Even though Robin Williams’ now-famous morning greeting doesn’t make people think of the real Adrian Cronauer, it does a pretty good job of representing who Cronauer was at heart. The former airman died at his Virginia home on July 18, 2018, after a long battle with illness.
While Cronauer’s trademark, “Gooooooooood Morning, Vietnam” is really how the airman opened his show on the Armed Forces Vietnam Network during his time in Southeast Asia, he always insisted Williams’ performance in the movie was more Robin Williams than Adrian Cronauer. The film is just loosely based on Cronauer’s account of his deployment, with a few striking similarities.
“If I did half the things he did in that movie, I’d still be in Leavenworth and not England,” Cronauer told Stars and Stripes during a stop at RAF Mildenhall in 2004.
The 1987 film,Good Morning, Vietnam, came to America at a time when Americans were still struggling with the Vietnam War. It was a rare departure from the typically grim tales of loss, excess, and suspected POW sightings.
Adrian Cronauer would end up working in radio and television broadcasting for more than 20 years. After spending many years as a lawyer, Cronauer became special assistant to the director of the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in the Pentagon, the office dedicated to finding the missing from America’s foreign wars.
Chinese combat drones are reportedly headed to Europe for the first time, highlighting China’s growing presence in an important part of the international arms market as countries around the world look more closely at unmanned systems for warfighting.
Serbia is expected to take delivery of nine Chengdu Pterodactyl-1 (Wing Loong) drones within the next six months, and there may be a follow-up order of 15 more, Stars and Stripes reported Sep. 10, 2019, citing local media reports and officials.
The outlet said that this move “marks Beijing’s most significant foray into a continent where armed forces have traditionally relied on US and European weapon-makers.”
Serbia expressed interest in acquiring Chinese drones for its military last year, Defense News reported last September. Serbia has said that it intends to purchase weapons and military equipment from multiple suppliers, to include China.
Chinese multi-role UAV Wing Loong.
“This (sale) will greatly strengthen the Serbian military, which will gain capabilities it has not had in the past,” Serbian Defense Minister Aleksander Vulin said in an interview with state media Sep. 10, 2019, Stars and Stripes reported. A military analyst in Belgrade explained that “the Chinese have very good pilot-less aircraft, probably second only to the United States,” adding that “they obviously copied some American systems (but) Chinese drones are very effective and very cheap.”
The Wing Loong combat drones look a lot like the US military’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. They have been sold to several countries across the Middle East, as well as parts of Central and South Asia, and have even seen combat.
Sam Brannen, an expert with the Risk and Foresight Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense One last year that the Chinese have essentially “given the world a ‘Huawei option’ when it comes to next-gen drones.”
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.
(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)
“It’s a far cry from what the US or Europeans would offer, but it’s going to be on the market for sale,” he added.
And, many countries, especially those which have faced challenges acquiring this technology from the US due to tough export restrictions, are buying Chinese drones. China has sold a number of drones across the Middle East, to include not just the Wing Loong, but also other models like the Caihong (Rainbow) series which the producer calls “the most popular military drones in the world.”
By exporting unmanned systems, even if the Chinese drones offer only technological similarity rather than parity to US systems, China moves up the ladder in the international arms market, potentially opening the door to new transactions on other systems, defense deals, and possibly even greater global influence.
China, according to Chinese state media reports, has already signaled a keen interest in exporting some of the stealth drones it is developing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Multiple experts recently told Business Insider that Russia’s program to acquire and field the Su-57 desperately needs an infusion of cash from an international investor, like India.
Initially, India was a partner in the Su-57 program, and intended to help develop, build, and, eventually, buy scores of the advanced fighter jet pitched as a rival to the US F-22 and F-35, but those talks soured and Russia never saw the money.
Experts now allege that Russia’s deployment of the underdeveloped, underpowered fighters to Syria, a combat zone where they’re hardly relevant as air-superiority fighters not facing any real air threats, was a marketing ploy to get more investment.
But while Russia rushes off the Su-57s for a deployment that lasts mere days and demonstrates only that the supposedly next-generation fighters can drop bombs, the US has made real inroads selling the F-35 to countries that might have looked at the Su-57.
