Sunday, September 21, 2008

Body of War

Who pays the price for an unjustified war of choice?

Former talk-show host Phil Donahue first met paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young while visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center with his friend Ralph Nader.

Donahue, whose highly rated MSNBC talk show was an early media casualty of war in 2003, decided to tell Young’s story in a documentary. He teamed up with filmmaker Ellen Spiro to co-direct and co-produce Body of War, a deeply moving account of the 27-year-old Young’s difficult adjustment to life in a damaged body, and his growing involvement in the antiwar movement.

Young was a 22-year-old from Kansas City who was inspired to enlist when he saw George Bush standing in the smoking rubble of the Twin Towers vowing to get the bad guys. He wanted to go to Afghanistan but was sent to Iraq, and within a month was shot while riding in an unarmored vehicle. The bullet struck just above his left collarbone, severing his spine and leaving him unable not only to walk, but also to cough, urinate, regulate his body temperature, or have sexual intercourse.

A bright and determined young man, Young persists in trying to have a normal life. He marries his fiancĂ©e, and the two struggle, along with Tomas’ devoted mom, to overcome enormous challenges, among them getting the medical care today’s returning vets are now having to fight for. The marriage, understandably, suffers.

The film juxtaposes Tomas’ story with footage of the historic Congressional floor debate on the Iraq War Resolution. It’s instructive to see Senate and House members parroting the White House talking points and ginned-up intelligence about “smoking guns,” “mushroom clouds” and Saddam’s supposed deadly-weapon capabilities, contrasted with the stirring, emotional oratory of the elderly Sen. Robert Byrd and the passion of others denouncing the reckless war of choice, including Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich, and Ohio's recently departed congresswoman, Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

Body of War documents Tomas’ growing sense of betrayal and his decision, despite considerable physical discomfort, to travel around the U.S. speaking out against the war. It's a monument to courage, an indictment of a corrupt Administration, and a human story that is both sad and inspiring.

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