nthposition online magazine

A film too far: The Battle of Hormuz Strait

by Jim Chaffee

[ politics | opinion - september 10 ]

Finally, Hollywood has made the definitive war epoch of our time. A film that puts into proper perspective the US role as a military superpower in the late 20th century. More, it presages the US mission as peacekeeper and maintainer of order in the 21st century. We refer to the heroic actions of the US Navy in the Persian Gulf, in the Strait of Hormuz, on 3 July 1988. The film is entitled The Battle of Hormuz Strait. It recounts a heroic encounter between the forces of good and evil that too many Americans have forgotten or never learned.

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Alan Smithee from a script collaboration of Joe Eszterhas, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck with historicity by Dan Brown, the film boasts a star-studded cast of veteran actors who are also patriots of the highest order, all of them war heroes. In fact, everyone connected with this film is a war hero.

From the musical opening by Pat Boone, hero of the Korean War (he enlisted in a secret military branch at age 17), we see an A-list of great American actors whose service goes well beyond words: Jon Voight (Staff Admiral William Crowe), James Woods (Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci), Dean Cain (helicopter pilot Lt Mark Collier), Tom Selleck (Lieutenant Commander Scott Lustig), Kelsey Grammer (VP George Bush), Kurt Russell (President Ronald Reagan), Stephen Baldwin (Lt Clay Zocher), Denzel Washington (Lt Cmdr Victor G Guillory), James Caan (Captain William C Rogers III, CO of Vicennes), Dennis Miller (Captain Richard McKenna, the US Surface Commander who ordered Rogers to turn back), Ben Stein (Lt Col Roger Charles, investigative journalist and former Marine officer), Fred Thompson (Commander David Carlson, CO of USS Sides), Jonathan Jackson (Petty Officer Andrew Anderson), and Angie Harmon and Shannen Doherty as the requisite aging hookers with hearts of gold.

What is not made public is that all those associated with this film are veterans of US combat actions, all highly decorated (including Harmon and Doherty). That their service is classified to this day is distressing to the Republican Party which they support, since declassification would help the Party lose its chickenhawk status. But like former President Reagan, whose secret missions behind enemy lines during WWII remain classified, former Vice-President Dick Cheney, who served with a SOG unit in Vietnam so secret that it is still ultra-classified, and his White House boss George W Bush who flew super-secret combat missions during the Vietnam War for the Air National Guard, the war records of these heroes will likely remain classified forever. Of course, that Ronald Reagan as President of the US balanced the budget and paid off the national debt with judicious tax cuts also remains classified, but it will likely become a film, along with a film of his combat role in WWII (during which he was wounded by a lone liberal gunman) when the Republicans next control the US government. Reportedly, Fox News is already at work on that eventuality.

The film recounts the desperate fighting of the USS Vicennes as part of the US task force in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. After pitched battle with Iranian speedboats that fired on a helicopter launched from the Vincennes while in the Strait of Hormuz, the Aegis cruiser pursued them in brave Hollywood-style, defying the cowardly Captain Richard McKenna's order to the CO of the ship, Captain William C Rogers, to turn back. Rogers bravely pursued the pesky speedboats into Iranian waters at which time the ship was the subject of a cowardly attack by an Iranian airliner supposedly headed for Dubai, UAE, after taking off from Bandar Abbas airport in Iran.

Of course, it was a ruse, as is made clear in the film. This flight, labeled Iran Air Flight 655, was actually an Iranian F-14 Tomcat with a nefarious cloaking device making it appear to be an Airbus A300B2-203. That it flew a normal route in a non-attack profile within an assigned civilian air corridor transmitting a civilian aircraft code and did not illuminate the Vicennes with radar all the while maintaining English-voice radio contact to civil flight control fooled the skippers' of the USS Sides and the USS Elmer Montgomery, but not the gung-ho RoboCruiser commanded by the seasoned Captain Rogers, who together with his crew remained cool under pressure. That the Iranian supposed-airliner took off 27 minutes late and simultaneously climbed and dove were the giveaway clues. The rest is history; the Vincennes bravely blasted that cloaked F-14 out the air with two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles. That 290 bodies fell out of the sky, most of them Iranians but with one Italian, six Yugoslavs, six Pakistanis, 10 Indians, and 13 citizens of the UAE, including 66 children, was a trick as most citizens of the US realized then and continue to understand and voice now. That the US paid reparations to Iran and others, including $61.8 million for the phony bodies, is made clear in this film. This is of course in the true Hollywood tradition, exposing how the US paid the blood money at the International Court of Justice to avoid further publicity that would result from a trial. But American citizens knew the truth, and it helped elect George Herbert Walker Bush who campaigned on his statement to the UN that "I'll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are." Which makes of him a true hero, since America right or wrong is the right-headed attitude of every patriotic God-fearing American.

