Bill Moyers talks with Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro about the true cost of war and their documentary, Body of War, which focuses on Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, who was shot and paralyzed less than a week into his tour of duty. Three years in the making, Body of War tells the poignant tale of Young’s journey, from joining the service after 9/11 to fight in Afghanistan to living with devastating wounds after being deployed to Iraq.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal.
Five years ago this week, President Bush invaded Iraq because, we were told, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was plotting with Al Qaeda terrorists to attack America. We were told the war would be quick and tidy — and that grateful Iraqis would welcome their liberators with flowers in the streets.
Well, now the war is into its sixth year. We're spending over ten billion dollars a month, with the long-range cost reckoned in trillions. For Iraqis and for American soldiers and their families, the human toll is even harder to calculate — numbers alone don't do it: 4,000 soldiers dead, nearly 30,000 wounded. But numbers aren't personal; the only way truly to understand the human cost of this war is to know someone who is bearing it. Someone like Tomas Young.
Tomas Young grew up in Kansas City. After the attacks on 9/11 he enlisted in the army because he wanted to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan. He was sent to Iraq instead. And five days after arriving there, he was shot in the chest and severely wounded. He was 24 years old at the time and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Tomas Young's story is told in a film called Body of War that premiers in Washington, DC on April 2 and then rolls out in cities across the country. It took three years for Ellen Spiro and the long-time television host Phil Donahue to make this film — you'll meet them later in the broadcast.
But first I want to show you some excerpts that will give you a sense of Tomas Young's story, as told in Body of War. Here he is arriving for a speaking engagement at the Layfayette Presbyterian church in Brooklyn, New York.
TOMAS YOUNG: Ah, well, thank you all for coming. Uh, I, uh, on the way down here I was, I was kind of worried that I would be, get here and I'd be speaking to an empty church it took me so long. But for the few minutes I got to hear this wonderful choir behind me, well it began to dawn on me that you all would have been pretty good even if I hadn't had shown up.
You'll have to excuse me for a little bit, I get a little lightheaded every now and again. So hold on.
I'd also like to, that during this speech I may say the word uh a lot and stammer a little bit, so forgive me for sounding a bit presidential.
I called my recruiter on around September 13th, 2001, when if you all can remember the president stood on the ruble with the bullhorn and said we were going to get the evildoers that did this.
And, oh man, hold on a second, I'm starting to &mdash [clears throat] Thank you. Alright, let's hope that's a little better.
But I — and he led the rah rah around the country and got everybody really excited and I was excited. And I wanted to go to Afghanistan and get the people that did this to us. But, after I joined the Army it became clearer and clearer to me that we weren't going to go to Afghanistan. That we were going to go to Iraq. And more and more [I] began to feel with statements like George Bush saying that he sought the approval of a higher father than his own and things like that, it really concerned me that President Bush was trying to use Jesus Christ as an advocate for the war. But I always remembered, at least from the Bible that I read, Jesus Christ was always about peaceful things and love and, and whatsoever you do unto the least of my brother you do unto me. And it just shocks me that a man who tries to live his life by such a devout Christian philosophy seems to skew so much on this one issue.
I — I don't really — I have to excuse me again. Sorry, it's a little hard to regulate my body temperature and it is hot up here.
But, I heard somebody once say that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. So just everybody keep together and stay strong and one day we'll get what we need to get done. And thank you all for waiting and I hope that I didn't disappoint.
TOMAS YOUNG: [looking out a window at Ground Zero in New York City] Hey, wow. Here it is. That is massive. But when I made the phone call on September 13th it was because I saw the pictures of him standing on top of the pile saying that we were going to smote the evildoers out that did this to us and we were going to find them in their caves. But if it weren't for this I wouldn't had joined the Army, which means I wouldn't of gone home on Christmas leave to go to a bar to meet Brie. All that had to happen so I could fly 10,000 miles away to not shoot a round because all I saw were women and children running away from gunfire before I took a bullet myself.
RADIO HOST: Momentarily we're going to speak with Tomas Young, a 25-year old disabled Iraqi War Vet. He's here on his honeymoon.
