Tag Archives: iraq

Movie Review – War Dogs (2016)

Guns, money!  Money, guns!

BQB here with a review of “War Dogs.”

David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a young man in his twenties, facing a problem that many young men face, that of money.  It makes the world go round and without it, his world is barely turning.  He’s a massage therapist, barely making ends meet while he deals with old men who expect him to rub their disgusting rear ends.  Worse, he’s trying to become a bed sheet salesman, but no one will buy what he’s selling.

Enter David’s old high school friend Efraim Diveroli.  Efraim’s started a small business, buying and supplying small amounts of guns, ammunition, supplies to the U.S. military during the Iraq War.

Out of a desire to keep the bidding process open, the government has a website that provides details for all manner of government war related purchasing contracts and if this movie is to believed, any old schmuck off the street can bid and win and make moolah, assuming he can provide what the government is looking for.

Efraim and David become partners and at first, it would seem, legit entrepreneurs who are making dough off of a solid business idea.  Alas, as you might expect, they get greedy, taking on bigger contracts they have no business getting involved in, and digging themselves deeper and deeper into an international world of gun running corruption in order to obtain the goods they need to fulfill the contract.

Shady characters, crooked third world businessmen and even mobsters are all faced by these two Miami dudes who are just trying to live the American dream.  Ironically, the movie even suggests that the U.S. government may be semi-aware of some of the practices their bidders are involved in, i.e. if you ask for a larger than usual amount of an item, you must sort of know that whoever provides it is doing so illegitimately.

But there’s the rub.  It’s a don’t ask, don’t tell world.  The government doesn’t ask how they get the stuff and the dudes don’t tell.  In the process, they make mad cash, but are the profits worth it?  Will they survive?

I gotta be honest, I didn’t expect a lot out of this one.  The trailers seemed like it was going to be a preach fest about the ills of the Iraq War.  While we can debate ad nauseum over the pros and cons (mostly cons) of that war, that’s the whole point.  Like most Americans, I’m tired of hearing about it.  The war has been USA’s been long itch case of crotch rot for years so while I’m not saying important people shouldn’t still be discussing it, I just didn’t know if I had it in me to devote two hours to re-hashing it.

Truth be told, it’s a modern day rags to riches cautionary tale, reinforcing that old adage that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  Like any story where ordinary dudes rise up by doing unsavory deeds, you root for the dudes at first, until they start crossing lines and then not so much.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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#31ZombieAuthors – Day 25 Interview – Zombie Warfare

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Today’s guest is Luke Duffy, author of The Dead Walk the Earth and When There’s No More Room in Hell series of books, which detail the journeys of soldiers as they fight undead hordes.

Have you ever read a zombie book written by a guy who’s skilled at jumping out of perfectly good airplanes? Having grown up in Northern England, Luke joined the Parachute Regiment at the age of eighteen. Further, he has worked in Iraq on the Private Security Circuit.

His first book, Running the Gauntlet: The Private War in Iraq, detailing his memoirs from his time on the circuit, was published in 2011.

Following that non-fiction work, he turned his attention to zombie lore.

Luke, thanks for taking a minute to talk with me today, and thank you for your service.

NOTE: BOLD=BQB; ITALICS=LUKE

Q.  I’m just going to say it. Look at you. Soldier. Private security. 51qtY0bYz1L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_You’re a badass. As a layman, I’d think that having such vast military experience would inform one’s writing. Do you find that’s the case? Do you draw on your experience when writing your books?

A.  Absolutely. I read a few apocalyptic books before I decided to write my own. Some were great, others were awful. But one thing I found that the majority of them had in common was that most authors lacked any real experience in military matters. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great efforts out there, well researched and thought out, but there was always something missing. The mark was never quite hit. Only someone who has experienced being shot at, blown up, or felt those familiar sensations of dread and retrospect when preparing for a fight, can write a realistic battle scene. I’ve always tried to make the action as close to real as possible, and my own experiences have helped, a lot. I like to draw the reader into the pages, making them imagine what it is like to come under fire and wonder whether they would make it out. As a reader, it’s important to feel part of the story.

Also, most of my characters are actually based on real people that I have known over the years.

Q. You started out with non-fiction and then moved on to fiction. What drew you into the world of zombies?

A. In a few short words; Dawn of the Dead. I’m talking about the original. I watched it when I was about six or seven, and from there, I was hooked. It wasn’t so much the action and the zombies themselves, but more to do with the collapse of society and the slow death of humanity. Even as a kid the words ‘what if?’ rattled around inside my head. The end of civilisation has always fascinated me, regardless of the cause. But what could be more exciting, terrifying, and total, as the dead returning to life and hunting the living?

I like to imagine how different people, from various rungs of the social ladder, would react to a global crisis such as a zombie plague. I think true, true colours would quickly come to light, and I think the whole ‘good and bad’ thing would be turned on its head in many cases. I couldn’t imagine Bob Geldof and Bono still wanting to save the world, hugging plague victims and shaking hands with zombies. I think they would barricade themselves into their mansions and drop from the radar.

