Baghdad ER - The Movie

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The Independent reports: "This Sunday, subscribers to the American cable channel Home Box Office will be treated to a film about the Iraq war unlike any other. Almost at the start, you see a medical orderly carrying a human arm, amputated above the elbow, which he puts into a red plastic bag."

I am reminded of my time as a combat medic working as a psychiatric technician at Brooke Army Medical Center during the Viet Nam war. I had occasion to head over to the burn unit where debrising tubs (vats of antiseptic water in which burn patients were placed in order to cut from their bodies the dead and dying flesh) were mostly empty. Only one patient as I recall was in a tub. There were no screams, as there often were there. I was spared that bone chilling experience. But, I can never, ever, get the smell of the burn unit out of my memory.

Other memories include conversations with a patient with no nose; only gaping empty holes winding back deep into his head sat 1/4 inch below those eyes I was committed to talk to. I was supposed to see the soldier, not the horror of his injuries. But, it was all I could muster to not avert my eyes from his eyes atop the deep red caves in his face. And I can never forget the tears I shed when news reached me that a patient on my unit had jumped from the 3rd floor window during lunch. Last I heard, he survived with half the bones in his body shattered: as if his psychological pain were not enough.

I was a Buddhist before entering the military to become a medical person to help those maimed and injured in Viet Nam. I am still a Buddhist today. I like to believe that if I had been sent to Viet Nam, that I would not have chosen to kill another human being nor run. But, no one going to Viet Nam knew what they were going to do in a firefight until they were there and in it. Did my experience working with the casualties of the Viet Nam war change my views on war as many fear the documentary Baghdad ER might for viewing audiences? No.

I enlisted in the Army knowing I opposed the war in Viet Nam. I enlisted in the Army hoping to aid and comfort our soldiers trapped by law and love of country into fighting it, and injured and maimed from it. I enlisted in the Army also because I was poor, and the GI Bill was the only way I was ever going to be able to afford to go to college. I enlisted in the Army believing there are times when war is inevitable, as when an aggressor seeks to take all that you have and all that you are, from you. The Viet Nam War was not such a case. But, many believed it was.

I still believe that today I would fight to defend my daughter's homeland when attacked. I believe al-Queda still wishes to harm my daughter's homeland and I support our military's efforts to eradicate the al-Queda and the Taliban that support and nurture these butchering attacks on us and so many other nation's peoples. I still believe today, that like the Viet Nam War, the greatest evil humanity can commit is to elect war when other options remain open. I held all these beliefs before I confronted the shattered lives, broken psyches and torn and ripped bodies of our soldiers returning to Brooke Army Medical Center during Viet Nam. I hold all these same beliefs still today, just more fervently.

I opposed this elective war in Iraq when it was still being discussed as an option. I oppose it all the more today, for it has created far more pain and evil in the form of human carnage and suffering for Iraqis and coalition soldiers than leaving Saddam Hussein in power and in check ever would have.

So, will the airing of Baghdad ER on TV to our troops and our civilian population alter public opinion about, and support for, the war in Iraq? I doubt it. It will make beliefs already held stronger. But, it will not change most people's beliefs about the Iraq War. A majority of Americans already believe Iraq was a mistake. Baghdad ER will not change that. The majority in our government believe we have no option but to continue fighting in Iraq. Baghdad ER will not change their minds.

The only thing that will change our politician's pursuit of this war in Iraq is being voted out of office. Challengers will follow the policy dictated by public polls which say find an end to this war and bring our troops out of Iraq. Incumbents who voted to go to war in Iraq have a vested interest in continuing the war in hopes of finding dignity and victory in it. They seek vindication for their decision and no cost is too large to acquire that vindication. But such vindication could be decades away, if it exists at all. Baghdad ER is not going to bring the war in Iraq to an end. Only voters can do that in November's elections.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on May 19, 2006 3:48 PM.

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