It can be argued that Benjamin Busch is a modern-day Renaissance man. Not only has he served two tours of duty as a U.S. Marine in Iraq, but he played Officer Anthony Colicchio on "The Wire" and appeared on "The West Wing" and "Homicide," among other programs. Now he can add "writer" to his ever-growing list of occupations.
Busch, inspired by a number of life-altering events, wrote "Dust to Dust," a beautiful meditation on war, loss and the larger questions of life and death, in which he chronicles his return from Iraq and the death of his parents.
He talked with The Huffington Post about the book and his thoughts on the profound connection between acting and the military.
You have such an interesting resume.
My impulses began very young, and although they seem very diverse I kind of see them intertwined. I was drawn to build and create art young. I could make things; these urges continued into what I’ve become. A writer, a film director, an actor and photographer. The military, which would seem to be very divergent from that, was growing at the same time.
When I was young, I played war like most young boys do, and I had a real sense for duty. A lot of people think that the discipline of an artist and the discipline of someone in the military are very different things. I don’t believe they are. I think it takes incredible discipline to be an artist, to fight through the frustration and difficulty of grappling with ideas, and of course, military discipline is something that is even cleaner. I’ve found that I can go between the two, and both in some ways encourage the other, which sounds strange, I guess.
You served two combat tours in Iraq. What is your take on the wars overseas?
I think we have to remember that the military doesn’t make the wars it is sent to. Wars are, at their root, supported by the people of the nation. The electorate, I guess, should bear the responsibility of our nation’s wars. So when I hear we shouldn’t be in certain places for various justifications, I wonder why there isn’t a large movement to end these conflicts, which I don’t see in America. I see us as being very passive about these conflicts and their incomprehensible losses.
I have a lot of different feelings on how we approach these things. I spent almost a year and a half in Iraq. I lost some very good friends there, and we’re all going to wonder aloud if those losses were justified.
Do you think they’re justified?
If our goal was to secure weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ... Then I think we’ve got some problems justifying that one. We’re involved in two extremely different wars that we justify for essentially the same reason. Afghanistan is, of course, a very different conflict. The Taliban was actually harboring Bin Laden. However, staying there for the next 11 years trying to play at nation building would be a difficult thing to justify.
You were on "The Wire," which has such a rabid fan base.
All of us, large and small, in that great work worry that we’ll never do anything that important again. The discussion that it engaged in about who we are as a people and the intricacies of the city, of youth, of law, of politics, of poverty -- we all know that it was an important show and not just entertainment. I think all of us hope for something that great again and I think we’re all pretty worried that the best is behind us.
It’s pretty amazing that you came out of the military and became an actor.
In the military, you learn a great deal about acting because you have a particular role you have to immerse yourself in, and very often the situation that you are placed in requires that you not betray your true feelings. I think a lot of people in the military have been acting most of their careers.
You’re a Marine. That must make you feel proud and tough.
Absolutely. It’s not a reputation you get by saying it’s so. It’s constantly tested. It’s never tested more than within the Marine Corps. There’s a great deal of camaraderie, but also fierce competitiveness to prove one’s prowess, which is a daily occurrence.