Published August 17, 2011
Odds are that the new action flick from veteran filmmaker Renny Harlin (best known for directing "Die Hard 2") won’t get a White House screening any time soon. His latest offering “5 Days of War” is set against the backdrop of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
Harlin, who started filming on location less than a year after the war ended, takes a decidedly pro-Georgian view. That won't sit well with President Obama, who has trumpeted "reset" with Russia as a major foreign policy success.
Harlin's film paints a horrifying picture of Mr. Obama's new best friends. Though the plot is pure Hollywood, many of the most disturbing scenes were drawn directly from first-hand accounts and reports by Human Rights Watch. Thus we see an old woman being tortured and the deliberate cluster-bombing of villages along the invasion route.
The film ends with testimonies from Georgians who lost family members in the war. "After I met a lot of refugees," Harlin said last night during a post-screening discussion of the movie at Washington’s Landmark Theater, "I felt I had to tell their story. That's why we added the testimonials."
The liberal blogosphere is already attacking Harlin's film for being "anti-Russian." Though mainstream Hollywood embraced "Hotel Rwanda," a similar motion picture, it will likely turn its back on "5 Days of War." The difference: the latter implicitly calls into question Mr. Obama's decision to make nice with Moscow.
The presentation of Russia as regional bully does not sit well with the official White House narrative. Indeed, of late, blaming Moscow’s victims has become a bit of a cottage industry in the United States.
For example, recent allegations that the Russians engineered last year’s bombing outside the U.S. Embassy in Georgia (at the same time the White House was pushing for ratification of a U.S.-Russia arms control treaty) quickly produced a squad of predictable skeptics. Writing for The Atlantic, Joshua Foust (a fellow at the American Security Project) suggested the whole thing may have been a frame-job by the Georgians. “[T]hey have a vested interest in blaming everything on Russia,” he points out.
Here, however, is what Foust doesn’t explain. It looks like the Georgians had been trying to keep the whole story quiet—and work back channels in the U.S. to get the Russians to back off. The story was actually “outed” here in the U.S.
Furthermore, these are bombings, and bombings leave physical evidence. You can bet your boots U.S. investigators have seen that evidence. Perhaps that what led the U.S. to “quietly” complain to the Russians about the string of bombings around the Georgian capital. After that complaint, the bombings stopped. Coincidence?
That spate of bombings—about a dozen in total were attempted—included targets ranging from the embassy to railroad stations and bridges. Most seem designed more to scare than kill. The bombing at the embassy, for example, was on exterior wall where no one was likely to get hurt. This looks like serious message sending from Moscow.
After news of bombing campaign finally broke, The New York Times reported, five senators requested a briefing from the State Department, the National Security Council and various intelligence agencies on the explosion at the embassy. According to the Times, one of the five, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), issued “a statement that until the explosion in Georgia… was resolved, efforts to reset relations with Russia should be halted.”
The more closely folks examine the achievements of the "reset," the more it appears that there is no “there” there. The New START treaty, for example, seems all take and no give for the Russians.
And after taking the administration’s negotiating team to the cleaners on that one, Moscow isn’t even talking nice. Vladimir Putin recently called the U.S. a “parasite” on the global economy. With friends like these…
It remains to be seen how much of an audience "5 Days of War" will find in the dog days of summer. But while the administration still tries to present it reset initiative as a blockbuster hit, outside reviewers increasingly give it a “thumbs down.”
James Jay Carafano is director of The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.