The US sent F-35s to the Singapore Air Show in February 2018 as part of an international sales pitch. President Donald Trump’s administration has loosened up regulations on who the US can sell weapons to, and the F-35, once a troubled program, finally seems to have hit its stride.
“The Russian economy is a mess,” retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now head of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider. “One of the things they can actually get money for is the advanced tech in their weapons systems.”
But with the Su-57 seeming like a long shot with trouble ahead, and the F-35 now ready to buy, the Trump administration’s expressed strategy of punishing the Kremlin’s cash flow with military sales might bear fruit.
Asked if the F-35’s export to countries like India posed a threat to Russia’s Su-57 program, Deptula gave a short answer: “Yes.”
The Su-57’s death blow could fall in a boardroom in New Delhi
Japan and South Korea are both thinking about buying more F-35s, but most importantly, The Diplomat rounded up several reports indicating that India’s Air Force formally requested a classified briefing on the F-35A, and it may buy up to 126 of the jets.
At around $100 million per airframe, such a purchase would likely leave little room in the budget for India to buy Su-57s, which would require vastly different support infrastructure than the US jet.
“Having been to India and met with their Air Force leadership, while they are a neutral country, their culture is one that fits very well with English-speaking nations around the world,” said Deptula, who said the US trying to sell F-35s to India would be “worthwhile.”
If India decided to buy F-35s, or really any Western jet, Russia would have its struggling Su-57 and one fewer customer for it. Meanwhile, Russia has only ordered 12 of the Su-57s, not even enough for a full squadron.
So, while jet enthusiasts have long debated who would win in a fight between the F-35 and the Su-57, we may never find out.
The US’s F-35 is a real jet — three real jets, actually — that has significant money behind it to keep it flying in air forces around the globe for decades to come. Russia’s Su-57 has no such security.
Medical cannabis might not be legal in all 50 states yet, but mark my words: it is the future.
It’s less addictive and destructive than prescription meds, alcohol, or hard drugs. Meanwhile, more and more scientists and doctors are discovering and acknowledging its medicinal benefits.
Still, there’s a stigma around that delicate little flower. So, let’s talk about it, shall we?
1. Federal laws still limit legal use of marijuana
Though several states have approved the use of marijuana for medical and/or recreation use, veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana — including all derivative products — as a Schedule One controlled substance. This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
That being said, the VA is actually more progressive here than one might have expected. According to their website, veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use and they are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.
Maybe there’s hope in this cruel world…
2. Medical cannabis can help treat PTSD, anxiety, and pain
And there are clinical studies in the works to prove it, specifically in the case of combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — but because cannabis remains a federally controlled substance, widely recognized research is hard to come by.
Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence explored the use of marijuana to relieve anxiety, and found that a low dose of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a main active ingredient of cannabis) produces subjective stress-relieving effects, but that higher doses could actually increase negative mood. This means the user needs to find the right dose.
Security cam footage of me in a dispensary.
3. There are more ways to imbibe than just smoking
You’ve heard of edibles (magic brownies… mmmm), but there are so many sophisticated ways to enjoy marijuana without smoking it. Infused food and beverages are just one way (one easy and delicious — but super potent way. Again, educate yourself about doses — more on that later).
I personally still categorize vape pens and vaporizers in the “smoking” category but, technically, they do not involve smoke inhalation. Vaporization methods raise the temperature of the product just enough to create a light vapor.
Topicals are some of my favorites for pain relief. Oils, lotions, or balms infused with cannabis (and quite often essential oils like lavender, mint, or citrus — they don’t teach you about these things in boot camp, but dammit, they should) to soothe aches in the body.
4.20 There are potential side effects — so use with caution
Look, marijuana contains chemicals called cannabinoids that affect the central nervous system. Scientists are still exploring its impact over short- and long-term use. Tread lightly.
