BODY OF WAR (2007) – Documentary Retroview

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Body of War tells the heart wrenching story of how 22-year-old Tomas Young enlisted to serve his country and became a victim of the Iraq War.

Two days after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trace Center, 22-year-old Tomas Young responded to George Bush’s call for men to defend and avenge America by enlisting in the Army. He intended to fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Instead, he was sent to Iraq in late March of 2004, almost exactly one year after the war officially began and ten months after President Bush had declared it “Mission Accomplished.”

On April 4, Tomas was sent on his first mission to Sadr City. Less than a week after he arrived in Iraq, as he was riding with other soldiers in an unarmored Humvee with no canvas covering, he was shot just above his left collarbone and completely paralyzed. He hadn’t fired a single shot in his brief tour of duty.

Tomas was evacuated to Kuwait, then Germany and finally to Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington, D.C. for long-term treatment. Tomas, confined to a wheelchair, will never walk again. He’s a victim of the war.

While he was at Walter Reed, Tomas kept track of news about the war, he saw other young Americans being killed and maimed in Iraq. He concluded that they were being lost for no reason, and began to speak against the war.

Young’s mother, Cathy, who cared for Tomas while he was at Walter Reed, fulfilled her son’s wish by bringing his story to the attention of Ralph Nader, the only man whom Tomas felt was speaking out against the war. Nader introduced Tomas to Phil Donahue, who (with co-director Ellen Spiro) decided to make a film about Tomas’ story in order to show the devastating effects of the Iraq war on the young men sent to fight it.

The Body of War is an important addition to the catalogue of documentaries about the Iraq War. Donahue, in his inimitable style, presents Tomas’ challenging question about the war: What’s the purpose?

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