MJ: The genesis of Weasel is that you had an Article 134 hanging over you. What is that?
SH: There are a couple of “conduct unbecoming” articles that are used largely to ensure that military personnel are not able to speak freely. If we say something publicly, we’re hyperaware that if it is not supported by the administration, we could face criminal charges. I think it’s important for people to realize this. They assume that the silence of military personnel is an endorsement, when in reality there are people who strongly disagree with our involvement in Iraq but don’t want to face a court-martial.
MJ: What do you think about all the sanctions on military blogging?
SH: Look, you’re talking about an administration where the secretary of defense’s initial response to Abu Ghraib was, “Hey, the guys aren’t allowed to have cameras anymore.” Because if guys aren’t allowed to take pictures of it, then it didn’t happen. If it’s not a DOD press release, they don’t want the public hearing it. They’ve got most of the embedded journalists running so scared they won’t even venture outside the Green Zone. So they take afteraction reports from some officer, and that’s what they report. It gives the appearance of active journalism and reporting from Iraq, but it’s not real—it’s smoke and mirrors.
MJ: What are soldiers and Marines passionate about when they’re over there?
SH: You want to do your duty and get home. You don’t want to die, you don’t want your buddies to die, and you’re going to do everything in your power to ensure that you come home to your wife, your kids, mommy and daddy. That’s what you’re passionate about. There’s not a whole lot of politics on the ground. Even for someone like me who’s politically active, that’s not a concern when you’re going through the war-torn streets of Nasiriyah. George Bush couldn’t have been further from my thoughts.
MJ: Tell me about your new film project.
SH: The Dragon Slayer is based on a two-man play I wrote. Ed Asner plays Father Lawrence, who’s a Roman Catholic priest, and I play Joey del Riva, a Marine Iraq veteran who is in a naval hospital psych ward dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Father Lawrence is Joey’s childhood priest, who helped guide and nurture him his entire life. Joey is one of those kids who did everything he was supposed to do. He was a good Catholic, a good Marine, and he’s tortured internally by his experiences in Iraq. His PTSD manifests in such a way that he feels he has to disconnect himself from God—that his faith has failed him. He’s convinced himself that if he can kill his priest, sever that last link to humanity, somehow that will make the pain go away.
MJ: Speaking of films, how do you feel about stars like Brad Pitt or Colin Farrell who play warriors but would be hard pressed to go to war themselves?
SH: Let’s not forget guys like Pat Tillman, the NFL player, who died in Afghanistan from friendly fire. He was a millionaire, man. He gave that up to go. A recent article in USA Today dispelled a myth I had. I thought there was a recruiting surge after 9/11, but that wasn’t the case. Some people enlisted because of that, but there was not a significant spike. As a society, we’ve become much more focused on the self than the collective. It almost takes tragedies such as Katrina to shake us out of our immediate wants and needs. I was certainly like that. I don’t know why I was so passionate about enlisting after 9/11; I just knowI was. I’ve had some friends, family, and press who’ve asked, Given your political views, why would you enlist in the Marines? I said I didn’t do it despite them; I did it because of them.