In addition to the official announcement of Black Ops Cold War, the newest installment in the Call of Duty series, we got to see a glimpse of what the game will be about. It states it will be “inspired by actual events”, but… Which actual events? Are they the right ones?
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War was one of the not-so-well-kept secrets of gaming in recent months. Leaks and rumors all pointed towards a soft-reboot of the Black Ops franchise and this is all-but fully confirmed now. Modern Warfare undertook a similar task in the most recent installment of the series.
The trailer above makes it clear that Black Ops Cold War is following in the vein of Black Ops and Black Ops II. This is being done by placing focus on the aggressive espionage between the Soviet Union and the United States. In particular, this trailer discusses a “chilling warning” from KGB Defector Yuri Bezmenov. This warning regards a spy who has infiltrated The West in order to ensure the Soviet Union’s dominance in the Arms Race. It’s all classically Cold War and classically Black Ops.
This is what we’re told Black Ops Cold War is about, but should it delve deeper into the morals and complexities of the Cold War?
Modern Warfare marked the perfect starting point for this to take place. The controversial name-drop of the Highway of Death, an apparent war crime, is just one way this was done. In the vein of MW2’s “No Russian”, levels such as “Picadilly” and “Clean House” reinforce the proximity of modern warfare to every-day life. In addition to this, the inclusion of the Uzurkistani Freedom Fighters and their acquisition of chemical weapons importantly highlights the muddy morals of modern conflict. However, Uzurkistan is ultimately fictional. It suggests a change in the discourse surrounding these topics but does little to act upon it.
It’s a tough one, I know… However, the popularity of video games and Call of Duty is ever-growing. The format is the perfect media outlet to start re-educating the public. There is a lot that can be done. Part of this needs to be the condemnation of actions taken by Western Governments. The “Highway of Death” reference is a throwaway line in Modern Warfare. Its inclusion does very little to educate anyone about the event. Some people may have felt compelled to look into it. However, I suspect many just recognized the phrase as “something to do with the Iraq War” and moved on.
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War is an important opportunity to actually commit to the idea of highlighting the faults of the US Government
Faults? US Government? I know, I know. How dare I? Those Pesky Reds, right?
I am not saying Communism is superior. It has glaring faults, much like Capitalism does. I’m not saying I know how to develop a better form of governance either. What I am saying is that the current state of the historiography regarding US involvement in Latin America during the Cold war should be made publically recognized. That means deconstructing the Anti-Soviet and Anti-Communist discourse.
Obviously, these discussions have been happening since the inception of Anti-Communism in The West. However, you still feel this public discourse is largely “America Good, Russia Bad”.
I think Black Ops Cold War should start to question that. If not on home soil, then south of the border.
The Orchestration of Regime Changes in Latin America Throughout The Cold War Needs to be Discussed
The United States’ involvement in Korea and Vietnam are the most discussed instances of overseas political involvement from the period. Talking about these instances critically is growing. However, The Vietnam War is just the tip of the iceberg.
The titular phrase “Black Ops” suggests a wider-range of topics, but Treyarch needs to go deeper. Black Ops Cold War is the perfect opportunity to highlight the numerous issues with the US-backed regimes in Latin America.
Take Argentina, for example. The 1976 coup d’etat saw a democratically elected President overthrown in favor of a US-friendly Authoritarian regime. Under this, numerous crimes against humanity were committed. Mass executions, torture and rape, “disappearances”… By any account, it was horrific. It has been reported that Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State at the time, was a witness to these crimes. You can read about these claims here: Spanish Judge Seeks Kissinger
If this isn’t enough, what about the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile?
President Allende, another democratically elected leader, was overthrown and replaced by Pinochet’s harsh dictatorship. The CIA was involved, and it is said that he was overthrown due to his democratic-socialist leanings. Under his regime, countless human rights violations ( referred to as “politicide” or “political genocide”) took place. Furthermore, there was systematic forceful repression of perceived political opponents. the tactics used were not limited to torture and murder. The direct involvement of the United States is known about and needs to be discussed further.
This political interference wasn’t just limited to the 1970s, though. Take a look at the 1954 coup d’etat in Guatemala. Guatemalan workers were trapped in poor living conditions through landlord abuse and the United Fruit Company, a government-backed American corporation. Naturally, the abuse of the lower classes (which mainly constituted indigenous individuals) led to an uprising. Despite the brutal repression of this, Jacobo Arbenz was democratically elected. He proposed a landmark program of Agrarian reform and worked towards expanding voting rights and allowing public debate. These social reforms aimed to better Guatemalan society for all.
As you might expect, the United States did not like this, so they backed the coup d’etat in 1954 and endorsed the following authoritarian regime. President Montt took over control and, to put it bluntly, committed genocide. The Frijoles y fusiles ( or “Beans and Guns”) was a rural pacification strategy that led to the destruction of almost 600 villages. The Scorched Earth tactics used killed an estimated 10,000 indigenous peasants and forced 100,000 into fleeing their homes. Montt was formally indicted for these crimes in 2012.
Whether you believe in Communism or not, it is clear to see that US Foreign Policy throughout the Cold War was wholly dictated by paranoia and the “Domino Theory”
To clarify, the “Domino Theory” suggested that a Communist Government in one nation-state would quickly lead to the development of similar governments in neighboring states. Academically, it has been discredited, but that does not change what happened.
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War needs to highlight the mismanagement of US foreign policy during the period. This title should be used to critically discuss the responsibility of the US government. Their responsibility in enabling human rights abuses via endorsed and supported dictatorships.