Q. Here’s a question I’ve thrown at a lot of writers this month. How do you find the time to write? I ask because I’m rather unfocused and if a good show comes on TV, there goes my writing for the day. So obviously, I respect a guy who has served in the military and in private security and yet still finds the time to write. Do you have any advice for aspiring scribes on how to balance work and writing?

A. My best piece of advice would be to create a routine. Finding the time and motivation to start writing, even if I’m half way through a book and on a roll, can be extremely hard. Sometimes I need to give myself a serious kick up the arse to get myself down behind my computer. Like you said, distractions can have a severe effect on you. So, what I do is ensure that I get myself into a routine. If I’m working away, most of my writing is done in the evening, which can be a real pain because my energy and enthusiasm is sapped by then.

When I’m home in the UK, it’s a little easier. I get up, have a coffee and a smoke, check the news, as well as the usual morning stuff that a man does. Then, come ten o’clock, I get to work and do at least four hours writing each day. After that, the world is my lobster and I don’t feel guilty, having the fact hanging over my head that I jacked on my work for the day because Susanna Reid was looking particularly hot on morning television and I became side-tracked.

Q. The description of The Dead Walk the Earth states, “Eight soldiers, accustomed to operating below the radar, carrying out the dirty work of a modern democracy, become trapped within the carnage of a new and terrifying world. Deniable and completely expendable. That is how their government considers them, and as the dead begin to walk, Stan and his men must fight to survive.”

“Deniable and expendable.” OK. So obviously, I enjoy being alive, so I’m not asking you to get into “If I tell you I have to kill you” territory (sorry, bad joke there) but generally speaking, is being “deniable and expendable” a fate that soldiers often find themselves facing?

A. Depends on the type of soldier and the operations being conducted. There’s no such thing as a clean government, and they all need someone to get their hands extremely dirty on their behalf, from time to time. I’ll not go into too much detail, but deniable operatives do exist. No, not like xXx and Mission Impossible. They’re just beyond fantasy. Deniable operators could be the man next door, or the guy driving your taxi. Shaved heads, huge muscles, and wearing Oakley sun glasses in the dark… don’t help.

I suppose that all soldiers are expendable, to a degree. Or at least they are viewed that way by the people who send them to war. No politician, no matter how sincerely they claim to have, has ever lost sleep or shed a tear over the men and women of their country being brought home in bags. Tony Blair and George Bush; they saw their military as mere pawns to be moved about on their own paths towards personal glory and gain.

Don’t get me wrong, I was part of the invasion of Iraq. I was amongst the first troops into Kosovo during the liberation in 99. I battled in Sierra Leone during their civil war, and I patrolled the streets of Northern Ireland before the peace process. I enjoyed the lot, but I never lost sight of the fact that not a single member of the government cared how many of my friends lost their lives.

Since joining the private circuit in Iraq, I’ve seen the attrition rate first-hand, and watched as countless friends were killed. Yes, we were in it for the money, but we were also doing a job on behalf of the US and UK governments, helping to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure. But before long, the media stopped reporting the deaths and the government leaders forgot about us. All the while, the deaths of British and American private military soared. Expendable.

Q. Hypothetically, would today’s modern military be able to take on a zombie outbreak? Not that I spend a lot of time worrying about such a scenario, but I’d be interested to hear your take on it.

A. It depends on society as a whole, I suppose. In my books, the concept of the dead returning to life (zombies) has never been imagined. There are no books, movies, computer games, or folk tales about such creatures. So, when the dead begin to rise, it’s complete confusion, terror, and chaos. No one knows how to deal with the problem. On the one hand, some see the threat for what it is, and insist that immediate action be taken. However, on the other hand, there are the ‘bleeding hearts’ and ‘do-gooders’, bleating that even the dead are people and have rights.

Governments hesitate, fearing backlash should they act with what can be viewed as brutality and inhumanity towards the infected (yes, I believe that even on the brink of an apocalypse, the politicians would still worry about their image and future votes).

People struggle to come to terms with the outbreak. Families cannot imagine that the monsters staggering towards them are no longer their dad, mum, sister, brother, uncle – twice removed… etc.
Then there are the legal complications to consider. Most people out there follow the rules. They avoid confrontation and shy away from violence. Inflicting pain and suffering is not a desire that most human beings carry. Many would hesitate, because we have all been brought up to understand that killing is wrong, both in a legal and moral sense. Suddenly being told that it is perfectly okay to smash your neighbor’s head in with a hammer, isn’t going to have any great and immediate effect. Most people would simply lock their doors and hide. Even I would hesitate, and I don’t like my neighbors.

Morality and human emotions play huge parts in the downfall, and only when it is too late, do people realize the extent of the catastrophe and put down their delusions of decency and respect, but by then, it’s too late.

