Film Puts Spotlight On Green Berets The documentary Why We Fight Now tells the story of the Green Berets, the elite Special Forces soldiers whose specialty is counterinsurgency. They're known as the "quiet professionals," but a few years ago their commander decided to make a film about them — and its message is proving to be timely.

Film Puts Spotlight On Green Berets

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There's a new documentary film about the Green Berets. They're the Army's elite Special Forces with a specialty in counterinsurgency, the kind of war that the military is trying to fight now in Afghanistan. How the film got made is a story in itself.

Jon Kalish explains.

JON KALISH: The film is titled "Why We Fight Now," a nod to the World War II series "Why We Fight," produced by Hollywood filmmaker Frank Capra for the U.S. War Department. "Why We Fight" was originally intended for American soldiers but eventually was seen by the general public.

(Soundbite of documentary, "Why We Fight")

Unidentified Man #1: The symbols and the leaders change, but Germany's maniacal urge to impose its will on others continues from generation to generation.

KALISH: "Why We Fight Now" was co-produced by Frank Capra Jr., who passed away just as the new film was being completed.

(Soundbite of documentary, "Why We Fight Now")

Unidentified Man #2: There's millions of people in this country, I don't think they really grasp what really could happen.

Unidentified Man #3: We're trying to protect the United States. That's our goal, because the last thing I want to see is another 9/11 incident.

KALISH: "Why We Fight Now" has no narration and consists mostly of Green Berets talking about their work. It was directed by Mark Benjamin, a 62-year-old Manhattan filmmaker who might seem an odd choice for the job.

Mr. MARK BENJAMIN (Director, "Why We Fight Now"): I've always been anti-war and never thought I would ever work for the military.

KALISH: On the wall in Benjamin's office is a poster of Che Guevara, but there's also a picture of a Green Beret handing a piece of food to a child in Afghanistan. Benjamin's political evolution is due in no small part to the terrorist attacks of September 11. He knew people who died and has made several films dealing with the day's repercussions.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Because of 9/11, I became this liberal hawk. My own political perspective on global conflicts, democracy, capitalism, human rights � everything changed. I certainly became more militant. I think we should go after terror wherever it is.

KALISH: The military chose Benjamin because it wanted someone who had made both documentaries and commercials.

Mr. BENJAMIN: They wanted it to be slick, and they wanted it to be a film that would promote Special Forces.

KALISH: Benjamin's crews filmed Green Berets in action in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Colombia and Africa.

(Soundbite of documentary, "Why We Fight Now")

Unidentified Man #4: With a Special Forces soldier, you get that human dynamic of being culturally sensitive. You are not going to get that million-dollar battle tank to be culturally sensitive and to speak a foreign language.

Unidentified Man #5: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #6: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #5: (Foreign language spoken)

KALISH: "Why We Fight Now" had a premiere screening a year ago at Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Roger Carstens is a former Green Beret who is now a non-resident fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a national security think tank. He watched the film at Fort Bragg with a Green Beret friend who had recently returned from Afghanistan.

Mr. ROGER CARSTENS (Non-Resident Fellow, Center for a New American Society): We both felt it really did a great job of telling what we in Army Special Forces do in our approach to countering insurgencies and dealing with an unconventional threat, but we also figured the Army would squash it.

KALISH: It didn't. The film was broadcast on the Armed Forces network on September 11 this year. Since then, according to a source in Special Forces, a superior in the Special Operations Command ordered that the film be edited to tone down statements about Green Berets being best suited for counterinsurgency work.

There is a rivalry between the Green Berets and others in Special Operations Command, as well as with other branches of the armed services, all of them competing for tight budget dollars.

Again, former Green Beret Roger Carstens.

Mr. CARSTENS: I think the Army is wrestling with resource battles. Where do we put our personnel and our money into creating the Army of the future? And so, as an Army general, I'm not sure I'd want Special Forces to come out and say, hey, coach, we have the answer.

KALISH: The Green Berets are currently adding five new battalions, according to one Green Beret officer. Representatives from the unit declined to be interviewed on the record for this story.

The film's associate producer, Chris Cooney of Screen Gems, says military brass in Special Forces are picking the right moment to, quote, "deploy" this film. And Cooney confirms that the film has been edited for television.

Mr. CHRIS COONEY (Associate Producer, "Why We Fight Now"): We don't know whether or not it will be picked up, but the editing is to tailor it for television programming. It should be seen by the general public because it has a message that I think lay people should understand.

KALISH: Whether or not the Green Berets documentary makes it to commercial television, you can see the original version on YouTube.

For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish in New York.

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