Zack Bazzi, War Correspondent

Susan Gerhard June 28, 2006

Zack Bazzi of the New Hampshire National Guard was born in Lebanon, reads “The Nation,” speaks conversational Arabic, and took a break from studying psychology and international affairs to fight in the U.S.‘s war in Iraq. You wouldn’t be able to find him in the pages of “Jarhead” — he’s seemingly not quick-tempered or thrill-seeking. He is more the overachieving and sensitive type. He waxes analytical on the war and philosophical on his predicament within it. Even more surprising, he’s still on active duty, and may need to return to Iraq at any time. He’s simultaneously becoming the new face of the U.S. military through Deborah Scranton’s nonfiction film “The War Tapes,” and, at the very same time, coming to represent the new approach toward criticism of the armed forces. His agenda matches many a politican’s: Complain about the war, not the warrior. It’s a long way from “Hell no, we won’t go.”

Scranton features Bazzi articulating a key theme of “The War Tapes,” that soldiering is a job, but war is an industry. The guy making the yellow ribbons, says Bazzi, “He’s making a living off of it.” Just like KBR and Halliburton, and, Bazzi points out, the filmmakers who bring you “The War Tapes.” It’s a credit to the project that they included that note of self-reflection. But the filmmakers, said executive producer Chuck Lacy at a premiere/preview screening at the Castro Theatre, never paid themselves more than a soldier’s salary during the making of the movie, and the film — an independent one — has a long way to go before getting out of the red.

Still, war is an industry, and not just for those who fight it, and those who service those who fight it, but also for those who service those not fighting it — those who write about it, and those who fight against it. At the Monday night screening, in a house filled with ex-soldiers and journalists, UC Berkeley School of Journalism Dean Orville Schell and veteran writer/war correspondent Mark Danner gave two thumbs up to citizen-soldier journalism in such a deadly era for reporters. Soldiers are losing their jobs to “contractors,” why not war correspondents?

Moonlighting as artists and writers is certainly better than the NG day job, as seen in “The War Tapes”: The soldiers spend large parts of the film frustrated that they risk their lives daily to make sure truckloads of cheesecake get delivered to the right places — a surprise to at least two of these artist/soldiers, who joined up for ideological reasons. Though articulate, Bazzi doesn’t clearly explain his own path into Iraq. His mother delivered him to the U.S. from war-torn Lebanon after soldiers once commandeered her home. She was tired of being scared, but now finds herself terrified day and night. Bazzi offers her no apology. “Part of being a soldier,” he’s told one interviewer, “is an instinctual desire to experience combat.”

Sergeant Bazzi visits San Francisco with executive producer Chuck Lacy for the 7 and 9:30 p.m. screenings of “The War Tapes” at the Castro Theatre this Friday and Saturday.

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