TOMAS YOUNG: I can no longer control my body temperature. And when I go outside in the heat I have to wear a cooling jacket that has frozen gel inserts to keep my body temperature regulated and cooled. They tell me the feeling dizzy after warm days and all this will go away eventually once I get used to my injury. God, I hope they're telling the truth.
Nice to meet you all. I'm Tomas Young.
PERSON: Nice to meet you.
TOMAS YOUNG: I'm Tomas by the way.
QUESTIONER: Hey, you've got time to do an interview?
TOMAS YOUNG: I called my recruiter on September 13th. I wanted to go to Afghanistan. And I only maybe spent five days in Iraq until I got picked to go on my first mission. There were 25 of us crammed into the back of a two and a half ton truck with no covering on top or armor on the sides. For the Iraqis on the top of the roof it just looked like, you know, ducks in a barrel.
TOMAS YOUNG: They didn't have to aim.
I've got meetings. I guess I'm a busy man.
BREE YOUNG: We're coming, we're coming.
CINDY SHEEHAN: I also want to introduce Tomas Young, he was fighting in Sader City and was wounded the same day Casey was killed. And he was part of the First Calvary too.
TOMAS YOUNG: I also would like to demand a meeting with the president because I feel that he owes me some explanations as to why a soldier can volunteer to go over and fight for his country and lose his ability to walk plus a lot of other important functions and why I am not worth the funding for stem cell research. Sorry, we're going to have to cut this short. I need to go find a table to lean on for support. So are we good here?
PERSON: Thanks a lot.
TOMAS YOUNG: Thank you.
CATHY SMITH: You know what?
TOMAS YOUNG: What?
CATHY SMITH: You could have been there. I'm sorry. I can't —
It's just, I mean his picture could be there just like that. And I could be going over to put flowers on his cross, you know? And instead I'm here with him. That's, you know. Mm. It's just so, it's so overwhelming. It just really is overwhelming. I just can't, these are just pictures to so many people. They're not babies, they're not kids, they're not fathers and brothers. And, and to see it in this chain of 2,000. You know? 2,000. And that doesn't include the 14,000 that are injured and in wheelchairs and — Ohh, yeah. I had to have a cigarette first. Okay. I think I'm ready. Oh.
PERSON: I want to meet you. I thank you so much.
TOMAS YOUNG: Thank you. And I'm terribly sorry for your loss.
PERSON: Thank you. You know what? I'm glad you're alive. I'm glad you're alive. I really am. And I want to make sure you get the help that you need.
TOMAS YOUNG: Thank you.
CATHY SMITH: I noticed in Washington when we were there with the Goldstar Mothers for Peace and the MFSO who's babies have not come home from — husbands have not come home. I noticed them touching Tomas, kissing him, hugging him, wanting to be near him. And I think there was a connection there because he came home. And their family members didn't.
TOMAS YOUNG: The army's chief goal is to get you in. But once it comes time for you to get out, they don't really care if they take care of you or not.
CATHY SMITH: Is there anything I can get for you? Something to drink or —
TOMAS YOUNG: No. I'm going to mark this as one of my red letter days in my calendar. This place affects my mood so negatively.
CATHY SMITH: Oh I know. So why are they having you wait? Just to take your blood pressure to make sure you're stabilized?
TOMAS YOUNG: Just to make sure I'm — to make sure the anesthesia doesn't kick back in I guess and I fall asleep while driving, which they told me not to do.
CATHY SMITH: You want me to go talk to them?
TOMAS YOUNG: No, because you'll just try to make sense of it and they'll go, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, wah. And you'll be like Charlie Brown and you'll go, yes ma'am. That's right.
CATHY SMITH: This would be the PTSD kicking in, that you don't have.
TOMAS YOUNG: Yes it is.
CATHY SMITH: Yeah.
TOMAS YOUNG: It's the PTSD that the psychiatrists say I don't have that apparently I have now.