WebMD lists some of the possible side effects (as well as a more comprehensive list of “other marijuana names” than I would have expected, which I found very amusing: Anashca, Banji, Bhang, Blunt, Bud, Cannabis, Cannabis sativa, Charas, Dope, Esrar, Gaga, Ganga, Grass, Haschisch, Hash, Hashish, Herbe, Huo Ma Ren, Joint, Kif, Mariguana, Marihuana, Mary Jane, Pot, Sawi, Sinsemilla, Weed).
As with any substance, marijuana should be explored carefully and with proper research. There are so many strains and so many ways to imbibe and so many ways for the body to absorb the chemicals, which is why it’s recommended that you start slowly and consult your physician.
The first time I tried an edible, I thought I was supposed to eat the whole thing. Next thing I knew, I was time traveling and I was convinced there was a rabbit in the closet that wanted to bite my ankle. I spent the night perched on my dresser like a cartoon character that just saw a mouse. My mom thought it was hilarious, but I wasn’t thrilled about the experience.
I now know that the edible I ate contained 100mg of THC — today, I take about 2mg at a time to treat anxiety. So, yeah, you could say I had too much.
The bottom line is to educate yourself and enjoy safely.
Making uniforms for Army Soldiers isn’t just for the big clothing manufacturers anymore. Now, there are others on the job, including 100 Goodwill employees in South Florida. Back in 2018, the Army decided on a new dress uniform. Of course, we all know this change was just one of many that the Army has instituted over the years. The latest iteration of Army uniforms is a vintage style that resembles those of World War II. As of early 2021, they are finally turning from vision into reality. They’re called the Army Green Service Uniforms (AGSU) and they’re coming to a post near you – soon.
But as we all also know buying new uniforms ALL THE TIME can get expensive — like really expensive. A recent trip to Clothing and Sales for a price check showed that outfitting yourself in the Pinks and Greens is going to cost about $650 with alterations. YIKES. So for those of us that don’t want to shell out that kind of dough, here’s an alternative.
Sewing their way into the hearts of US Soldiers
The Goodwill employees in South Florida on the job are honored to be a part of the making of these uniforms. Walter Anderson says he feels like it’s a privilege to participate in the military process in any way he can. He knows Soldiers put their lives in danger for America. So, he’s happy to do what he can to reciprocate their service. In this case, that means sewing their new uniforms.
Goodwill’s vice-president of manufacturing Edward Terris noted that the workers feel a strong connection being able to do their part with something tangible to support the troops. Sewing the uniforms is an additional way to show their patriotism beyond just being a patriotic person.
Giving back to the military just feels good
Terris also brought up the fact that Goodwill hires many people with employment barriers and disabilities. For these populations, having the chance to do work they truly find meaningful is really important in building confidence and feeling pride in what they do. They will be able to walk away from this experience knowing they contributed and made a difference on a national level. Giving back to the US Military, knowing your work is of service to them, is no small feat for anyone.
Their Goodwill is going global
The Goodwill employees of South Florida are in the process of making 1,000 shirts and 300 hats for both the men and women of the US Army. As they finish batches of uniforms, they ship them out across the US. They will complete their sewing work by the end of February 2021.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been called many things — crazy, mad, insane, and “rocket man” — because of his program to build nuclear bombs and missiles capable of launching the weapons to the U.S.
But experts say he is not crazy to want a nuclear arsenal. And Kim doesn’t necessarily want nukes because of a desire to use them on the U.S. or any other country, contrary to what bellicose political rhetoric might suggest.
“He is not crazy — he has consolidated control over that country in a very effective and ruthless manner,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Business Insider. “He’s just willing to do really terrible things to protect himself, which I think tells us something about the credibility of their nuclear threat.”
Such a threat is the purpose of the weapons, Lewis says, but almost certainly not their goal.
“If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” added Lewis, who also publishesArms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.
Here are the most likely reasons Kim wants a nuclear arsenal.
The U.S. has a track record of breaking its word with rulers
A watershed moment for U.S.-North Korea relations occurred during the Bush administration in the mid-2000s: the six-party talks, initiated after questionable accusations that North Korea was cheating on an agreement not to pursue the production of nuclear materials led to its collapse.
