Red Dawn in the Desert

by | Feb 5, 2024 | The Truscott Chronicles

Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn, 1984.

Red Dawn in the Desert

by | Feb 5, 2024 | The Truscott Chronicles

Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn, 1984.

If we give our soldiers in Iraq and Syria and Jordan jobs we think are important enough for them to be stationed there, we should give them any and all defenses that will prevent them from being killed.

Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV

Wheeeeee! Tonight, we get to go back to the 1980’s! Won’t that be fun!

Specifically, where we are headed is the first Reagan administration during the time his anti-Soviet rhetoric was on the rise—the BG years, that is: Before Gorbachev and the happy-talk walk in the woods to the lake house in Geneva that led to the signing of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, and the beginning of the end of the cold war with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

In 1983, Reagan talked about Soviet Russia as the “Evil Empire” in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals—of course, that’s where it would be—labeling the Soviet Union as “the focus of evil in the modern world.”

Against that background, screenwriter, gun enthusiast and “out” Hollywood conservative John Milius wrote and directed “Red Dawn,” an action picture which imagined a Russian invasion of the United States fought off by a brave group of teenage guerillas in Colorado, of all places. In the movie, Washington D.C. and other major American cities are destroyed by nuclear attacks, most of the southern United States is occupied by Soviet forces. But in Colorado, the brave band of teenagers, led by Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Gray, backed up by adults like Powers Boothe and Ben Johnson, fight the Russkis from bases hidden in the heavily forested mountains. At the end of the movie, only two of the original teenage fighters are left, but they survive by finally reaching American-held territory, where they presumably fight on to eventual victory over the evil empire that has invaded the good old U.S.A.

A kind of right-wing fantasy, the film reached an audience and made more than $38 million at the box office, a lot in those days, and is now a cult classic.

Why Red Dawn, and why now? Because that’s the kind of war being fought against us by guerrillas in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen—anywhere, in fact, that we have military bases like Tower 22 that was hit last week in Jordan by a militant drone that killed three American soldiers and wounded 40. That’s the way we’ve got to think about the Houthis and Hezbollah and the Islamic State and the rest of the so-called Axis of Resistance radical Muslim groups fighting the U.S. and Western interests in the region.

The latest spurt of attacks on U.S. bases has happened in response to Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, or that’s what experts are telling us, and groups like the Houthis are claiming that publicly. But radical Muslim groups have been fighting the U.S. over there since we invaded Iraq in 2003, and before that, in 2001, al Qaeda brought the war to our shores when they hijacked commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Before that, they tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993 with a truck bomb in the garage, and before that, they were hijacking planes and killing hostages and pretty much doing anything they could to fight what they call The Great Satan, which is us, you will recall.

But forget the ongoing terrorist war against not just the U.S. but the West in general and concentrate on what’s going on over there in Iraq and Syria and now Jordan right now. According to a report in Reuters on January 29, there have been about 150 attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since October 7, the date Hamas attacked Israel. According to Reuters, about 2,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Iraq, and about 900 are in Syria. All of them are located on bases similar to the base at Tower 22 that was attacked last week, which is to say, they are stationed on base camps surrounded by big dirt berms topped with razor wire, the same kinds of bases our troops built in Iraq when we invaded in 2003, and the same kind of bases we built to contain and defend our soldiers in Vietnam in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Let me put it this way: you don’t have to build big, heavily defended base camps if you are welcome to be there by the countries where they are located. My father and our family was stationed in Germany in the 1950’s, and you could drive, or walk, or ride your bike, onto every U.S. army post over there. Of course, Germany was a defeated country and we were occupiers, but you get my meaning.

In Iraq and Syria and Jordan and everywhere else our military is located over there, including Kuwait and the Emirate countries on the Gulf where we have naval and air force and army bases—even in the countries that invite us, we are the enemy, and the locals—or those of them who want us out of there, anyway—are the Red Dawn guerrillas fighting us.

When I was embedded with units in the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq in 2003, every soldier was on a heavily defended base camp of one kind or another, from brigade down to battalion, to company size. Insurgents were placing IEDs and staging ambushes trying to kill American soldiers every single day. A lot of the young soldiers didn’t understand why they were fighting against us because we had helped them get rid of Saddam Hussein, we were building schools, and repairing roads, and building sewer systems where there never had been sewers, and we were helping them establish a new government free of Saddam’s Baath Party. One night I was sitting in a machine gun nest on top of a company base camp building in downtown Mosul, and the young soldier manning the machine gun was complaining about the “Hajiis,” the slur for Iraqis fighting against the U.S. soldiers, and I asked him what would happen back in his hometown in Illinois if a foreign nation had come into town and seized the town hall and installed a new police force and took the Social Security office, similar to the building that his company had seized for its base camp. What do you think would happen?

“We’d fight ‘em and drive them out,” he answered immediately. He thought for a minute. “Oh, I get it,” he said.

We don’t “get it” about what’s happening in Iraq and Syria today anymore than we “got it” in 2003 in Mosul. The Houthis, or Kataeb Hezbollah, or any of the rest of them may be guerrilla groups allied with Iran or with Shiite or Sunni radicals, or whoever they’re allied with, but for them, they’re fighting invaders in their countries exactly like the high school kids and the adults were in the movie Red Dawn, trying to drive the Evil Empire or the Great Satan, or whatever they’re calling us, out of their countries.

And it isn’t just the locals that are pissed at us. Did you see the report yesterday that Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires to protest the last round of airstrikes as “new aggression against Iraq’s sovereignty.” A statement from al-Sudani’s office said that U.S. bases in Iraq “have become a reason for threatening security and stability in Iraq and a justification for involving Iraq in regional and international conflicts.”

The Reuters report I quoted at the top of this story about the attacks against U.S. forces said that “U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq and Syria to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State militants.” Even the country we say we’re defending is turning against us.

If we give our soldiers in Iraq and Syria and Jordan jobs we think are important enough for them to be stationed in the middle of nowhere on bases surrounded by huge dirt berms, we should give them air defenses or any other kinds of defenses that will prevent them from being killed. The Tower 22 base was not adequately defended. Neither were several other bases that were attacked by drones and rockets during which multiple American soldiers were wounded, some suffering severe brain injuries.

If we justify having our troops over there, for whatever reason—standing up to Iran and its influence in the region seems to be the flavor of the day—then we owe our soldiers every protection we can give them. If that means launching air strikes on the Houthis and the radical Muslim groups that are shooting at our bases, then we should launch them. But don’t expect it to stop anytime soon. It’s Red Dawn over there every day, and to the at least some of the locals, we’re the Evil Empire. Not a pretty picture, any way you look at it.

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better.

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