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Sometimes finding the truth is easier than facing  it. 

When all is said of the number of American troops dead and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, the deaths of Iraqi insurgents and innocents listed, what is most often not discussed is the fate of the survivors.  “In The Valley Of Elah,” based on a true story, Director Paul Haggis takes us through one aftermath of war and the growing problem of anti-social personality disorder expressed by returning combat troops.  The constant dosing of adrenaline resulting from a 24/7 360o battle “front” and rules of engagement that call for “extreme prejudice” to save their own lives is exacting a devastating toll on our troops.

“The Real Cost of War,” written in 2004 by Mark Boal and published in Playboy Magazine, tells the true story of Specialist Richard R. Davis. After returning home from Iraq, Specialist Davis and four of his friends went out. Specialist Davis never made it back. He was stabbed thirty three times and then his body was burned. Two of his friends later confessed to the crime.

“In The Valley Of Elah” features three Academy Award® winners–Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, and Susan Sarandon–with an all-star supporting cast including Jonathan Tucker, James Franco, Frances Fisher, Tim McGraw, Jason Patric, and Mehcad Brooks.  Adapted for the screen and directed by Paul Haggis (“Million Dollar Baby”, “Crash”, “Flags of Our Fathers”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”), “In The Valley Of Elah” tells of model soldier Mike Deerfield (Jonathan Tucker) who mysteriously goes AWOL, shortly after returning to the U.S. from the front lines in Iraq.

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Surprised his son with whom he shares a close relationship did not contact him upon his return, career officer father Hank (Tommy Lee Jones) enlists the aid of police detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) in the search for his son. The worry and anguish over their son, Joan (Susan Sarandon) poignantly portrays every mothers suffering for their soldier sons and daughters.  Sarandon brings all the tragedy and pain to a riveting and tear manufacturing clarity that all parents feel and fear.  Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron portray Hank and detective Sanders brilliantly and with such honesty, that the conversations and comebacks from each character pops into your consciousness a second before they speak your thoughts. 

“In The Valley Of Elah,” is not an anti-war movie.  It is a whodunit with intense and intricate psychological weavings that should start people asking many questions about the effects of war on those tasked with fighting it.  We know that our troops are dealing with lifelong disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Suicide.  Standards have been lowered to meet recruitment quotas by the armed forces.  The consequences of war on personalities that may have already had serious emotional and psychological flaws are becoming increasingly evident.  “War changes people,” said Susan Sarandon on The Colbert Report.  The agonizing reality that war is one of the world’s worst atrocities, not just to the immediate victims but to those who survive the trauma of participating in or witnessing war’s cruelty up close and personal, needs to be thought through.  As many of our troops start exhibiting signs of anti social personality disorder and are acting out in increasingly violent ways, we must answer the question, “Is war worth it, at any cost?”  All we can do is wait until all our troops return home to find out what the final outcomes will be.  Or is it!?!


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Michael Shelby serves democracy as an aggressive progressive and "equal opportunity abuser". An independent election integrity activist in Arizona, he is also an active member of Progressive Democrats of America. A veteran of Vietnam era antiwar (more...)

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