Demonstrations Apprehended in Chicago and Washington against “Rules of Engagement”, the Movie Intimidating Yemenis [Archives:2000/16/Reportage]

April 17 2000

In sharp reaction to the release of the movie, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) launched a campaign against the movie and asked honorable Arabs and Yemenis to participate in the demonstrations against the film in the USA. Here we publish the complete message of the ADC:
“ADC is asking its members and supporters to organize local demonstrations against the new Paramount film “Rules of Engagement,” one of the most racist anti-Arab films ever made by a major Hollywood studio. 
ADC’s analysis of the film can be read on ADC’s website at Demonstrations have already taken place in Chicago on Saturday and others are scheduled to take place in Washington, DC next week. ADC urges everyone to join in the effort of making sure that Paramount does not release such a film without serious and significant opposition and condemnation. We should make sure that this film, which was the top grossing movie last weekend earning $15 million, is thoroughly and utterly exposed and denounced.
ADC has created a sample flyer, which will be available on our website as a formatted PDF file for downloading and printing. This flyer should be handed out during any demonstrations to all bypassers. It is also reproduced below in plain text. For help in organizing protests, issuing press releases, or local contact information please contact ADC National Office. Please also note the outrage of numerous critics whose denunciations of the racism in “Rules of Engagement” are presented below.
ADC sample flyer on “rules of engagement”:
“Rules of Engagement” promotes Anti-Arab Racism
Paramount Pictures new film, “Rules of Engagement,” sets a new low for anti-Arab racism and defamation. It stands out even among the crop of Hollywood movies in recent years, many of which, including “True Lies” and “The Siege” were highly offensive, as particularly relentless and vicious in its negative portrayal of Arabs and Arab culture. Indeed, “Rules of Engagement” can only be considered in the same light as other films whose purpose is to deliberately and systematically vilify an entire people, such as “Birth of a Nation” and “The Eternal Jew.”While the film contains countless negative portrayals of Arabs, sympathetic or positive images of Arabs are easy to list: there are none. There is not even the semblance of an effort to balance the negative images with anything positive or even neutral.
Offensive material in “Rules of Engagement” includes:
– Repeated portrayals of Arab children as hateful, vicious and murderous. These children are shown several times shooting guns at the film’s US Marine protagonists and shouting curses.
– The portrayal of Yemeni society as an anti-American mob just waiting to erupt at any second. The images of Arabs in the film are solely stereotypical – veiled women, men in headscarfs and all shouting fanatical, angry slogans and firing automatic weapons at a peaceful US embassy.
– Everyone in Yemen is complicit in the anti-American violence.
Witnesses lie. The police lie. Doctors lie. Everyone in Yemen lies. Meanwhile, the streets are literally strewn with cassette tapes calling, again without any apparent reason, for “all good Muslims” to kill any and all Americans they can find. Yemen, we are assured, is a “breeding ground” for terrorists.
– Needless to say, this is a grotesque defamation and complete distortion of Yemeni society. But for most Americans who see it, “Rules of Engagement” will contain the most “information” about Yemen that they will ever receive in an hour and a half, and possibly in an entire lifetime. Why Paramount chose Yemen for this outrageous exercise in national character assassination and slander, apart from the fact that it is an Arab country, remains a complete mystery.
– Paramount refused to cooperate with Arab-American organizations that attempted to set up a constructive dialogue on the film in the months before its release. ADC first contacted Paramount with concerns about “Rules of Engagement” in January, but received no cooperation. In retrospect, it is easy to understand why Paramount stonewalled all attempts at dialogue and refused even the elementary courtesy of a pre-release screening. It is because this movie is absolutely indefensible in its portrayal of Arabs and Arab culture.
We protest “Rules of Engagement” because these are the images that define the Arab as the quintessential “other” in contemporary American culture, that depict all Arabs, men, women and children, as the inherent, irrational and implacable terrorist enemy of the United States. These are indeed the images that lead to the high incidence of hate crimes against Arab Americans, that produce airport profiling, that have led to the use of secret evidence in American courts, that make the everyday lives of Arabs in the United States much more difficult and dangerous.
