FULL BATTLE RATTLEThere’s war going on in California. In the middle of the Mojave Desert the American military has created a ‘virtual Iraq’ for training purposes. It took one billion dollars to set up this simulated war zone where several hundred Iraqis, decked out in battle gear, take part as ‘protagonists’. US army units usually spend three weeks at this training camp before being detailed to Iraq.
This film follows the fortunes of one company as they go through the training process. Their “battle mission” is to crush an Iraqi uprising and to prevent the fictive village of Medina Wasl from slipping into civil war. Both sides of the “conflict” are interviewed: besides the US soldiers and the group captain in charge of the commando, filmmakers Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss also talk to Iraqis who have been asked to play civilians on the battlefield, as well as GIs who embody Iraqi “insurgents”.
Although the hard-fought terrain looks more like a film set, the effort and emotional commitment of those involved are completely real. Fact and fiction are interwoven. This means that a situation that, in the beginning, felt strangely surreal, gradually becomes more serious in tone, and the sham reveals a lot of truths about the way the US army is conducting the war in Iraq. The “battle for Medina Wasl” unintentionally becomes a symbol for all the military blunders as well as the cultural and religious differences that cause the efforts of the Americans to come to nothing.