It has the right ingredients: cynicism; satire; drama; dirty political tricks; foreign intrigue; two fine actors, Val Kilmer and Derek Luke; and even, a heavily contrived Hollywood-like happy ending. However, David Mamet’s latest flick, “Spartan,” misses the target by miles. It dodges the hard truth. America, which has been feeding off a Pentagon-inspired hubris that has spawned 725 military bases in over 120 countries, is totally out-of-control (See, “The Sorrows of Empire,” by Chalmers Johnson).
The focus of Mamet’s contorted suspense yarn is a moral corruption of a very benign quality, in a White House occupied by a “Bubba Bill” Clinton type, or someone else just as shallow. There are some references to a Homeland Security-like agency and to federal agents, who think the U.S. Constitution is only a piece of paper. This is the kind of silly nonsense, however, that you can regularly catch on any episode of TV’s “The West Wing.”
The reality today is a lot grimmer than Mamet dares to imagine. His film is drawn on too small a political canvas. It is too darn nice. It’s mildly entertaining, but it is not what is needed now by a nation headed straight for hell. This country requires a mighty, slashing jolt to bring it to its senses and Mamet gives it a hug. Unless America’s dangerous trend towards militarism and imperialism is reversed, it will lead to the demise of our Republic and worse.
If only Mamet would have concentrated his tale on a larger theme: such as the Bush-Cheney Gang’s cozy connections to the corrupt Enron Corporation. Now, there is a topic worthy of Mamet’s talents. It might have then gotten the attention of a country in denial about how things really work in Washington and who is really in charge. And, it isn’t that cowardly Congress for sure, which is incapable of saying “no” to the Pentagon.
The movie’s title,”Spartan,” comes from the ancient Greek City/State of Sparta, famed for its devotion to a strict code of military values. When another state requested military aid, the Spartans sent it just “one” of its soldiers! The idea the U.S. today could replicate the actions of Sparta is unthinkable. We do, however, regularly export terror, death and mayhem, via sophisticated weapon systems. For instance, “U.S. arms sales represent 44 percent of the global market.” And, we’ve trained hundreds of thousands of foreign military officers and police, particularly from South America, in the art of torture and assassination, according to Johnson.
In the film, the president’s daughter is kidnapped from her college dorm in Boston, and is sent packing off to Dubai, in the Persian Gulf, by a White Sex Slave racket. In typical Hollywood fashion, Mamet unfairly demonizes the Arabs as the bad guys here.
The president’s handlers (William H. Macy and Ed O’Neill) don’t want the word to get out (shades of “Monicagate”) that the president, who was in Boston, too, when his daughter was lifted from her apartment, was then secretly meeting with his mistress. The kidnappers are unaware, also, that the blond headed woman that they have seized is the daughter of the American president. Talk about a dumb bunch of gangsters! The president’s men then order the Pentagon’s Special Operation robots, Kilmer and Luke, on the case, with instructions “to stop at nothing to get the girl back.” Translation – it’s okay for them to cheat, steal and kill anyone that gets in the way. Then, more conspiracies and more lies intervene as the plot goes from serial shoot outs to a disappointing thud of an ending.
When the military characters were doing their bravado spoutings in the “Spartan,” I couldn’t help but think of one of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld’s Orwellian-like cracks, made back in 1983. He was then operating as chief arms supplier to Saddam Hussein, on behalf of President Ronald Reagan (www.nogw.com). Rumsfeld insisted, “The defeat of Iraq in the three-year-old war with Iran would be contrary to U.S. interests,” (p. 225 of Johnson’s book). Johnson then documents the radical metamorphosis in U.S. policy towards Iraq. He shows how, on March 20, 2003, the Bush-Cheney Gang launched the invasion to serve the interests of the Neocons, Halliburton, “Big Oil,” getting the American people to forget about how it had stolen the 2000 presidential election and to satisfy the compulsion of the Military-Industrial Complex to secure yet more bases around the globe (AmericaForSale.org).
Mamet, in his tepid film, paints the president’s handlers as amoral. His fiction, however, doesn’t come close to describing the extremist warmongers embedded in our Department of Defense, who have close ties to Zionist Israel (p. 234 of Johnson’s book). What is also disturbing about America’s present situation is how our foreign policy, and our gathering of foreign intelligence, is becoming more and more a function of the Pentagon. (Also, along the same line, see, “The New Pentagon Papers,” by Karen Kwiatkowski, 03/10/04, Salon.com.)
Johnson reminds us, too, of the notorious, “Operation Northwoods.” This was a draconian state-terrorism-modeled scheme, devised by the Joint Chief of Staffs, in the 60s, to “clandestinely shoot innocent people on American streets,” and to use it as an excuse for the U.S. to invade Cuba. Fortunately, the then-Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, turned it down. What else has the Pentagon suggested, along the same blood stained lines, since then, that hasn’t been refused?
Now, you can see why Mamet wasn’t even close to portraying the awful, deeper and darker truth about America. In fact, his “Spartan” film, with its pie-in-the-sky attitude, is more likely to mislead the people into thinking, that they are relatively safe. He strongly implies, that all the country has to do is to elect a good man as president, (supposedly, it will be one that can keep his pants on), and everything will then be just fine.
Oh, yea! I strongly suggest instead, that the people read Chalmers Johnson’s prophetic book, “The Sorrows of Empire,” and think again!