Undermining America's Heroes
Phil Donahue's documentary Body of War offers a chilling view of how the lies that led us to war changed the life of one Iraq veteran.
In the opening minutes of Body of War, we find a 25-year-old man struggling to put on his pants. He is wiry and tattooed, sitting shirtless on his bed, his thick eyebrows furrowed in concentration. His face is weathered beyond its years. He works to get one leg into his jeans, then the other, moves on to his sneakers and finally, his wheelchair.
Three years after this scene was filmed, paralyzed Iraq war veteran Tomas Young admits that dealing with his personal day-to-day challenges on camera took some getting used to. But "eventually it dawned on me that the more graphic and in-depth [the documentary] got into my life, the more people would see the consequences and ramifications of making an impetuous decision." The decision he refers to is the U.S. government's rush to invade Iraq in 2003; from the opening moments to the end, Body of War interweaves scenes from Tomas' life as he learns to live with his paralysis with C-SPAN footage of the October 2002 congressional vote that is responsible for it. As senator after senator parrots the lies of George W. Bush in a drumbeat for war, a sick sense of dramatic irony sets in. We all know how the vote will play out. But few could imagine what it means to be Tomas Young, one of the tens of thousands of veterans who have returned from Iraq with life-altering injuries after being betrayed by the government they enlisted to serve. Tomas Young feels that betrayal acutely. He lives with the consequences every day. [snip]
Still, like many members of IVAW, Tomas wants to make it clear that his opposition to the war is not proof that he doesn't support the troops. "I think military service is very honorable and noble," he tells me. Indeed, his younger brother Nathan -- whose own deployment to Iraq is one of the more heart-rending moments in the film -- is currently on a second tour in Iraq. Tomas considers himself a patriot, and he paraphrases a Frederick Douglass quote to explain: "A patriot is 'someone who loves their country but rebukes and does not forgive its sins,'" he says. And he cannot forgive the way the Bush administration has misused and abused the troops in this war.
John McCain Adores the War and Ignores the Warriors
He doesn't care if we're in Iraq for a hundred years, but when it comes to the veterans who've served over there, the senator is AWOL.
Do you know that he voted with the interests of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) only 20 percent of the time? [snip]
"It's time for Sen. McCain to stand up for veterans and be a leader," the chairman of VoteVets, Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz, said in a statement. "The success or failure of this bill largely rests on his shoulders. He is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. If he signs onto the bill, it will pass and become law. If he doesn't support it, he needs to explain why he doesn't." [snip]
McCain's response has been to propose his own, less expansive version of the GI Bill. Last week, he introduced a bill entitled the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment through Education Act, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Richard Burr, R-N.C. [snip]
Veterans groups were unimpressed.
"Sens. McCain, Graham and Burr are shortchanging our veterans and undermining America's heroes as they reach for the American dream," said VoteVets's Soltz. "Frankly, it hurts to have two veterans, like Sens. McCain and Graham treat us like this. We would expect that they would have more honor than that."
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