Many critics are appalled by the racism of this film:
“It’s downright offensive. … Positioned emotionally by the film to identify with the put-upon jarheads, the audience they saw the film cheered when the Marines slaughtered the civilians. … The Arab demonstrators, as usual, are portrayed as vicious, wild-eyed maniacs who dare stand up to the cold efficiency of the Marine Corps we’re meant to
admire (even a Yemeni doctor who later testifies against Childers is shown to be an utter liar), but for a while we also see them as the apparently innocent victims of Childers’ wrath. Halfway through, though, we come to understand that we were totally wrong about that as well, Childers is completely in the right, and that all the sympathy we bestowed was mistaken because they are all evil, lying creeps who for some ungodly and of course irrational reason hate our guts. … Nothing can redeem this film’s deep immorality.” – Peter Brunette, “What distinguishes “Rules” is its use of xenophobia to bolster its legal arguments, and presumably tap audience’s deep-seated prejudice.
… The movie paints Muslims as bloodthirsty villains plotting unspeakable violence against the United States. In other words, even if they had been unarmed, Col. Childers should have mowed ’em down
anyway.” – Steve Murray, Cox News Service “At its worst, it’s blatantly racist, using Arabs as cartoon-cutout bad guys, and unrealistic in its depiction of a conflict in the Middle East…. Why is the embassy in danger? What has happened? Who are the people rioting? We never know, but we do know this: Those pesky, dark-eyed people in Arab dress, holding protest signs, have become international shorthand for ‘terrorist bad guys.’ You’re tempted to wonder what the filmmakers had in mind. “Oh, it’s the Middle East,” you imagine them saying. “There’s always something going on. Let’s just make up some generic crises and toss a few hundred cliches at it.” – Paul Clinton, CNN
“…an angry Arab mob is for the umpteenth time serving as convenient and clichd villains hostile to our way of life. While the mob is chanting untranslated slogans likely to be variants of the traditional “death to the spineless, running dogs of American imperialism” and aiming bullets and Molotov cocktails at the poorly defended embassy…”- Kenneth Turan, LA Times
“Friedkin also risks accusations of racism. Little attempt is made to humanize Yemeni people. On screen, except for a doctor and a one-legged girl on crutches, they are stock villains, human cattle ready for herding and slaughter to demonstrate the right and might of the U.S. policeman’s role.” – Burce Kirkland – Toronto Sun
“What if the Americans really do lack an understanding of Arab culture?
Ñ the drama ultimately retreats to safer, duller, more illogical and more reactionary impulses and stereotypes.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
“Seems the Yemenis are upset about the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf. That’s all we know, and director William Friedkin and screenwriter Stephen Gaghan seem to believe that that’s all we need to know, since, you know, we’re talking about Arabs here. The words ‘terrorists’ and ‘jihad’ are tossed in to reinforce the stereotype.” – Austin- American Statesman
“Little attempt is made to humanize Yemeni people. On screen…they are stock villains, human cattle ready for herding and slaughter to demonstrate the right and might of the U.S. policeman’s role.” – Toronto Sun
“the continuing scandal of Hollywood’s Arab-bashing smells to high heaven, but this film manages to stun nonetheless.” – New York Press
“The biggest question Ñ one, incidentally, which Rules certainly never asks Ñ is what those demonstrators outside the embassy were upset about in the first place.” – Mike Ward, PopMatters
We, at Yemen Times, received several letters condemning the movie. We also witnessed a lot of messages posted on our Internet Website ( referring to it.
Here we publish a letter we received from an American living in the Chicago – USA:
“Why was Yemen singled out in “Terms of Engagement”?
It is obvious the filmmakers chose Yemen because it is a country that refuses to bend to US foreign policy dictates in the Middle East. It has an independent opinion on these matters. The Yemenis are proud of their independence and their feelings of Arab unity for other Arabs who are suffering. Recall that in 1990, when Yemen was on the UN Security Council, it refused to support UN sanctioned attacks on Iraq. The Yemeni people suffered massively for this policy. Some 1.5 million Yemenis were expelled from Saudi Arabia.
Who was left to attack in films after Palestinians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Iranians, Libyans, and Arab Americans, but the Yemenis? That is, those whose governments [or in the case of Arab Americans, who as a group] oppose inhumane US government and Israeli government policies. Opposition to POLICY is demonically converted into “a savage people.” This method of denomination is not without precedence; the historical media treatment of Native Americans and African Americans reveals the same pattern. Deny that they are human, so we can carry on with our policies.
Who are the ones whose actions kill people and drive them off their land? The Yemeni people?
Once again, the stereotype is presented: now it is Yemenis that hate Americans and seek to kill them.
How untrue! Many Yemenis are Americans. No Americans have been attacked in Yemen. I have been to Yemen many times. I have never experienced an anti-American sentiment. People who do not favor US policy, yes. People who attack Americans, no. [As is true of the other countries mentioned above that I have visited.]