CATHY SMITH: Yeah. Someone with PTSD will lash out at the people that they feel are safest. They can't lash out necessarily at a doctor or at a for a first sergeant that caused this. They can lash out at Brie or myself, you know, the family members. It's okay because we'll still be there. We may get angry, we may, we may yell. But he knows deep down that we're still there.
TOMAS YOUNG: Well what I'm waiting for right now is for a doctor to come and tell me some aftercare instructions. Like I mean when I got my tattoo or my piercing, [laughs] they told me what to do afterwards to help take care of it. I haven't heard word one here.
There are a lot of times that I sit back there in my back bedroom laying in bed just, uh, crying with very little control. Usually happens after my body does something to show how much it disagrees with me. Happens sometimes when I watch people walk down the street. I'm jealous of people that can walk.
BILL MOYERS: Here are the filmmakers who tell Tomas Young's story in Body of War: Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue. Ellen, who took her camera and practically moved in with Tomas and his wife in Kansas City, is always pushing the boundaries of the documentary form. You can read all about her on our Web site at PBS.org.
Phil Donahue, we know, changed the face of daytime television back in 1967 with the first daytime show to invite the audience to participate. He went on to tackle all the controversial subjects in more than 7,000 hours of daily television, winning 20 Emmy Awards, a Peabody, and a huge audience over 41 years. This is his first independent film.
Welcome to the Journal.
PHIL DONAHUE: Thank you.
ELLEN SPIRO: Thank you for having —
BILL MOYERS: Why did you make this film?
PHIL DONAHUE: I made this film because I met this young man at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And I learned of the gravity of his injuries, paralyzed from the nipples down. This young man was lying in bed, you could almost — it was hard to find him. He was as white as the sheets. His cheekbones were visible. He was whacked on morphine. I'm not sure he remembers the visit at all. And that's when I met his mother and learned about the gravity of his injury.
BILL MOYERS: It's not just that he can't walk. He can't cough. His bodily functions are paralyzed. His bladder has to be emptied manually. And he said to you, Ellen, "Come and film me"?
ELLEN SPIRO: Not exactly. I think, though, that he wanted to tell his story. But it was Phil's initial contact with him and Phil's visits after the initial meeting at Walter Reed that I think built up the initial trust that allowed us to go and spend a lot of very intimate time with him.
PHIL DONAHUE: I just couldn't get over what I was seeing in this bed at Walter Reed, you know? I had never been this close. And —
BILL MOYERS: This close to?
PHIL DONAHUE: This — it blows you back. I mean, bowel and bladder. He has erectile dysfunction. He's 27 years old. Prime of life. He went from a life of loud music and singles bars to puke pans — ED, a bowl full of pills — morning nausea every morning. I mean, it just goes on and on. My inspiration for this film was the naked child running from the napalm. Remember that Vietnam picture? I mean, terrified, this little girl is totally naked. You can see the black smoke in the back. That picture won a Pulitzer Prize. See the pain. Don't sanitize the war.
If you're gonna send young men and women to fight for this nation, tell the truth. That's one of the biggest reasons for the First Amendment. And we haven't been. And so I thought I will tell the story, the real story of the harm in harm's way.
BILL MOYERS: There's that moment when he and his mother are in the van, and she is helping put the catheter in:
[excerpt from film]:
CATHY SMITH: Okay, what do I need to do?
TOMAS YOUNG: Alright. I'm going to lift up and you're going to set that under me.
CATHY SMITH: Okay.
TOMAS YOUNG: Okay.
CATHY SMITH: Okay.
BILL MOYERS: I felt uncomfortable watching that, but they didn't seem to mind.
ELLEN SPIRO: We were in the van; Tomas needed to change his catheter. He needed help. I had the little, tiny camera with me. And I said, "Can I film?" And he said, "Sure." I said, "I promise not to look." So I actually wasn't looking through the camera while this was happening. And something about what happened during that scene, they take control of it and they laugh. And they turn it into humor. And it's the audience that feels uncomfortable. The reason it works is that the power dynamic is reversed. So they're not uncomfortable but the audience is very uncomfortable watching.
[excerpt from film]:
TOMAS YOUNG: Are you nervous?