“They very sincerely tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Lewis said.
But one of the problems the Bush administration ran into was the U.S.’s track record with Iraq, formerly led by Saddam Hussein.
“How do you assure the North Koreans, when they sign a deal, that they don’t end up like Saddam? Because Saddam had actually given them the WMDs, and we still went ahead and said he had them, and we still went ahead and invaded,” Lewis said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.
The Americans “realized they had to find a way to convey to Pyongyang that if they went ahead and gave up their nuclear program, we wouldn’t invade them,” Lewis added.
So, Lewis said, the Bush administration pointed to how the U.S. had held up its end of a disarmament agreement with Libya and its ruler at the time, Muammar Gaddafi.
“I know why they did it at the time — it was the right decision,” Lewis said. “But we had a disarmament deal with that guy. We told the North Koreans to go look at how well things had worked out with Libya, and then we turned around and toppled the Libyan government.”
These foreign policy decisions happened during the rule of Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. But his son has not forgotten them.
“Kim Jong Un, I think, is fearful of ending up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi,” Lewis said. “He is terrified that we will do to him what we did to them and has decided that nuclear weapons are the best way to ward that off.”
It’s unlikely North Korea has nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as reliable as those in the U.S.’s arsenal, if North Korea has deliverable weapons at all. But Lewis says this doesn’t really matter in the big picture.
“Every military system has developmental problems and issues, and maybe not work as well as it should,” Lewis said. “But they have all of the skills and expertise in place, and they’ve demonstrated the vast majority of things.”
He added: “If tomorrow they were going to put a nuclear weapon on a missile and fire it at my house, and you asked me, ‘How do you like your odds?’ I would say, ‘I don’t like my odds at all.’ … This is now a serious-enough capability that we have to start assuming, on a bad day, a lot of their stuff is going to go well.”
But nuclear weapons as a stick against the U.S. is not the only reason North Korea wants them.
“I am sure if given the choice between controlling North Korea or North Korea and South Korea, he would clearly prefer to control everything,” Lewis said. “I don’t think, though, that this explains their nuclear behavior.”
That may be because Kim’s ability to take over South Korea — at least not as a smoldering crater — is virtually nil. Lewis also says North Korea isn’t building the kinds of nukes “that would be consistent with that goal.”
What is possible, if not likely — and perhaps surprising to many Americans — is that North Korea sees obtaining nuclear weapons as a way to improve its relations with other countries, including the U.S.
Lewis, who has studied the history of China’s nuclear-weapons program, says it has many similarities to North Korea’s path toward nuclearization.
China set off its first nuclear device in 1964 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and two years later it launched a live nuclear warhead atop a missile to prove the capabilities of its program. The U.S.’s view of these events during the Cold War was grim. But over time, something shocking transpired.
“If you had gone into Lyndon Johnson’s office in October 1964 and said, ‘The Chinese are about to test a nuclear weapon,’ he would have said, ‘That’s terrible,'” Lewis said.
“But if you would have then said, ‘No, no, no, it’s great — this is really going to improve Chinese security, and as a consequence of that, China is going to reorient its foreign policy, and they’re going to become anti-Soviet and pro-American, and we’re going to have a diplomatic relationship with them,’ Johnson would have asked you: ‘Really? What president is going to go to China and meet with Mao Zedong?’ And you would have said, ‘Richard Nixon.’ Then he would have thrown you out of its office and said you were an idiot.”
But that is exactly what happened: When China’s proven nuclear capabilities deterred U.S. military action and opened the door for increased local aggression or international diplomacy, China chose the latter.
“The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis said.
His point is that North Korea’s motivations, notwithstanding its accusations of horrifying human-rights abuses, may not be so nefarious as rhetoric and propaganda suggest when it comes to nukes. In fact, it could be that North Korean nuclear scientists see themselves more as doves than hawks.
But the country’s direction is ultimately up to its leader.
“It is possible that the North Koreans will take the security they are given by these weapons and spend it on being awful — sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises,” Lewis said. “It will depend on how the North Koreans choose to act now that they have this capability. They could be easier to get along with; they could be worse.”
