At the Movies and In the Field
Tony Mendez & Ben Affleck
I sense a few eyebrows, blood pressures, hackles, and tempers rising by projecting the very letters "CIA" into the consciousness of some curious newsies. But, I am pushed, nevertheless, by gratitude to those in uniform who work to save and protect us.
Even though not a uniformed service, I place the CIA in the same category as those uniforms that protect us - Police and Fire Service, Paramedics, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, RCMP, and National Guard.
In the two recent movies, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, viewers can see depictions of two CIA agents, one real and the other fictional. In Argo, the viewer can see the non-fictional former CIA agent Tony Mendez. Mendez was a University of Colorado art major graduate, drawing graphics for businesses, when he applied to a newspaper blind ad which was for the CIA. In Zero Dark Thirty, the viewer sees the fictional, composite character Maya. Maya is shown as a basic normal woman, but who must enjoy working in the national security milieu. Maya became convinced of the location of Usama bin Laden and had to go to battle against Type A male personalities to convince them of her conclusion.
The story of Tony Mendez is no big secret and his stories are told on the CIA website., www.cia.gov. The site also is available in Russian, French, Spanish, Turkish, Chinese, and Arabic. Also on the website are the stories of some storied CIA agents. Of his job titles, one of Mendez's was the James Bondish - "Chief of Disguise."
As we know, Argo needs a storage unit to house its many awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture, the BAFTA Award for Best Film. Zero Dark Thirty was also successful and won several awards including the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film and Best Actress. Jessica Chastain (Maya) won the BAFTA for Best Actress. It is rumored that Zero Dark Thirty was subjected to a smear campaign by opponents of the movie's waterboarding scenes, which are depicted as effective. Nevertheless, Zero Dark Thirty won a number of other accolades to include the American Film Institute Movie of the Year and the Golden Globes awarded Best Actress to Jessica Chastain. Ben Affleck (as Tony Mendez) starred in and directed Argo.
The main fault of Argo was its neglect to Canada's equally heroic role in harboring and rescuing the hunted American embassy staff in Iran.
To me, the movie raises the moral question - "To what depths would I go to obtain information regarding my family, or my house, or my neighborhood, or my city, or my nation if I had an absolutely convicted sense of imminent, certain, and horrible destruction?"
The mind repulses in contemplation of going into explosive conflict. But, respect is due to those who do, at the same time, with a feeling of entering the abyss and wrestling with doubts and fears and possible catastrophe. Most of us can handle a crazed boss or can handle a rebellious employee. We can protest as a dissatisfied customer or we can fend off an unreasonable co-worker. Everybody seems to be at least a little drained in such situations or maybe even totally wrecked. But, my question remains, "How would I handle an imminent situation with somebody in a crazed state of mind?" Most of us never have to encounter such a prospect and have a hardened mental shell that repels any mention of this world. Most of us would probably find it to be to be repugnant and reprehensible to practice authorized interrogation techniques. Or some would find it horrifying to question a violent crime suspect. Some may be rattled at the thought of punching an IV into heart attack victim or enter a flaming building.
I am glad that somebody enters the flaming house, glad that somebody pulls over the impaired driver, glad that somebody administers medications in the wailing ambulance, glad that somebody guards the land, air, and sea, glad that somebody moves forward to overthrow murderous regimes, glad that somebody liberates oppressed people.
But, I know that the more far flung and more complex the actions, the more mistakes are made, in the heat of the battle, by our own security people. Then often, the people in their beds sleeping well at night take umbrage against their protectors.
To quote some of the ironic words of Rudyard Kipling in his poem 1892 "Tommy:"
"Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep."
"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that and ‘Chuck him out, the brute!"
"But, it's ‘Savior of ‘is country, when the guns begin to shoot."