CATHY SMITH: Yeah.
TOMAS YOUNG: Oh.
CATHY SMITH: I've never done this before.
TOMAS YOUNG: Okay.
CATHY SMITH: Is it coming out?
TOMAS YOUNG: Yeah, it's coming out.
CATHY SMITH: Oh.
TOMAS YOUNG: Hey mom. Mom!
CATHY SMITH: [Laughs]
TOMAS YOUNG: We generally tend to watch what goes on up there.
CATHY SMITH: I'm trying to move it so it just doesn't go just everywhere.
TOMAS YOUNG: Good plan.
CATHY SMITH: [Laughs]
TOMAS YOUNG: I saw that that worked swimmingly.
CATHY SMITH: [Laughs]
TOMAS YOUNG: Look at that. You've got pee in your hand.
CATHY SMITH: [Laughs] I know. You know what? It's not the first time I've had your pee on my hand.
PHIL DONAHUE: What you see in our film is taking place behind the closed doors of thousands of homes in this country. Homes occupied by people who've come home — signed up, proud Americans all, of varying political persuasion — who went and answered the president's call. Their injuries alter their lives. But they also alter the lives of the entire family, as you see in our film. I mean, this whole family's lives have been changed forever because of Tomas's injury.
BILL MOYERS: What did you learn about human nature from Tomas and his family?
ELLEN SPIRO: Well, everything. I mean, when you're faced with those circumstances and you can emerge intact and Tomas can find his voice in the public sphere as an activist, and you leave with hope. You leave with some hope in the democratic process. And you leave with hope for Tomas and his family.
BILL MOYERS: You know, I think you just said something that reminds me of why we do documentaries. You find people who are looking for their voice, and you help them find it and be heard, right? Is —
ELLEN SPIRO: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Do you feel you were doing that?
ELLEN SPIRO: It's the power of listening. I mean, there's no such thing as not have — when you're a documentary filmmaker and you go into a situation, there's no such thing as not having an effect. Listening has an effect. But I like to think that listening has a positive effect. Just being there. Nothing inserted there but just the power of someone listening — helped him come to speak and become articulate and find what he wanted to say and to say it.
PHIL DONAHUE: Ellen doesn't knock over furniture. She comes in under the radar. So much of the honesty and the intimacy of this film is a direct result of, you know, the fact that the people with whom she was working trusted her.
BILL MOYERS: Well, there are amazing moments with Tomas and his wife, with his mother, with his brothers. You had to almost disappear to be able to get those moments, right? I mean, they weren't performing for the camera.
ELLEN SPIRO: No. But in a way it's the opposite of disappearing. I mean, you become a part of the family. I fell in love with every member of the family, the mother, Tomas, his brother.
BILL MOYERS: Tell me about his mother. What did you come to understand about her? She came from a long time two generation military family, right?
ELLEN SPIRO: Cathy Smith, incredible woman. One of the things I admire most about her is how she balances her two sons and her husband —
BILL MOYERS: Tomas and Nathan.
ELLEN SPIRO: Tomas and Nathan. Tomas —
BILL MOYERS: And there's a third little boy —
PHIL DONAHUE: Yes there is, Timmy, and we'd better get his name in, too.
BILL MOYERS: Right, I saw him —
PHIL DONAHUE: And Lisa is a teenage daughter.
ELLEN SPIRO: This family is a microcosm of America. You've got red and blue in the same family. You've got step-dad Mike and son Nathan, very pro-Bush, very pro-war. And you've got mother, Cathy, and her son Tomas that turned against the war in the middle of it.
[excerpt from film]:
CATHY SMITH: We have now become a nation of imperialists. You know we're going to be at war forever.
MIKE: That's crap baby.
CATHY SMITH: Why is that crap?
MIKE: We want peace. That's why we're there. Keep terrorism at bay rather than right here in Kansas City.
ELLEN SPIRO: And Cathy, as the mother, manages to keep this family together. So it's also a story about family and how love can transcend politics. They love each other. The step-father and the brother just came to our premier in Kansas City. They support the film because they support Tomas. They love Tomas. They can disagree and still be a family.
