The Call of Duty rumour mills were working in overdrive this week, with an “insider” claiming that Call of Duty 2024 will be set during the (more recent) Iraq War. This is just a rumour at this stage, so I’m certainly not reporting on that, but what I am here to do is say, simply, “no”.
Absolutely f***ing not.
Call of Duty should never go anywhere near this war. Developer, publisher, and the entire culture that the series comes from is completely ill-equipped to handle that conflict, and it is a conflict that should not be touched unless you’re going to go for the full-throttled truth with it. Iraq is a conflict that perfectly represents everything wrong with the modern global political environment, and we simply cannot afford the military propaganda machine to re-write this one to suit them.
Iraq was an illegal war. America was feeling threatened and hurting from the 9/11 terror attack, and felt the need to respond strongly to re-assert itself within the Middle East. The country, at all levels of military and political leadership, took entirely BS reports of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) within Iraq and used that as a pretext for invasion. There was no WMD equipment in Iraq. There was no legitimate cause to believe there was. Basic due diligence would have made that clear. America didn’t want to do that, however, because WMDs were the casus belli that America so desperately needed.
So people were going to die because America had found a useful lie.
The war itself then subsequently destabilised Iraq and motivated extremism (ISIS happened because this war created the conditions for it to happen), and within the war itself, the allies didn’t exactly play nicely. Most famously, allied forces deployed white phosphorous against civilians during the battle of Fallujah. This, for the record, is a blatant war crime (and incidentally one of the key architects of that battle now sits in the Australian senate. What wonderful politicians we have).
America has never been held to account for anything that happened in Iraq, mostly because thanks to a quirk of international law, America would have to agree to hold itself to account to be accountable for it, which America is, of course, never going to do.
Now, just to make it abundantly clear just how utterly hypocritical this all is; take Ukraine. Ukraine is currently the victim of an illegal invasion that was done based on a fabricated casus belli. That has already been bad enough and global support sits firmly on the side of the Ukrainians. Now imagine what would happen if Russia started deploying white phosphorous on civilian populations. Just imagine the outcry, and the demands that Putin be held to account for that, immediately.
Iraq was no different. The typical American/western ally isn’t going to acknowledge that, but Iraq really was no different.
We already know that Call of Duty plays fast and loose with historical revisionism. Most famously, there was one CoD game that attributed an American war crime in the Middle East to Russians. The series actively promoted the nonsense of American soldiers were the “light in the darkness” and passed that World War 2 myth off as historical accuracy. The series has also lionised Reagan, one of the vilest political leaders America has ever had as far as foreign diplomacy is concerned.
And the United States military uses CoD as a propaganda tool for recruitment. What CoD does, and how it depicts the conflicts that it does, matters. How the world views the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the war crimes that came from it, matters. Particularly as a point of comparison to how the world views the illegal invasion of Ukraine. We cannot afford to have the single biggest war propaganda media property rewriting the Iraq invasion to lionise and heroise the American military. Because that is a fundamental lie and until America is held to account for what it does, it is going to continue to be a destabilisng force across the globe.
The simple reality is that Americans are so indoctrinated in Spartan-like hero worship of their military that the culture can’t have a balanced perspective of it. This is a nation so jingoistic that praise of the military must be uncritical, and while it’s acceptable to feel terrible for the loss of (American) lives, the entire machine is hard-wired to tolerate no suggestion that perhaps the presence of those soldiers in foreign nations is not benign or necessary. Therefore, even when there is some agreement that America was in the wrong (as has been grudgingly the case when looking back at Vietnam these days), the criticisms can’t be too loud, for fear of offending those heroes that fought in the war.
But Iraq is indefensible. Iraq should be remembered and condemned in exactly the same terms the Ukraine invasion is currently, and with as little regard for the feelings of the soldiers as we currently have for Russian soldiers.
Call of Duty quite simply isn’t the property to do that, and I think we all know that. Therefore, Call of Duty and its developers should stay well away from even considering placing a game in that conflict.