I'm Ross Caputi, and I'm a veteran of the 2nd siege of Fallujah, which was one of the largest and bloodiest operations of the Occupation of Iraq. This documentary is about my life after my experience in Fallujah, and my struggle to learn the truth about what I participated in amidst all the propaganda. But it is also a documentary about Fallujah, the people who live there, and the human consequences of US foreign policy in their city.
The 2nd siege of Fallujah was fought in November of 2004. The US military and the mainstream media framed the operation as a historic and heroic battle against terrorism. This is what most Americans remember about Fallujah today, if they remember anything at all.
However, this narrative is inaccurate for many reasons (and I will explore those reasons in the documentary). But for right now, the important thing to focus on is that this operation caused tremendous human suffering. Thousands of civilians were killed (over 700 were killed in the 1st siege in April, 2004, and estimates range between 3,000 and 6,000 for the 2nd siege). Large sections of Fallujah were completely destroyed. And 200,000 civilians were forced to become refugees.
Possibly the most heart wrenching consequence of these sieges is the public health crisis that emerged a couple years after the fighting. All of the scientific research on this topic suggest that the weapons that were used in the two sieges of Fallujah polluted the city to such an extent that there are now enormous rates of birth defects and cancers in Fallujah. Today, 14% of all children born in Fallujah are born with birth defects. And the cancer rates in children are 12 times the expected rates in a healthy population. These figures have led many people to compare Fallujah with Hiroshima. So not only did the sieges of Fallujah hurt people in 2004, but they are still hurting people today, and unless we do something about it they will continue to hurt the future generations as well.
This information might seem shocking to you. That's because it isn't being discussed in the US. And that's why I'm making this documentary. I feel strongly that America needs to know about the human consequences of our foreign policy. So what I did was I took a camera and interviewed 10 of the best experts on the topic of Fallujah.
The facts and the analyses given by the experts I interviewed challenge the narrative told by the US military and the mainstream media about what happened in Fallujah in 2004 and what the consequences were. Beyond that, I think this documentary also offers a fresh perspective on issues that veterans struggle with, particular issues that don't get enough attention.
There have been plenty of documentaries that deal with the horrors of combat, or the struggles that veterans have with PTSD, or their difficulties with reintegrating into society. But few have dealt with the moral injury that veterans incur from having participated in something that violates their sense of right and wrong. Moral injury from war is only starting to get the attention it deserves.
Many veterans can attest to feeling tainted after coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan. It was an incredibly confusing experience for me to come back home and have everyone calling me a hero and thanking me for my service, when all I could feel about my so-called service was guilt. I've known many veterans who have struggled with the automatic and unconditional hero-status that is imposed on them. And I've known many veterans who, after war, found themselves coming to believe in higher principles that extend to all human beings, even those outside of US borders, but were afraid to take a stand for fear that they would be called a "traitor" or "unpatriotic." These veterans' voices are rarely heard.
What if the mission itself was the source of the moral injury? How do we balance our duty to our country and our duty to humanity? If there is blood on one's hands, how does he redeem himself? My life since Fallujah has been a fumbling attempt to grapple with these questions. And I hope that addressing them in this documentary will be consoling to the veterans who have felt like I have.
This is what I hope to do with the documentary. But I'm talking to you here on Kickstarter because I need your help.
I'm currently in the post-production stage, and I need to cover past expenses for the camera, the microphones, and a few travel expenses. But the most important expense that we face right now is for archive footage and the license we need to use that footage, which all together is $6300.
You may have noticed that in the trailer I used the low-quality still photographs that I took with a disposable camera in Iraq. The documentary will be so much more informative and powerful if the viewer could see the buildings in Fallujah crumbling under machine gun fire, or the civilians of Fallujah frantically digging mass graves to burry the dead before the mounting number of bodies begin to rot, or the tents that the refugees had to live in in the desert. My personal photos can't come close to capturing that reality.
Our total budget is a modest $7,500.
I really care about this project. I don't want America to just know what I've gone through. I want America to know what Fallujah has gone through as well. I want to do whatever is within my power to help Fallujah. And I don't want the next generation of Americans to know only a sanitized version of American history and to walk as naively as I did into a war that never should have happened. So please help me make this possible.
If we reach our funding goal, we will make the documentary free for all to download off the internet. We hope to be able to make the documentary available this coming November.
Risks and challenges
In the past I've come under attack because I've publicly denounced our mission in Fallujah. I've been called a "terrorist," a "traitor," a "coward," and many other things. It has been mostly other veterans who have attacked me in this way, because they feel threatened by my activism.
I fully expect that this documentary will come under similar criticism. And I will defend the message in this documentary the same way I always have. To claim that our mission in Fallujah was immoral, doesn't in any way imply that the people who participated in either siege are immoral people. We were intentionally misled by our leaders and the media to believe that we were doing a good thing. But however well intentioned we were, that doesn't change the fact that our mission hurt a lot of innocent Fallujans. This is a fact that can't be dismissed, and it shouldn't be dismissed.
Furthermore, I understand that when you have close friends killed in combat (as I have) you want so badly for what they died for to be right and noble. It is a hard pill to swallow to learn that our friends' lives were squandered in an unjust war. I understand this. I understand why people get angry with me for trying to inform the public that our mission in Iraq was wrong and that it hurt a lot of innocent people. But Fallujans shouldn't have to suffer because the truth is difficult for us to accept.
Just as other unpopular truths came under fire in the past (like abolitionist ideas and civil rights), this issue will likely come under fire too. The title of our documentary comes from an Arabic proverb: Fear not the path of truth for the lack of those who walk it. Although the message in this documentary is a hard pill to swallow, and it will certainly face some backlash, I'm prepared to defend it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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