BILL MOYERS: Who is the older veteran he goes to see?
PHIL DONAHUE: He goes to see Bobby Muller, which as a young man, by the way was on the Donahue show a hundred years ago.
BILL MOYERS: A Vietnam vet?
PHIL DONAHUE: A Vietnam vet who took a bullet and his injury's almost like — and you know so here's our scene. And they call themselves gimps. The old gimp meets the new gimp, you know? They're rolling in. And, you know, in the brief moment they met, Bobby Muller gave Tomas an awful lot of valuable information.
[excerpt from film]:
PERSON: Bobby Muller.
BOBBY MULLER: Hey guys. Come on in. How are you?
PERSON: This is Tomas Young.
PHIL DONAHUE [voiceover]: You can imagine, here's a guy who's in the chair for 38 years. And here's this young man who just less than a year ago wound up in a chair.
BOBBY MULLER: Did you go to the demonstration?
TOMAS YOUNG: Uh, yeah, we marched on it.
BOBBY MULLER: You know, you go to a parade, you go to a demo. Wheelchairs up front. You know, standard routine. Put the gimps on the front end of the game. Because — no, that, that.
TOMAS YOUNG: Someone else who says gimps.
BOBBY MULLER: Yeah, that's the visual. You know, they've got to have the visual, you know? When you got shot, what was it like?
TOMAS YOUNG: All of a sudden my body just went completely numb. I couldn't feel anything. I dropped my M16, I tried to pick it back up but I couldn't move my hands.
BOBBY MULLER: Where did you get shot?
TOMAS YOUNG: Right underneath the left collarbone. That's where I got shot.
BOBBY MULLER: The bullet came here and went through the spinal cord as it went out. So we got, we got the angle and trajectories are a little bit different, but we've got very similar things.
TOMAS YOUNG: And shortly after that I was out for about a week. Woke up in Walter Reed Army Hospital. That was where they kind of started to do a little rehab with me. I had a, a physical and an occupational therapist. They would come and they'd take me out of my bed and put me in this weird chair and just leave me there for two hours. That was my physical therapy at the very beginning.
BOBBY MULLER: How long were you in the hospital?
TOMAS YOUNG: Um, let's see. A week and one-half in Germany, a month about two and one-half, three months separated over different hospitals.
BOBBY MULLER: That's I was in the hospital for over a year. And then I went on an outpatient basis for another nine months. You got, you got short shrift.
BILL MOYERS: You think that's typical of these veterans coming back from Iraq, that they're getting short shrift when it comes to treatment?
ELLEN SPIRO: Yeah, they're dealing — it's no fault of any person at the VA. But they've got several generations of injured people to deal with. And they're just overloaded. So the response is to treat people with pills. He wasn't getting physical therapy, nothing. And when we met Tomas he wasn't very articulate. He was pretty much addicted to morphine. And he on his — with his own willpower — started to wean himself from the morphine because he knew he wasn't going to be an effective voice if he couldn't form a sentence.
There's this great line that goes around the VA: "Nothing's too good for a veteran, so nothing's what they'll get." This is a line in Eddie Vedder's song — he's the lead of Pearl Jam. And he wrote this song for a film. And he used that line in his song No More, which is the main song in our film.
PHIL DONAHUE: This is one of the big breaks. I mean, I had a lot of breaks making this movie. Here's the first big break that I had. I have no idea. And she didn't really — she's seen me on television. But imagine. I mean, we're coming totally strange, never having met each other. We meet at —
BILL MOYERS: And a stranger connected you, right, on the plane, I understand.
PHIL DONAHUE: Yes. Yes, on the way home from a media reform conference in Saint Louis. These are young people who believe that corporate media is ruining democracy. That's their banner.
BILL MOYERS: So you're on this plane coming back.
PHIL DONAHUE: I'm coming back. And I'm saying I met this young man to this woman, who's sitting next to me. And I said, "I think I wanna do a film on this, but I've never made a film." And she gets her book out and her name is Deedee Hallack, long-time activist from northern — up near Woodstock.