Unfortunately, Reagan, in one of his moments of senile dementia, said that "We deeply regret any loss of life," which is too close to an apology for any true red-blooded American. "Kill a ___ for Christ" is the correct slogan (blank can be the appropriate slur, including gook in certain Far Eastern conflicts, raghead in the current Middle Eastern conflicts and beaner in the coming conflict).

For me the high point of the film is the performance of Harmon and Doherty working a gloryhole in a restroom on a US base in an unnamed Middle Eastern port, pro bono, for the cause of peace-loving American boys fighting a just war against a dangerous and hostile enemy. Just a couple of American ex-pat whores with honey pot mouths taking time off from working the Arab male skin trade in a distant land. Odd names, though: Ophelia Legg and Pookie Snackenberger. Some inside symbolism?

Of course the pathetic loser Iranians called this justifiable mass homicide an international crime, but with the story finally put in proper perspective it is time to enshrine this glorious battle in the history books along with the other glorious actions of the US, like defeating the German army at Leningrad. But the truth is told when the brave skipper of the Vincennes, William C Rogers III, goes down in history with the likes of Stephen Decatur and John Paul Jones, awarded the Legion of Merit "for exceptionally meritorious service as commanding officer of the USS Vincennes from April 1987 to May 1989."

It brings to mind a similar action by a private citizen in Austin, Texas, who chased a thief trying to break into his car parked on a street downtown. The brave citizen chased the supposedly unarmed man down and shot him several times in the back, an action a jury found justifiable homicide because the pursuer was in fear of his life as the pursued began to slow down. This is typical of the selfless heroism that characterizes US citizens. We should all rejoice in this. Perhaps another Hollywood film is in order.

Now besides RoboCruisers the US employs RoboDrones which can cruise down your street and blow up the house next door. This makes war less odious, since the drone's remote pilot can sit in an air-conditioned office somewhere in the US and blast enemies in far-away enemy strongholds like Afghanistan, Pakistan, France and Detroit to smithereens. After a hard day of blowing up enemies, the brave warrior can go home to dinner with the wife and kids. Obama wisely employs these devices to assassinate enemies in any country of our national choosing.

We know, for example, that Osama bin Laden is dead, killed in February 2000 by a Predator drone. The drone attacked three men walking along a mountain path in the border region of Afghanistan with Pakistan. One of the men was bin Laden, the tall man in robes. Of course, the official story is that the man was only killed because he happened to be tall and wearing robes and walking along the eastern border of Afghanistan, without positive identification. And they say that DNA testing proved he was not bin Laden. But the reality is that it is not in our interest yet to have bin Laden dead, since the CIA or someone is using a virtual version of bin Laden to foil plots and ferret out his former companions; hence the cover story was these were simply three local villagers looking for scrap metal to sell. The US, land of the free and home of the brave, could never kill anyone who didn't deserve killing, as John Wayne so often assured us in his true-to-life historical films. Hence this is bogus. Rest assured that bin Laden is dead just as surely as the Iranian jet downed in the Battle of Hormuz was a cloaked F-14. The US need not have anyone apologize since it is morally and by definition impossible for the US to do anything requiring an apology. Moreover, now no one can really say that tall bearded men are not safe anywhere in Asia (see Jane Mayer, 'The Predator War', The New Yorker, Oct 26, 2009) given that the drone pilots ought to be in on the secret death of bin Laden. (Unless it is too classified.) Expect no film for this event, at least not the real event, just as no film of Reagan's heroic exploits during WWII (for the time being at least).

Finally Americans can celebrate this heroic encounter of our brave seamen in the Strait of Hormuz. Of course the Iranians have a different take on the event, being the sore losers they are. While the US newspapers did not mention the 20th anniversary of the encounter, the Iranians remembered it by calling it state-sponsored terrorism and an international crime by the US Navy; even more hyperbolically, a crime against humanity. As if the US could sink so low. What do those Iranians think we are: an evil empire? Perhaps we need to nuke some sense into them.