This is not about Yemenis and Americans. This is about Yemeni policy, US policy, and Israeli policy.
When will the domination of Arabs in the interest of Israeli expansion stop? The damage this Hollywood foreign policy does to human lives is tremendous. It’s cowboys and Indians in the Year 2000. When will other people join in a call for this racism to stop? Louise Mashrah”

Here we provide you with a review on the Paramount movie, “Rules of Engagement” by Paul Clinton in CNN. The critical opinion of independent source would only prove the objective assessment of how it contain several objectionable points on Yemen and tarnishes its image to the world.
“The film opens with a bang. Picture it: Vietnam 1968. A major battle is in progress. Jackson, playing Terry Childers, is trying to help his fellow Marines caught in a firefight. After a few “unpleasantries,” he saves the only surviving Marine Ñ Hays Hodges, played by Jones.
A party, a siege
Flash forward 30 years for a two-minute scene in Washington. Col. Hodges is retiring from the Corps. Col. Childers is there to wish him well.
Bang! Suddenly, Childers is heading for another conflict. Picture it: present-day Yemen, where the United States embassy is under siege. The American ambassador, played by Ben Kingsley, and his wife, played by Anne Archer, are under fire, along with their young son.
Why is the embassy in danger? What has happened? Who are the people rioting? We never know, but we do know this: Those pesky, dark-eyed people in Arab dress, holding protest signs, have become international shorthand for “terrorist bad guys.”
You’re tempted to wonder what the filmmakers had in mind. “Oh, it’s the Middle East,” you imagine them saying. “There’s always something going on. Let’s just make up some generic crises and toss a few hundred cliches at it.”So filmgoers find themselves watching a huge battle scene that has no known motive, and in the middle of it Childers is stoically calling the shots. The surging crowd is out of control. Snipers line the rooftops of surrounding buildings. The Marines are undercover, but trapped.
At the height of all this mayhem, Childers literally calls the shots, ordering his men to open fire on the crowd in front of the embassy Ñ a throng containing old men, women and children. His men, who can’t see the crowd from their crouched position, protest but obey. Bullets spit, people fall and all is quiet as the Marines gather their dead and wounded and retreat in the helicopters that brought them in.
Eighty-three people are left dead in Yemen; 100 more are severely wounded. We’re 20 minutes into the movie. It’s too late to get your money back.
Coverup, confusion
Now the film really begins to stink. There apparently are no witnesses in the entire company of Marines to back up Childers’ story that gunfire was coming from the mob in front of the embassy.
Also, for some unknown reason, the U.S. national security adviser, William Sokal, played by an uninspired Bruce Greenwood, wants Childers’ head on a platter. Greenwood, by the way, specializes in evil characters. He played Ashley Judd’s no-good husband in “Double Jeopardy.”
With a stunning, numbing lack of motive, Sokal destroys evidence proving Childers’ innocence while letting the “terrorists” in Yemen totally off the hook. Why?
We don’t know. Ñ never will, either.
At this point, Childers hires the soon-to-retire Col. Hodges Ñ happily, he’s a military attorney Ñ as his lawyer. Now, finally, filmgoers understand why Jones’ character was in the movie in the first place. He promptly goes to Yemen, alone, just days after the battle, where the Yemen government gives him total access to everything and everybody Ñ the same government that seemingly is justified in crying for American blood.
Yeah, right. Wanna buy a bridge?
He, too, finds no evidence that guns were in the crowd Ñ surprise, surprise Ñ and comes home to defend Childers with no more his client’s outstanding military record as his entire case.
A few good scenes?
Enter this film’s resemblance to “A Few Good Men” as the courtroom battle begins with the U.S. government vs. Childers. The main point here,, apparently, is that Jackson gets his moment to shine, to act!
Director William Friedkin pulls out all the stops Ñ extreme closeups, angles, fast editing. In a shameless rip-off of Jack Nicholson’s performance in “A Few Good Men,” Jackson vents and rages on the witness stand. He doesn’t actually scream, “Truth! You can’t handle the truth!” a la Jack Ñ but he comes close.
Filling in for Tom Cruise, who played the prosecuting attorney in “Good Men,” is Guy Pierce. He looks slightly embarrassed to be caught in this film. He should be.
The ending, of course, is a foregone conclusion, and it’s all treated as a “real event.” The closing credits are preceded by written information about the people who tried to frame Childers and how many years in prison they’re supposedly serving. No doubt, some people will leave the theater thinking this “war in Yemen” actually took place.