However, in reality, I believe that the military would soon have the outbreak under control. No doubt, they would all be rounded up and sent to work in Starbucks, maybe even become Labour Party members.

Q. Any plans for further zombie books in the future? Or perhaps other monsters? I read a post on your blog that made me think you find technology as infuriating as I do. That me think – soldiers vs. killer robots has some potential.

A. I take it that you’ve never watched Terminator?

Seriously though, yes, I find technology infuriating. In my opinion, it causes more trouble than its worth, even though I have found myself reliant upon it.

I have one more book to write in the current series, and then I intend to get a couple of kids’ books written that I have in mind. Yes, it’s a dramatic shift from people being eaten alive and copious amounts of profanities and violence, but I’ve had these stories in my head for some time, so I will be hanging up my zombie hat for a while. I may return in the future, if the demand is high enough and I have some new ideas, but for now, I need to step away from the genre.

Q. Luke, thanks for stopping by. Before I go, do you have any last minute advice that might help me survive the East Randomtown Zombie apocalypse?

A. Get away from the cities. Find a place that is remote. The dead are stupid, and lazy. Can you imagine them walking up mountains or fording rivers? High-ground, preferably open with good all round visibility, would be your best bet. Dense forests are also good, but they can be a double edged sword; they can’t see you, but you can’t see them, either. I wouldn’t like to have to bug-out from a wooded area during the dark hours, surrounded by zombies

If you’re stuck in an urban area, stock up, stay out of sight, and keep quiet. Remember, a barricade can never be too big, no matter how valuable that antique chest of drawers is. Trust no one, and lock your heart away in a sealed box. There’s no room for easy emotion and sentimentality in the zombie apocalypse world. Finally, make a note of all the people close by who have pets, because when the time comes, cats and dogs make good eating.

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Movie Review – American Sniper (2014)

“My regrets are about the people I couldn’t save—Marines, soldiers, my buddies. I still feel their loss. I still ache for my failure to protect them.”

– Chris Kyle, American Sniper

Chris Kyle – Husband.  Father.  Navy Seal.  Most Lethal U.S. Sniper.  Punisher comic-book fan.  Self-declared bad-ass.  Let’s talk about the film based on Kyle’s autobiography.

I recently saw it and was blown away (no pun intended).  Actor Bradley Cooper was recently on The Howard Stern Show, discussing how he gained forty pounds of muscle to play the role, and man did it show.  Cooper turned in a solid performance that did Kyle justice, and he’s definitely an Oscar contender.

Kyle’s friends and fellow soldiers nicknamed him, “The Legend.”  The name starts out as a joke, but soon it fits as he starts racking up one enemy kill after another.  Soldiers say they literally feel better when he’s watching out for them through the lens of his rifle scope.  The terrorists hate him, putting out a $180,000 bounty on his head.  Kyle jokes, “Don’t tell my wife.  She might collect on it.”  Self-Deprecating humor is one of his trademarks throughout the film.

Kyle takes an active role in a unit chasing after a terrorist nicknamed, “The Butcher.”  As shown in the film, the Butcher has a penchant for running around Iraq with a power drill, which he tortures Iraqis when they dare work with U.S. forces.  Also dogging Kyle throughout the film is a sniper known as Mustafa, an Iraqi who once went to the Olympics as a marksman, but later joined the terrorists in fighting against American forces.

The movie follows Kyle through four tours of duty, showing the stresses he experiences on the battlefield, as well as the toll it makes on his life back at home.  His wife is unhappy that he keeps returning to battle, and he is suffering from out of control blood pressure.

I’ve read some reader reviews of the book, many positive, some negative (no writer gets off without at least some negative reviews unfortunately).  The negative reviews claim Kyle comes across as having a big ego and being full of himself, that he just enjoyed being “a bad-ass.”

Well, here’s the thing – He was a bad-ass.  The man made Chuck Norris look like a choir boy.  (No offense, Chuck).  And according to the movie, he was his own worst self-critic.  Rather than be content with all the soldiers he did save, he often focused on those he died, wishing he could have saved them.  And when he was home, he felt bad for being home, feeling he needed to be back in Iraq, back in the fight.

Eventually, he does leave active duty and returns to civilian life, but he’s haunted by the war, and still feels he should be helping his fellow soldiers.

Finally, a psychiatrist tells him there are plenty of returned soldiers in the US that could use his help.  Kyle begins volunteering with wounded soldiers, taking them out for target practice.  The idea was to help struggling veterans feel empowered by working on their marksman skills.

Thankfully the movie does not show it, but Kyle died when a veteran with mental problems he’d volunteered to help shoots him.  Very sad to think about how this man cheated death over and over in Iraq only to be murdered by someone he was trying to help.

The book’s a good read, the film’s fast-paced and full of action, both worth your time.  Check them out!

Thankfully, the movie doesn’t show it, but sadly, Kyle died when he was shot by a veteran with mental problems he had volunteered to help.

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