The Truth About "Green Zone"

As principal military adviser on the just-released thriller "Green Zone," I have an obligation to the soldiers and civilians with whom I served to ensure that my involvement in the production of the film does not lend the appearance of accuracy to the assertion that a massive conspiracy led us into the war in Iraq.

My role as the principal military adviser on the film had absolutely nothing to do with making political statements; in fact, to the extent possible, the most important role I played as an adviser was to push the plot as far away from reality as possible. After receiving assurances from Paul Greengrass, the Director of “Green Zone,” that he would not allow the film to be turned into an exploitive polemic, I agreed to participate.

Paul asked me to distinguish which elements of the film were factual and which were pure fantasy. As I watched the plot develop into a larger than life, unrealistic conspiracy theory, I felt there could be no mistaking it for anything other than a great Hollywood action thriller.

But, as some have pointed out, Green Zone is not a typical thriller. There are a number of assertions throughout the film that have caused some, on both sides of the political spectrum, to react disproportionately to this fictional film.

“Green Zone” contains several messages, an unavoidable consequence of making a film of this genre. Critical blunders preceding the invasion, chiefly the bad intelligence that led us to war, made certain that no quick victory would be achieved and certainly undermined U.S. credibility around the world. Later, the U.S. directed a de-Bathification policy which disenfranchised a massive section of the population and helped fuel an insurgency. Consequently, any hope of victory in Iraq was made vastly more complicated and costly -- as the last 7 years have proven. I I believe this is true.

However, “Green Zone” also suggests that we were lied into the war in Iraq; a subtext that is unfortunately being twisted by some in order to give credence to a bumper sticker I deplore, the mantra which has become the left's version of the war -- which is well on its way to becoming the Iraq conflict's official history -- "They lied; people died." As intriguing as that idea may be, it’s simply not true.

Obvious parallels between Amy Ryan’s character and former New York Times reporter Judy Miller have fueled numerous critical personal attacks against Judy. No confrontation between Judy and I ever took place. On the battlefield in Iraq in 2003 her pre-war reporting was no concern of mine. In fact, I have never seen anyone more desperately pursue the truth; our government and a hell of a lot of people were wrong about the situation in Iraq leading up to the war and it is spineless to assign blame in such a disproportionate manner.

I am surprised and disappointed that some are trying to twist fictional accounts into reality.
The veterans involved, especially me, spent an enormous amount of time and energy ensuring that the details of the sets, the equipment and the characteristics of the soldiers being portrayed were as accurate as possible—albeit larger than life. But, the fascinating and juicy conspiracy theory that makes “Green Zone” such a great thriller was not our story and I was pleased to see it grow like a tall tale on a daily basis.

This film makes no claim based on fact and no assertions to the contrary should be made. Seeding paranoia was not my intention as an adviser nor was it the intention of the soldiers with whom I worked closely with over the two year period this film was being made.

I think that “Green Zone” is a great, gripping action thriller -- a Bourne-in-Baghdad adventure that will certainly entertain audiences. But I would be appalled if film-goers thought that it was anything other than fiction. The portrayal of the characters in the film is not how the soldiers with whom I worked or the American officials I dealt with in Iraq conducted themselves. The real story of the hunt for WMD is, in fact, more interesting. Maybe one day, someone will want to tell that story.

The story of “Green Zone” is not mine and does not accurately portray my team’s experience in Iraq in 2003—to suggest it does is ludicrous.

Richard L. "Monty" Gonzales retired from the U.S. military as a Chief Warrant Officer 4. He served as  principle military adviser on the film "Green Zone." He currently serves on the board of directors of Support The Heroes.

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