BILL MOYERS: Deep Dish Television —
PHIL DONAHUE: Deep Dish is Deedee —
BILL MOYERS: Really alternative media.
PHIL DONAHUE: Right. So she gives me Mobilus Media phone number in Austin, Texas.
BILL MOYERS: That's her company.
PHIL DONAHUE: I call and the female voice answered. And I say, "Hi, it's Phil Donahue." And she knew who I was, thank god.
ELLEN SPIRO: But I —
BILL MOYERS: She's too young to know who you are.
PHIL DONAHUE: I —well, I worried about it.
ELLEN SPIRO: No, I thought he was —
PHIL DONAHUE: I worried about it.
ELLEN SPIRO: — a crank caller actually.
BILL MOYERS: A crank? A lot of people would think that —
ELLEN SPIRO: I thought he was someone impersonating Phil Donahue. It was fictional, you know? Like getting a phone call from Pippi Longstocking. Phil Donahue?
PHIL DONAHUE: So, anyway, here we are. Here we are. And, by the way, we're co-directors. Now, I mean, do you have any idea what it's like to co-direct with me? I mean, here's —
BILL MOYERS: I bet Bernadine, your editor, wanted to throw you out —
ELLEN SPIRO: She was our couples therapist.
PHIL DONAHUE: Oh, Bernadine —
BILL MOYERS: My editors wanna throw me out.
PHIL DONAHUE: We were on the 14th floor and I locked the window about three weeks into our — oh, man. It was — it really — and then you've got a young man who's coming — trying to come up from the ashes, you know? And failure is not a stranger to me. But you don't wanna take this young man over the side with you. You know? You want this to work 'cause of him.
But Tomas did not want a "poor lad, oh, lad, how sad" movie. He wanted a political movie. He wanted to make a statement. And, obviously, I did, too. So this was wonderful. I mean, that I found myself in the company of someone who was as interested in, as I was, in making a film that had bite, a film that said something. And that accounts for this film's exposure of the dialogue in the Senate and the House during the October 2002 Iraq War resolution.
[footage of U.S. Senators]:
BILL NELSON (D-Fla.): The threat posed by Iraq grows with each passing day.
VOICE: Mr. Bayh, Ay.
JOSEPH PITTS (R-Pa.): It's a danger that grows every day.
VOICE: Mr. Bennett, Ay.
JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): Each day that goes by he becomes more dangerous.
MIKE DEWINE (R-Ohio): More diabolical.
JOSEPH PITTS (R-Pa.): Every day Saddam Hussein grows stronger.
JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): His capabilities become better.
VOICE: Mr. Biden, Ay.
JOSEPH PITTS (R-Pa.): Every day Saddam Hussein builds more chemical and biological weapons.
JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): The longer we wait the more dangerous he becomes.
VOICE: Mr. Bond, Ay. Mr. Breaux, Ay. Mr. Brownback, Ay. Mr. Bunning, Ay. Mr. Burns, Ay. Mr. Campbell, Ay. Ms. Cantwell, Ay. Mrs. Carnahan, Ay. Mr. Carper, Ay, Ay, Ay.
ROBERT BYRD (D-W.Va.): Wait! Slow down! Don't rush this through.
BILL MOYERS: You watched all the C-SPAN coverage of the debate back in 2002. What did you see?
PHIL DONAHUE: I saw a very superficial, bumper sticker debate on the floor of both chambers of Congress. And you will see it as well when you see our film.
BILL MOYERS: As we listen to the debate now it seems almost like a script was being read. What's your explanation for that?
PHIL DONAHUE: So many House members and Senators accepted the White House talking points. You see them reading it. A smoking gun will become a mushroom cloud. These are Senators, grown people. Action — inaction is worse than action. The longer we wait, the more dangerous he becomes. Holy cow, we better go get this guy. And as Byrd says, he was never a threat to this nation.
[footage of political figures juxtaposed with footage of Tomas Young]:
GEORGE W. BUSH: We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making.
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-Fla.): Saddam Hussein's regime trained Al Qaeda operatives in bomb making.