Instead of always assuming the worst, we should practice being “more neutral” about how having nuclear weapons might change North Korea, Lewis said.
“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive,” Lewis said. “But we should wait and see.”
He added: “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”
But this likely isn’t the U.S.’s current thinking. President Donald Trump has expressed hopes to expand nuclear-weapons capabilities, and American military forces appear to be quietly training to face a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
Each branch of the military has a different way to show their unit pride. U.S. Army soldiers wear easily identifiable patches (a shoulder sleeve insignia) on the left shoulder of their combat uniform.
The SSI shows the current duty station that the soldier is attached to. If the soldier has deployed to a designated combat zone, they can also slap that unit patch onto the right shoulder to wear for the rest of their career.
This leads to a little game soldiers play, reminiscent of kids playing with trading cards, where they trade unit patches with one another or leave one with the Bangor Troop Greeters.
Depending on the unit, this may be for regiment, brigade, or division — with the patch being from the highest distinct echelon (so if you were in the 101st Airborne, you would wear the 101st patch and not the XVIII Airborne Corps patch).
The patch was conceived to inspire unit pride and to identify other soldiers in the unit. The first to adopt a shoulder patch was the 81st Infantry Division in 1918. When they deployed to France shortly after adopting it, their patch drew much disdain from other units in the American Expeditionary Force.
The “Wildcat” Division’s unit patch was brought to the attention of Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing by a fellow officer because it was unbecoming of the uniform. After some consideration, the only American to be promoted to General of the Armies in his lifetime decided that the 81st should keep their unit patch and suggested other divisions to follow suit. The patch became officially recognized on Oct. 19, 1918, and many more followed shortly after.
Ever since then, soldiers have a treasured relationship with their unit patches (and even more if they deployed with them.) Through their patch, they stand tall among their brothers in arms of the past — adding to their legacy.
A 10th Mountain Division squad leader credited with saving the lives of three of his soldiers by throwing himself atop a suicide bomber in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced March 12, 2019.
Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins went above and beyond the call of duty on June 1, 2007, while his unit — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team — conducted route clearance southwest of Baghdad.
During the mission, Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, heard a report over the radio of suspected insurgents crossing an intersection in the Iraqi town of Abu Samak.
As the truck commander in his Humvee, Atkins ordered the driver to pull the vehicle up to the intersection so they could interdict the suspected insurgents. Once stopped, Atkins exited the vehicle and approached one of the men to check him for weapons while another soldier covered him.
When Atkins attempted to search him, the man resisted. Atkins then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, who was reaching for an explosive vest under his clothing, according to an award citation.
Atkins then grabbed the suicide bomber from behind with a bear hug and slammed him onto the ground, away from his soldiers. As he pinned the insurgent to the ground, the bomb detonated.
Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast. With complete disregard for his own safety, he had used his own body as a shield to protect his fellow soldiers from injury. They were only feet away.
Soon after, another insurgent was fatally shot by one of Atkins’ soldiers before he could detonate another suicide vest.
For his actions, Atkins was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Now that award has been upgraded to a Medal of Honor.
President Donald J. Trump will present the medal to Atkins’ family on March 27, 2019.
Before he joined the Army, Atkins worked for concrete and painting contractors and as an engine mechanic in Montana. He enlisted into the infantry in 2000 and less than three years later he deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq.
Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.
Atkins left the Army in late 2003, but rejoined two years later and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.
He deployed to Iraq again with the division in the summer of 2006 and became a staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before his death.
At Fort Drum, New York, the division honored Atkins by naming a fitness center after him in 2013.
During the dedication ceremony, then-Sgt. Aaron Hall, who was Atkins’ battle buddy, described the staff sergeant as a “quiet professional” who always had the respect of others.
“When my 4-year-old son Travis tells me his favorite superhero is Captain America and asks me who my favorite superhero is, my reply always has and will be Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins,” Hall said.
According to his obituary, Atkins was also known to hunt, fish, camp, and ride snowmobiles. His first love, though, was his son, Trevor Oliver, who was 11 years old at the time of his father’s death.
