlety of the message seems to have been wasted on many conservatives. But it’s been too long for me to remember any details. I remember the opening scene in which animals are shown picking at the bodies of American soldiers and the overall cheesy war scenes. In trying to refresh my memory I found a site that claims that it was indeed meant to carry an anti-war message.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 01, 2007 01:15 PM | Send

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