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With the Bush administration’s decision to embed reporters with the troops, Gulf War II has become the most documented conflict in human history. So director Deborah Scranton couldn’t have expected to get anything unprecedented when she distributed digital-video minicameras to members of a New Hampshire National Guard unit sent to Iraq in March 2004. It’s unclear how many men received the cameras, but the director—and her crucial collaborators, editors Steve James and Leslie Simmer—concentrate on three in The War Tapes: blue-collar guys Mike Moriarty and Steve Pink and college man Zack Bazzi, who was born in Lebanon and speaks Arabic. While the guardsmen and their cohorts do their job, other camera operators document the women left behind: Bazzi’s mother, Pink’s girlfriend, and Moriarty’s wife. Rather than bivouac in a former Hussein mansion, like the guys in last year’s Gunner Palace, these New Englanders lived in Logistical Support Area Anaconda, one of the most attacked of American bases. The film’s major horrors, however, don’t involve the GIs dealing with their wounded or killed comrades but their efforts to live with memories of having watched Iraqis mutilated by bombs and crushed by trucks. Bazzi is a Nation reader who really wanted to be a soldier, but not in Iraq; he offers trenchant observations on the gap between the locals and the American troops, who get “zero training about the culture.” Pink and Moriarty, meanwhile, reserve much of their contempt for a military contractor: Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown Root subsidiary, which they see as getting rich on the conflict. Men die to protect KBR trucks full of cheesecake, they complain, and the company’s pricing structure guarantees excess income. (For example, KBR charges $28 per Styrofoam plate, on the assumption that each one used constitutes a full meal.) Such ground-level observations are interesting, and Bazzi, Pink, and Moriarty’s experiences are worth as much as those of anyone who endures a stint in the Big Sandy. Yet we’ve seen American soldiers in Iraq up close many times before, and The War Tapes’ night-vision-goggles view of the locals remains as fuzzy as ever. After all the embeds, what’s still lacking is significant insight into the Iraqi experience of the war—and even the Arabic-speaking Bazzi doesn’t claim to have much of that. —Mark Jenkins