Atkins was buried June 12, 2007, in his hometown of Bozeman in south-central Montana. He is also survived by his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins.
Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, told reporters on Nov. 8, 2018, that “there was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong” about the resignation.
Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock.
Details of China’s allegations against Meng remain unclear. His detention appears to be part of a wider “anti-corruption drive” led by President Xi Jinping since his ascendancy to the Chinese leadership.
Activists at Human Rights Watch believe Meng is kept under a form of secret detention called liuzhi (留置), where the person is held incommunicado without access to lawyers or relatives for up to six months.
Sophie Richardson, the organization’s China director, told Business Insider that “we assume but cannot confirm” that.
The wife’s fight
Meng’s wife, Grace, repeatedly denied China’s corruption charges and claimed that her husband’s disappearance was “political persecution.”
She told the BBC in October 2018: “I’m not sure he’s alive. They are cruel. They are dirty,” she added, referring to China’s tactics to silence people.
Reuters reported early November 2018 that Meng had retained two law firms in London and Paris to track down her husband. Business Insider contacted the two firms for comment on Meng’s next steps.
The last text Grace Meng received from her husband on Sept. 25, 2018, says in Chinese: “Wait for my call,” followed by a knife emoji — a possible warning that he was in danger.
Interpol says it can’t investigate, but is “strongly encouraging” China to speak out
The international police organization, where Meng was elected president in 2016, has not provided much clarity either.
It has not released a public statement since Oct. 7, 2018, when it acknowledged Meng’s resignation and has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, said on Nov. 8, 2018, that the organization’s rules forbade him from investigating Meng’s disappearance.
“We are not an investigative body,” he said, according to the Associated Press. He added that “we are strongly encouraging China” to provide details of Meng’s whereabouts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Richardson of Human Rights Watch told Business Insider: “If President Xi was even remotely serious about the rule of law, Meng would be guaranteed fair trial rights, but that is highly unlikely to happen given the profound politicization of China’s legal system.”
Rights groups protested Meng’s election to the Interpol presidency at the time, citing his previous work at China’s ministry of public security in Xinjiang and Tibet. The two regions are home to the country’s Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities, who Beijing has attempted to muzzle.
During Meng’s tenure, China submitted multiple “red notices” — Interpol arrest warrants — for dissidents around the world.
Roderic Wye, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing, told Business Insider in October 2018 that public disappearances were not unusual in China, especially in politics.
“It is often a sign that someone has got into trouble if they fail to appear in public doing their normal duties for a period of time,” he said.
The film A Private War follows the real life of Marie Colvin, a journalist who covered stories of war and conflict from ahead of the front lines in places from Iraq and Afghanistan to Sri Lanka and Syria, but its greater contribution may be the light it shines on the human cost of conflict.
Marie Colvin explains a point to her friend Paul Conroy in the 2018 film, A Private War.
Spoiler alert: This article focuses on Marie Colvin and how the new movie illuminates her life and contributions, but it does contain some minor spoilers of the movie, including the nature of Colvin’s death and the accompanying scene in the film.
Colvin was famous for donning an eyepatch and wearing designer lingerie under her body armor, but among journalists, she was known for coverage that saved thousands of lives, telling the stories of those besieged by government forces under tyrants. In coverage from East Timor in 1999, she stayed behind when many other journalists fled, keeping the pressure on Indonesian Forces who were besieging 1,500 refugees in a U.N. compound.
Thanks to the efforts of Colvin and other journalists, U.N. personnel remained at the compound until the refugees were able to peacefully leave.
Now, Matthew Heinneman, himself a documentary filmmaker who has covered conflict in Syria, Mexico’s drug wars, and other places, has made a narrative film that aims to not only tell Colvin’s life to whoever might be interested, but also sheds light on the human stories Colvin worked so hard to tell.
Marie Colvin attempts to surrender to government forces in the 2018 movie, A Private War.
