4/3/08 More on Iraq War

Yesterday in Washington DC, we interviewed Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, who co-produced the documentary on the Iraq War, Body of War.   The subject of the film is Thomas Young, an Iraq war veteran who was shot through his fourth vertebra and is paraplegic.  It is one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen.  On Friday, we are going to interview Thomas Young.   Living with the injuries he sustained in that war tires him out, so, he could not join Donahue and Spiro when we interviewed them yesterday.  He graciously agreed to reschedule our interview and meet with us tomorrow morning.   Once we have that interview in the can, we will be producing an audio/videowebcast and public radio show on the Body of War.  It is coming soon.

This week I have been thinking a lot about the veterans of this Iraq war.  I watched Body of War three times preparing for our interviews with Phil Donahue and the others.  I have been talking with Josh Kors who exposed how the Department of Defense labeled over 20,000 veterans with “pre-existing conditions” so they could deny them millions of dollars in benefits.   And last Monday I gave a keynote address to veterans and those who work with disabled, addicted and homeless veterans.

On top of that, this week in Adbusters and Rolling Stone there were articles about the Iraq war’s Marlboro man, James Blake Miller.

 The photograph of him taken during the battle of Fallujah with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, eyes staring off, with blood and dirt on his face became the iconic image of the young, tough, swaggering American war hero.  He was a teenager then.  His image was used and abused to support the war and entice other young people to join up.  James Miller, who suffered severe PTSD, is now home in Kentucky, violent, angry, reflective and alone.  He refused to let his image or name be used to support Bush’s war. 

There are now over 4,000 American service people who have died in Iraq and almost 29,000 wounded or horribly maimed and crippled.    There are tens and tens of thousands more who were wounded in body and soul.  They estimate that up to 40% of returning vets will suffer from PSTD.  The National Guard, whose rate of PTSD is astronomical, gets few federal benefits.

Our advanced medical technology kept those 28,000 badly wounded service people alive.   If this were Vietnam, most of them would be dead.  Yet the system of medical care for our veterans is in worse shape now than it was forty years ago.  There is a scene in Body of War, when two veterans, one from the Iraq war and the other from the Vietnam war, both in wheelchairs, are talking.   The Viet vet said he was in the hospital for a year with his wounds and was taught how to care for himself.  The younger Iraqi war vet was in the hospital for only three months.

We went into this war without thinking about the consequences for Iraq, and for our veterans.  All this mayhem and blood spilled for what?!   For oil?  For strategic political hegemony? 

Yes, it was for oil.   Yes, it was a war to protect our oil interests and our allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel.    We produced many shows on the lead to up to this war.  In that, we discovered Project for A New American Century, a think tank in Washington DC.   Papers written over a twenty year period by all the shining lights of the Bush administration (Abrams, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Libby, and others) lay it all out in clear detail why we need to invade Iraq: protect the oil and secure American political power in the Middle East.

So now the Bush administration has gotten us into this madness, we have to deal with our responsibility to Iraq, a nation we have torn asunder, and to our veterans.  We will be paying for the steep social and fiscal costs of this war for a generation, maybe more.

I don’t mean to rant or bring you all down, but when I meet and interview veterans of this war, and when I interview Iraqis here and in Iraq, I become so angry at what has been done to us.   Now, we as a people have to make it right.


11 Responses

  1. Marc
    This I remember: on your tenth anniverary show, the vacuous Richard Vatz swore up and down to me in the hallways of ypr that oil had nothing to do with the upcoming war in iraq. let us remember the little noted fact that US intel last week it was reported has reviewed all Iraq security documents and found no hint of the saudi arabian planned asssassination plot of Dubya’s dad. Makes you pause and think why did the Saudis behead those “iraqi agents” without letting CIA interview them. In the Middle East, it is all a pack of lies intended to raise oil prices and even age-old scores. What McCain and Bush have failed to understand is that we are an occupying army and will be the target of an asymmetrical war that will leave us eternally bleeding in the sand. On the 40th anniversary of the passing of the last great american Martin Luther King, lets end this war with some sense of honor so alien to the world of Bushco! I have no problem with John Yoo, Dick Cheney, Dubya, and David Addington being packed onto planes to Brussels to stand trail for crimes vs humanity under international law. they are criminals and I fear our democracy has lost the will to govern itself by moral principles and will not bring the crime syndicate to justice. Support our troops bring them home asap. Get John McCain to support the congressional atermpts to beef up med support for our vets.

  2. Neither Bob Ehrlich nor Martin O’Malley have signed the petition yet, unless they are among the anonymous signers. 977 others have signed, however, and the goal of 1,000 can easily be reached before the end of the WYPR funding drive.

  3. I was listening today to hear how they were pitching the fund drive, and I heard Nathan say around 1 oclock…”We are entering a dollar for dollar matching period thanks to the generosity of a WYPR board member!”

    Hilarious. They are SO WORRIED about how a bad fund drive will look that the board members are using their own money to soften the fall. I am sure that the fund drive will be reported as a smashing success, with their target amount raised—but I am willing to bet a LARGE chunk of that will be money donated by the board members themselves, who will do ANYTHING to save face.

  4. One more case of missing backbone syndrome:

    A U.S. government-funded medical information site that bills itself as the world’s largest database on reproductive health has quietly begun to block searches on the word “abortion,” concealing nearly 25,000 search results.

    Called Popline, the search site is run by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. It’s funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the federal office in charge of providing foreign aid, including health care funding, to developing nations.

    You may wish to read the entire article, and an update.

    Sorry to go off-topic so much, guys.

