BRATTLEBORO -- Emmy Award-winning television host Phil Donahue will be in Brattleboro Tuesday, Oct. 23, to show his documentary on the Iraq War, "Body of War," and talk about the mistakes he says this country made leading up to the invasion and the lessons that have to be learned from the decision.
Donahue, who is co-producer of the film, will be at the World Learning/SIT Rotsch Center at 6 p.m. for the showing and will then lead a question and answer period.
The movie is free and open to the public.
"The bedrock of this nation is being chipped away by people who are bragging about Democracy and then turning their backs on the fundamentals of Democracy," Donahue said during an interview Friday. "These politicians can't wait to start a war, but then it is your kid who they are sending."
"Body of War" tells the story of Tomas Young, who was a 22-year-old man living in Kansas who decided to join the military in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked.
Young thought he would be sent to Afghanistan, he explains in the film, but ended up in Iraq where he was shot through the spine just days after landing in the Middle East.
He is now paralyzed from the chest down.
"This story was being played out in thousands of living rooms across the country," Donahue said. "People were not seeing the sacrifice these people were making.
Donahue first met Young in 2005 while he was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and for Donahue his story encompassed what he called the tragic and criminal decision to invade Iraq, a country, he says, which was later found to have no weapons of mass destruction and no connection to the events of Sept. 11.
"This was the most sanitized war of our lifetime. Bush didn't want them taking pictures so no one saw images of the men and women who served this country and were coming back dead or injured," said Donahue. "I thought people had to hear Tom's story."
For 26 years Donahue hosted the Phil Donahue Show on national TV which is recognized as the first talk show to include comments from the studio audience.
After his original show went off the air Donahue had a show on MSNBC which started in July 2002.
The show was canceled on Feb. 25, 2003, and a memo was later leaked that showed that MSNBC studio heads were uncomfortable with Donahue's strong anti-war stance.
Before co-producing "Body of War" Donahue had no experience working in film, but was driven to tell Young's story to a wider audience.
"There was no push back from corporate media about the war," he says. "The media became the megaphone for the Bush Administration and anyone who asked questions was called unpatriotic."
"Body of War," won a People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and was named the Best Documentary of 2007 by the National Board of Review.
As American officials float the idea of sending troops to Iran or Syria, Donahue says the lessons from the Iraq War must not be forgotten.
But even beyond the lessons from the invasion Donahue wants filmgoers to think about the consequences of rash decision.
Young decided to join the military after seeing George W. Bush stand on the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center and declare that the United States had to track down the "evil doers."
The politicians in this country then gave the President authority to invade Iraq on the now-proven false intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Donahue says the decisions of Young, and of the country, can hopefully help us be better prepared the next time politicians start beating the drums of war.
"I wanted this film to be an honest look at the horrors of war, this is not a popcorn film that you go see with your girlfriend," said Donahue. "This is tough stuff, but it's something we have to face. The lesson here is that politicians will always be able to move an entire population if you scare them. It's the politics of fear, if you scare the people you can lead them anywhere, and we can't let that happen again."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.