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Roundtable Discussion with Sgt.Zack Bazzi, and Deborah Scranton Director of “The War Tapes”

Posted in on October 4th, 2006 3:36 pm by HL

I went down to the Le Meridian Hotel in Beverly Hills today to meet Sgt. Zack Bazzi who was one of the main characters in “The War Tapes,” as well as the director of the film Deborah Scranton, There was a roundtable discussion of the film and the war with myself, and several journalists, Here is a transcript of the interview.

Q: What made you sign up for the service?

Bazzi: I joined at 18, which is probably the easiest enlistment for a recruiter. They give you a sales pitch, because infantry is the part of the army that they need the most recruits for. They try to gear you toward that. I just went up to the guy and said “Hey, I want to join the Infantry” (laughs)
I did it for several reasons; there are a lot of benefits to it. Education benefits but also for many implicit benefits like leadership, communications, and confidence. But I think the biggest reason is that I like it, it’s just my personality. It’s challenging, you do a lot of really cool things, that youth likes like you get to jump out of helicopters in whatever country… girls like you and….all that good stuff.

Q: The most difficult aspect of this for both of you was what?

Scranton: The most difficult aspect of this for me was hoping that they

come home alive.

Bazzi: There was no real difficulty; I mean it didn’t really add any difficulty to my deployment. Different soldiers participated in different ways. The way I filmed 99% of the time was I just screwed the camera onto the tripod, the tripod was screwed into the dashboard of the Humvee. It was done kind of randomly sometime I would go 2 weeks without filming, sometimes I would film 3 or 4 days in a row. A lot of my involvement was a function of my relationship with Debra, Trust, and the evolution of the relationship. So ultimately it was us who decided when and why to film, so there was no direction in the typical sense. I was in a combat zone leading troops, the last thing I was going to worry about was a camera, so it didn’t interferer with anything I did, nor would I let it. Filming was always secondary and optional

Scranton: The idea was to tell it through their eyes, I didn’t have an adgenda, I wasn’t going to say to them I want this, this, this, I wanted to crawl inside the experience see what it looked like and felt like, I wanted to tell the story from the inside out .

Q: The film has already opened on the east coast, what has the response been so far.

Scranton: Well we won the Tribeca Film Festival. The response has been overwhelming…
I think there is a real hunger, and a disconnect, people want to understand better, and have a greater degree of empathy. I think one of the most common questions I hear is “What can I do, what can we do to help soldiers, and Brandon Wilkins who was one of the 5 who filmed very eloquently said “Get to know one”

H.L.: The main thing I got out of the movie was the part near the beginning where they are talking about how KBR/Hallliburton is making there big profit out of everything going on over there $28 per meal goes to them… Dick Cheney 433,000 shares basically what I got out of the movie was we shouldn’t even be there, lost all faith in the press they are not reporting it, I mean obviously the whole thing is a debacle in a lot of peoples minds , and then you reenlisted to back, I think, isn’t that what happened. I mean you read The Nation so you have to know what’s going on so Why would you want to stay in and keep fighting that?

Bazzi: Well I do have my own politics and personal beliefs and a lot of them come out in the movie some of them fall into the Liberal category and I am proud of that You’d have a hard time making the case that I am unpatriotic that I feel that way. I am there to do a job, and at the end of the job it is not political. We serve at the pleasure of our commander in chief and our government the reality of it is politics and we go wherever our government send us, having said all that my unit reflects America we have many guys who are conservative, many guys who think this war is a righteous endeavor, and you have other ones who think it was a debacle, but that is what America so great, regardless of the political context of this war [the film] was about some of the soldiers personal doubts, and feelings and politics, but ultimately when it comes to performance…the performance is to the highest standards…professional and I have yet to see another army that performs better then us on the battlefield.

Q: Before you went, what were your expectations when you got there?

A: I’ve deployed twice before, Bosnia, and Kosovo, so I knew about the process so obviously in Iraq, the process was just a difference of degrees. I’ve been through the process so this was just going to be more difficult, more challenging. I knew what was going to happen in a way, the training was outstanding I know in the film I brought up a couple of things that were lacking in cultural training and but generally speaking it was outstanding, you knew what to expect having said all that, the only way to experience war is to go there This documentary is an attempt, its not the real thing, it’s a noble attempt and I think it’s the closest thing you are going to get to the war without having to go there and get shot at

Q: What are the differences between the film and actually being there.

Bazzi: Well I can show you a documentary about a 120 degree day but it is not the same as you being in a 120 degree day.

Q: What I like about this film is it talks about what happens to the soldiers when they get home which is very important What did you find out on returning?

Q: Was it common knowledge among the troops how much KBR drivers were making and how did you feel about risking your life to escort them?

Bazzi: You know we dealt with KBR trucks every day because if you are guarding a convoy, you have to go talk to the KBR guy in charge of that convoy so there are interactions and people find out but people separate KBR from their missions. KBR is the trucks that bring in supplies for us or as one of the guys in the movie said “The cheese”
But they bring 9 different classes of things whether it’s the food, weaponry, fuel, bombs, so we are escorting our own…supplies. Now of course I am not going to lie to you, Do I think there is some profiteering going on? And could it be run more efficiently, of course but I am in a war zone and I have many things to worry about. The Citizins such as yourself and citizens of the country should be policing that up. Soldiers on the front line have enough duty, but yeah there is frustration, it showed in the movie. I don’t complain about them not because I don’t think they are profiteering but I had my steak over there, I ate my Ice cream the food was great, they did my laundry, I wasn’t paying for any of those services so why would I complain. I mean you can complain if you think there was profiteering.

H.L: Well you can complain about things but that doesn’t mean that things get done, and the people that are over there are being affected the most by it. I’m glad to see the way the movie portrayed it because it actually brings it home to people who don’t follow these kinds of things, but the fact that we are still over there after all this time, Its been exposed as a lie, it was a lie from the start, and they are over there getting killed, and Dick Cheney is getting rich off of it. I don’t understand how anybody would want to go along with that.

Bazzi: I agree with you…there is a financial element as well; everyone makes money off of it People that report on it, documentarians…

Scranton: We haven’t made any money yet (laughs)

Bazzi: At some point it has to end, but people make a living off the war, covering it, writing about it, providing supplies for it, fighting it. I made a living off it; I made approximately $50,000 tax free per year.

H.L.: Tax Free? Or after taxes?

Bazzi: Tax free. They don’t charge taxes to soldiers in combat.

More to Come…Stay tuned