  5. Personally, I think anger is an appropriate response to this colossal FUBAR. What’s the alternative? Ignorance? Apathy? We SHOULD be angry. We’ve been lied to, exploited, manipulated, managed, hoodwinked and strung along for so long now that we can’t tell up from down… And who pays in the end? The one-percenters? Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush? The movers and shakers who brought us Watergate and who rule by this code: palm, ditch, steal, load, simulation, misdirection, and switch—The Seven Principles of Sleight of Hand. The men who call torture “enhanced interrogation techniques” (just a little dunk in the water… right?) and kidnapping “extraordinary rendition.” Orwell said it best, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Indeed.

    So who pays? The rest of us—the middle and working class stiffs; teachers and students in busted schools, forsaken & forgotten inner-city neighborhoods, grunts patrolling the streets of Iraq, the Iraqis themselves of course, burned down and f*#ked over—again and again and again—by promises broken….. But we’re not just victims—we’re perpetrators as well; unwitting perpetrators perhaps… maybe even accidental—but not innocent. This is our government—it operates in our name and it’s our responsibility.

    Almost exactly five years ago I was in a town called Rafah on the far edge of the Gaza Strip. The word “town” hardly captures the essence of Rafah—a better word might be armed camp or frontier outpost. The perimeter of the town was dotted with guard towers, which—unlike a frontier outpost—pointed inward in order to scan and cover the town and the perceived threat (the populace). This had the unsettling effect of making you feel like you had cross-hairs following the back of your neck when you walked down the street. Indeed, after several warnings from the Palestinian locals about walking in open areas, I figured out how to do the Rafah shuffle—keep close to walls and always make sure there’s some significant structure between yourself and the guard towers line-of-sight. This is not to suggest that Israeli soldiers are indiscriminant in their use of firepower—far from it—they are, like most American soldiers, highly professional. But there are always exceptions and it’s a war-zone; you know—shit happens. And it must be very tempting for a certain kind of personality, sitting up there with all of that power and all that training, just to go ahead and play God—to, as they say, “reach out and touch someone.”

    I mention this only because I think it was the first time I realized that my country’s policies have a very real and tangible effect on the lives of others. I sat in a dilapidated courtyard with a Palestinian ambulance driver, one of the few truly brave people I’ve known in my life, a man who had every reason to despise me but instead shared his cigarettes with me and served me tea in his house and looked after my dumb white American ass. We sat there in the dark, smoking and listening to the spooky whop, whop, whop of invisible Apache helicopters (American made) in the night sky overhead, hearing the burp of automatic weapons in the distance, waiting for an incursion and getting a funny feeling in my stomach, just another night in Rafah…and he looked at me and said, “Who lives like this? Who else in the world lives like this?” I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? You live like this so I don’t have to. That’s simplistic I know—but on some level it’s true. Anyway he wasn’t accusing me; I think he really wanted to know the answer.

    There was one other American in Rafah that night, a girl named Rachel Corrie. She was young, brave, intelligent, pretty—she still had her whole life ahead of her that night. She was killed a few weeks later. She was crushed to death by an Israeli armored bulldozer. She had been trying to stop the bulldozer from razing Palestinian homes. Some say she was naïve and I guess she was… but I think a willingness to fight for justice and stand up for the downtrodden is one of the best American qualities—even if it is naïve.

    I don’t mean to sanctify the Palestinians or demonize the Israelis—obviously the conflict is a complex situation and both sides have to accept their share of the blame for the tragedy. But there are also serious problems with American foreign policy and that policy informs both what is happening in Israel/Palestine and Iraq.

    Anyway, I’ve written way too much and apologize for rambling, but I feel that if I can’t speak up for justice on April 4th, then maybe I shouldn’t speak up at all.

    So we should be angry—but anger wedded to justice and reason. Thank you for this blog—I think it is the beginning of something… there’s something in the wind… and it’s rising.

    “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  6. See Body of War, Hear Body of War
    Help Phil Donahue promote this important movie, directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, send this video link to others to make people aware of Tomas Young’s story.

  7. We still haven’t made Vietnam right. We haven’t made Nicaragua right. Cuba. We don’t ever make anything right.

  8. Ding ding ding!

    The petition reached 1,000 signatures at approximately 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5, 2008. Confetti, balloons, fireworks, doves flew across the sky. Way to go, Melanie!

  9. Signer #1,1018 at the petition had called WYPR about possibly contributing, and wrote

    The second time I talked to someone who was very nice, but admitted she did not know who Marc Steiner was, or what issues there might be with his show. So I asked why she was taking calls. She said that this was her job and she was being paid to do it.

    Is that normal? Does anyone know if this has any particular significance? Jessica? Justin, Marc, Joe in Waverly, anyone who has volunteered on previous drives, can you address this?

    Monday night I tuned in to see if I could discern anything about the fund drive. Bob White was the substitute host for the jazz program, nothing odd about that. He assiduously plugged the fundraiser right up until midnight, though. I thought that was unusual. I certainly don’t have total recall about past fundraisers, but my feeling is that fundraising went pretty quiet at night. Is that accurate, or am I swatting gnats?

    Ron–WYPR always hires an auxiliary call center that takes the pledges when there is no one to answer the phones at WYPR–That is probably who the woman was talking to. –Jessica

  10. Thanks, Jessica. I didn’t know that.

    The writer didn’t say when she had the conversation. So, it might mean something, or perhaps nothing, depending on the day and time.

    I bollixed the number, of course. The real number is 1,018.

  11. This morning I found mention of a dim sum restaurant in Rockville that looks worth a try. Mainly, it’s northern Chinese, with which I am not familiar, and I’d like to try it. Major impetus is added by photos courtesy of Xiao Zhu.

    Dim sum is only on weekends, according to Xiao Zhu. Vegetarian looks good, but I won’t deny my omnivore nature.

    A&J Restaurant
    1319-C Rockville Pike
    Rockville, MD 20852

    Here are some patron comments.

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