STEVE ROTHMAN (D-N.J.): Saddam is now training Al Qaeda in bomb making.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high level contacts that go back a decade.
FRED THOMPSON (R-Tenn.): Senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.
BILL FRIST (R-Tenn.): The Iraqi regime has been in contact with Al-Qaeda for at least a decade.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists.
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-Fla.): Harbors these terrorists.
HILLARY CLINTON (D-N.Y.): Aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We know that Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy. The United States of America.
TOMAS YOUNG: My, uh, pill box separates them out for the week. This is Carbamazepine. It is a nerve pain medication.
VOICE: Ms. Collins, aye.
TOMAS YOUNG: This is a drug called Kumadin and it's a blood thinner.
VOICE: Mr. Craig, aye.
TOMAS YOUNG: This is Tizanidine. It's an anti-spasm medication.
VOICE: Mr. Crapo, aye.
TOMAS YOUNG: This is Gabapentin.
VOICE: Mr. Daschle.
TOMAS YOUNG: It's a nerve pain medication.
TOMAS YOUNG: This is Bupropion.
VOICE: Mr. DeWine.
TOMAS YOUNG: It is an antidepressant.
TOMAS YOUNG: This is Omeprazole.
VOICE: Mr. Dodd.
TOMAS YOUNG: It's for morning nausea.
TOMAS YOUNG: And this is morphine. It's a narcotic. And in this situation the effect is not to get high but to kill pain. And so I have to take more and more of it to stop the pain.
BILL MOYERS: There were exceptions to the drumbeat of war, and one of them you feature in the film: Robert Byrd.
PHIL DONAHUE: The longest-serving human being in the history of the United States Senate. Nine times elected to a six-year term. And he's cast thousands and thousands of votes. And he stood up during this resolution, and he begged his colleagues. And he begged the people. You know, he pointed to the C-SPAN camera. He said, "Get out there and let this leadership know."
ROBERT BYRD: Let the leadership of this Congress know that you don't want this revolution rammed through this Congress before the election. The life of your son may depend upon it. The life of your daughter may depend upon it. Get out there and let this leadership know!
PHIL DONAHUE: You know, he's the only member of the Senate that can do this kind of — or if anybody else did, they'd throw a net over him. But he's fabulous in his oration and he said, "This resolution will be a blotch on the Congress and the executive branch forever." And he's right.
BILL MOYERS: And there was Pete Stark of California, member of the House.
PHIL DONAHUE: Oh, my. Pete Stark takes the wall — the well, and he turns around and he said, "You're giving —"
PETE STARK (D-Calif.): You're giving an inexperienced desperate young man in the White House the execution lever to kill thousands of Americans. Some of you did that and you can look at the 50,000 names on the wall down in the Mall. Don't do it again!
PHIL DONAHUE: Certainly the White House scheduled this vote to precede the November 2002 election. You know? How is it you've got Congress people facing reelection in three weeks. Now, how do you vote on the war? And how does that influ — remember, we're an angry nation. This is October 2002 — the election being November. How are you gonna vote no on the pressure, especially when you remember how angry we were. I mean, it was very difficult to say no or dissent in this country at that time.
BILL MOYERS: There is a sequence in the film of the White House Correspondent's Dinner, the annual dinner. And I'll be frank, it made me cringe because I remembered as I watched it that in the build-up to the Vietnam War, '65/'66, we were having those parties in Washington. We were dancing at the Smithsonian. And the Tomas Youngs of our era were getting blown to pieces along with a lot of Vietnamese in Vietnam.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere.
Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here.
LAURA BUSH: I said to, to him the other day, George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world you're going to have to stay up later.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife.
ELLEN SPIRO: Seems very ironic that the people who are governing and making the laws are so disconnected from the reality, the reality of a Tomas Young. And that's what's so painful about this scene where you see them in Washington celebrating, making jokes about weapons of mass destruction, and then we see Tomas at home in his wheelchair watching this. And you sort of, you know, get a sense of his inner world at that point and why he feels betrayed.
