When I have exhausted the offerings of my television and can pat my belly no longer in idle contentment, I indulge a rare reflection upon world affairs. In recent weeks I have thought about Haiti seven times. The last time was when American missionaries got into trouble for kidnapping Haitian children. At that point, confident that the right people were concerned with the situation, I felt justified in turning my attention to other matters, such as whether we should pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
So, should we pull out? Because it is rather expensive, you know, waging these wars. How expensive? Take the G.I. Joe film, Rise of Cobra. The movie cost $175 million to make, which, most would agree, is a tidy sum. Upward of 3,820 bad guys are killed during the first 30 minutes of that film—all gratifying deaths. By the end of the movie, it is impossible to reflect back on the body count without feeling a gorgeous incapacity to keep track of it. The fallen are innumerable, and one is left only with the warmth and comfort that attends boundless carnage. Indeed, more terrorists are devastated in a single viewing of the Rise of Cobra than have been killed in all of the Global Wars on Terror combined.
The fallen are innumerable, and one is left only with the warmth and comfort that attends boundless carnage.
I was curious to know how many sequels to Rise of Cobra could be filmed if we used the Pentagon’s total budget for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars ($961 billion and rising: costofwar.com). I did the math. How many, you wonder? Not two. Not three. Not even eight feature-length blockbuster giants, as you may have guessed, but 5,491 sequels!
So maybe it is time to turn this job over to the war professionals of Hollywood.
Here’s the question: If all the forces of our entire military can’t kill more terrorists in seven years of deliberate fighting than this single film manages to do in less than 120 minutes—with a measly $175 million price tag—isn’t this a problem? Even if the U.S. military somehow managed to wipe out the entire populations of Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of the fiscal year, our cost-kill ratio would still be laughable. So maybe it is time to turn this job over to the war professionals of Hollywood.
We must depart Afghanistan and Iraq, and we must do it before we are all of us paupers. I received a mass e-mail today from someone I met while waiting at an air base in Saudi Arabia five years ago. I was headed for Iraq, and he was headed for Afghanistan. I would have preferred Afghanistan myself, but I didn’t have the miles—it was considered an upgrade. Now I think it is the other way around.
Look at this picture he sent me from his latest R&R trip to Australia. Apparently he needed to vacation in Australia due to the stress of accomplishing so little in Afghanistan, where he has earned half a million dollars over the last five years as a mere captain. I have done the calculations, and at the rate that the treasury is paying him to accomplish so little in Afghanistan—and to vacation in Australia with koalas and Aborigines—he will be able to produce, film, and star in his very own G.I. Joe sequel in roughly 34 years. This must be prevented at all costs. Unless, of course, by preventing the sequel, we risk tarnishing our national pride, in which case we should just keep shooting and shooting and shooting.
Alex Escué Limkin served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.