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U.S. troops use new film to scout enemy

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  • New film showing face of Iraqi insurgency opens this week
  • Film focuses on "ordinary" Iraqis who say they're defending their homeland
  • U.S. soldiers watch film to help their fight against insurgency
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By Catherine Mitchell
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A new documentary that focuses on the motivations of Iraqi insurgents opens later this week in the United States, but reviews are already coming in from a surprising source: U.S. troops serving in Iraq.


U.S. troops screen "Meeting Resistance," which explores the motivations of insurgents.

At a recent screening in Baghdad's Al Faw Palace, American soldiers listened to their enemies talking about why they want them dead.

"It tells us a lot about the culture and how they pretty much feel about us. Well, not the entire Iraqi culture, just the insurgents, and how pretty much their faith is pretty strong," Staff Sgt. Jason Privitera said.

The documentary, "Meeting Resistance," was shot just after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. The filmmakers, Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, spent months following a handful of Iraqi insurgents. They say it's a fractured group united by both fierce nationalism and by a religious obligation to expel a non-Muslim occupying force.

"If someone comes and occupies another man's home and takes away his food, money and property, how could he not defend himself?" one Iraqi insurgent asks in the film. "A person who doesn't fight for himself or his country shouldn't be called a human being."

Before the war he was a teacher. Now, he said, his job is killing American troops.

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The men and women in the film are obscured to protect their identities and go by simple names -- the Wife, the Teacher, the Warrior -- ordinary Iraqis who say they were peaceful people before the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and who now say they are simply defending their homeland.

"It's about not wanting to be occupied. And I think people all over the world, all throughout history have been occupied and resisting occupation is not an abnormal response to that," Bingham said. Video Preview the new film »

The insurgent known in the film as The Warrior said that while he was tortured during Saddam Hussein's rule, he is now fighting American troops. "When they occupied Iraq, they subjugated me, subjugated my sister, subjugated my mother, subjugated my brother, my homeland."

The Wife, an insurgent who smuggles weapons under her robes, said she does it because her country is more precious than even her children or her soul.

All of the insurgents in the documentary talk of the humiliation of occupation. Connors said "honor" was a word he heard frequently from the fighters. They also talk about the concept of a jihad that requires them to fight a foreign invader who is not Muslim.

"Meeting Resistance" opens Friday in New York and Washington and nationwide later in November. But the film has already been screened by the toughest of critics -- U.S. troops.

The screening was arranged by the military's Red Team -- a special unit tasked with learning about the insurgency.

"There's quite a bit of value in how it [the insurgency] grew. We have to infer what we can from it, but it's useful to try and get some perspective," said Colonel Jeff Ragland, the Red Team leader who initiated the screening.

The filmmakers say it's important for the troops and the American public to think about why the enemy is fighting. And to think about how they would answer this question, posed by an imam in the film:

"Suppose Iraq invaded America. An Iraqi soldier was on a tank passing through an American street, waving his gun at people, threatening them, raiding and trashing houses. Would you accept that?"


Maj. Irene Huggins said that while the film helped her understand why the insurgents are fighting back, it didn't change her feelings about her mission.

"People make choices; it's hard as a soldier for me to sympathize with what they're doing." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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