“I really didn’t want to make this film as a traditional biopic,” Heinneman told WATM. “I wanted to make it more of a psychological thriller examining what pushes someone to go to these places, and then show the effect that it had on her. I wanted to examine what she suffered from. I wanted to examine PTSD. I wanted to examine all the sort of ramifications of what she saw and what she experienced.”
“At the same time,” he continued, “I also wanted to obviously highlight the work that she did and her effort in shedding light on these stories. I guess in another way, the film is a continuation of her work. Sadly and tragically, what she died covering, the conflict in Syria, has persisted until this day. And I think she would be devastated to know over half a million civilians have been killed since the conflict began. She probably would be in Idlib, or somewhere else right now covering the story if she were still alive.”
Colvin was tragically killed in Homs, Syria, in 2012.
Paul Conroy takes a photo of refugees during the 2018 movie A Private War.
The movie really hits its stride when showing the plight of the vulnerable populations that Colvin covered. While Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dorman do a great job playing Colvin and Paul Conroy — Colvin’s longtime journalism partner — they both fade into the background as victims of government forces or insurgent strikes tell their stories to the journalists.
Heinemann credits this to the people he cast into these “roles.” He didn’t cast actors, he recruited actual refugees to tell the real stories of what they suffered at the hands of Bashir Al-Assad, ISIS, or others. These scenes were filmed in Jordan, a country allied with the U.S., which has accepted large numbers of refugees.
“In the film, [Colvin] is walking into a room filled with Syrian refugees. In real life, the two women that [Rosamund Pike] speaks to are real women from Homs, telling their own real stories and shedding their own real tears.”
Refugees huddle together in the 2018 movie A Private War. The filmmakers recruited actual refugees to play the parts of hunted populations in the movie.
“It’s a really deeply emotional atmosphere on set,” he continued. “In another scene taking place in the hospital in Homs, a man brings his injured son after a mortar attack into the room. He also was from Homs. He was at a protest with his nephew who was shot off his shoulders and bled out in front of him.”
“The grief and the trauma that he brought into that room was almost unbearable. And it really created an atmosphere that felt both incredibly intimate and incredibly real that I think helped give the film the feeling that it has.”
One of the recurring events in the film is that Colvin goes into a combat zone to cover violent events, then heads back home to cities where people want to toast her for her accomplishments. This rapid, hacksaw motion between violent areas and parties is something many veterans can understand, and Heinemann used quick cuts between the two extremes to play up the difference.
Marie Colvin accepts an award for her coverage in the 2018 movie A Private War.
“…those transitions in life are never that graceful, and so, editorially, artistically, stylistically sort of smashing in and out of those two worlds was something that was in the script, but definitely something we played with and discovered a lot in the editor room with our editor, Nick Fenton,” Heinemann said. Quick cuts allowed them to “sort of drop you in and out of these war zones in a way that makes you uncomfortable and disoriented and as it was her experience. As much as possible in this film, I tried to put you in her shoes.”
This focus on Colvin’s experience shifts in the final moments of the film when Colvin is killed by a government airstrike. In the movie, as in real life, Colvin is killed while trying to escape the city with Conroy and a French photographer, Remi Ochlick. Ochlick was also killed and Conroy was severely wounded, barely surviving a massive wound in his leg.
“Dealing with the final moments of her life was something that was quite obviously delicate and something that I ruminated over for many, many, many months.”
Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlick, and Paul Conroy try to escape a Syrian government airstrike in A Private War.
“Through Conroy’s face, we feel her loss so immensely.”
But Conroy’s grief slowly morphs into the grief for a lost city as the camera moves upwards.
“But also as we move away from her and as the camera lifts,” he said. “I wanted to show that she was just one person amidst a sea of devastation, and that yes her death was tragic, but so is all that she was covering.”
“I think journalism and journalists are under attack, obviously, as we’ve seen with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. When Marie Colvin started her career, the traditional dangers of being a journalist were that of being embedded with soldiers. It was being shot or being blown up by an IED or being hit by a mortar. It wasn’t that journalists were being targeted. And this, obviously, has changed over time.”
A Private War had a limited release on November 2. It has a much wider release, meaning it will likely be available near you, on November 16.