Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thoughts About The Unheard

Quietly expressed.

Last night I watched a movie, The Quiet American, from a novel by Graham Greene. Greene wrote what they call "thrillers".

Thrillers are not considered literature in the way that murder mysteries are not, or westerns, science fiction, or romance novels.

Once upon a time, early in my college career, we had to pick an author to read a lot of.

Having just read Greene's The Power and the Glory I decided to go there. Greene was good.

Thrillers, throwaways, time-wasters? Nope. Not to me.

There is more to a Graham Greene novel than murder, confusion, misdirection, and a clockwork resolution. A world more.

In The Quiet American, the movie from 2002, Michael Caine plays a shabby foreign correspondent adrift in 1952 Saigon, doing little more than waiting for death to relieve him of the obligation to keep breathing.


One day a young American appears. Capable, cheerful, energetic, large. A man on a mission. Doing something or other with "aid".

Soon there is a first faint whiff of evil. Then darkness. Deaths.

I was surprised to learn, from the DVD commentary, that late in World War II the United States parachuted an Office of Strategic Services (CIA) team into Vietnam to support and train Ho Chi Minh's forces in fighting the Japanese. And French colonialists.

Later these men recommended that the U.S. help Vietnam achieve full independence and let it find its own way. They were ignored.

As was Ho Chi Minh.

For a while.

This movie was a reminder to me to look at Greene's novels again. I think he has things to refresh me on.

About what happens with allies like Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who followed the British-U.S. overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran, and brought us Ayatollah Khomeini and much of today's fun.

Allies like Saddam Hussein, Fulgencio Batista, Manuel Antonio Noriega, Augusto Pinochet, and the ever-popular Osama bin Laden.

Like the police, army, and commandos south of our border now. Whom we train here to fight there to protect us here from the people there who sell us from there what we want here. The police, army, and commandos who work for the narcos. Those.

Today's world is still like the one Greene wrote about, I think. I don't know the full story. I'm still learning. No one does.

Greene knew Fidel. And Daniel. That Daniel.

In life as in fiction, Greene's taunts left Americans in a quiet fury

Killing people is fun. There is a feeling of power in slaughtering other human beings. -- Charles Bowden

The story of one of those we trained: The sicario: A Juárez hit man speaks, by Charles Bowden (From Harpers, 2009)

See the Charles Bowden archives at Hearing Voices . Some audio files are still live, some not.

And in case all the above is raving crap, at least see The Third Man. Better than Lord of the Rings with Avatar sauce. What movies should be. Better than almost anything else. Black and white, 2D, 1949, 104 minutes, complex, great ending.


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