PHIL DONAHUE: It's not the first time that this has been observed. But if there's any institution in the world that has a responsibility to tell the truth, even if it hurts, it's the United States press, protected as we are by the First Amendment. This president said you can't shoot the — you can't take pictures of the coffins coming home. And the entire mainstream media establishment said okay. There's no fight. You know? And if you're a boardroom person overseeing a large media company, antiwar programs are not good for business. Antiwar personalities are not good for business. You wanna, you know, support the war and sell your products. Be popular.
BILL MOYERS: This is an indictment not just of the administration but of a political system of a country, right? I mean, it's —
PHIL DONAHUE: Oh, man. We've got people acting tough and sending other people's kids to war to make the case. People — the loudest drum beaters for this war are people who would never think of sending their own kid to fight it. The hypocrisy is overwhelming. We're in arguments now about wearing lapel pins. If you don't wear a flag, you know, you're not quite as patriotic. This — we're having arguments about whether waterboarding is torture, you know? This is not the nation my parents raised me to pledge my allegiance to.
BILL MOYERS: You seem to be saying over and again, "Pay attention. Pay attention. This is the particular cost of a war we talk about abstractly." There's this sequence in which Tomas's brother, Nathan, is on his way to Iraq.
PHIL DONAHUE: His younger brother.
BILL MOYERS: His younger brother. And he's on the way to his first tour, right?
ELLEN SPIRO: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: How can that be? His brother is in a wheelchair for life because he was there. How can it be?
ELLEN SPIRO: Someone said that this administration is treating our soldiers like toys a rich kid gets for Christmas. They come home fine, send them again. And send them again, you know, use them until they're broken.
[excerpt from film]:
TOMAS YOUNG: We were close as kids. The first day of school when grandma put us in Velcro shoes, white socks, fluorescent, well I had fluorescent shorts. You had dark black looking shorts. And we both wore stupid shirts.
NATHAN YOUNG: We picked those clothes out though.
TOMAS YOUNG: Well, okay
CATHY SMITH: You guys are so cute.
TOMAS YOUNG: Regardless of the fact whether I picked out fluorescent shorts and a black T-shirt, how are you going to let a fourth grader go, "yeah, I think this matches."
Now I guess we have these experiences that we share and we've become closer again.
CATHY SMITH: Made your peace with God?
TOMAS YOUNG: Nathan has always, in every situation he's been in, thought he was ten feet tall and bulletproof. I'm scared. I know what can happen. I know what can happen both physically and emotionally and mentally. And I couldn't let him see that because that was the time for him to have his mom cry and be scared over him.
CATHY SMITH: You've got a phone card with you? Just call me every chance you get. Let me know you're safe.
NATHAN YOUNG: All right.
CATHY SMITH: And we'll write.
TOMAS YOUNG: I couldn't let him, the guy that he looks up to so much, see that he was scared.
CATHY SMITH: Let me know what you need and I'll send it.
CATHY SMITH [to camera]: It's very scary having him go. And many people have suggested that I can get him out because Tomas has been injured. And I could. Nathan could get out. But he doesn't want to. He wants to go.
CATHY SMITH: C'mon. One more. One more hug.
NATHAN YOUNG: All right.
CATHY SMITH: All right.
TOMAS YOUNG: There you go.
CATHY SMITH: Okay. Both hands and everything.
NATHAN YOUNG: See you later big bro.
TOMAS YOUNG: Same here. Stay up. You'll be alright.
CATHY SMITH: That's right, be careful. What did he say?
NATHAN YOUNG: What?
CATHY SMITH: Be careful. Always am. That's right.
NATHAN YOUNG: I'm outta here.
CATHY SMITH: Okay. Bye, baby. I love you.
NATHAN YOUNG: I love you too.
ELLEN SPIRO: I was trying not to cry when I was shooting it 'cause it was just tragic to see him go off. And this war is different from previous wars in that most of these soldiers have families, kids, wives. And you see in this scene they don't wanna go. They're leaving their three year old or their four year old behind or their pregnant wife.
BILL MOYERS: But he's been back a second time?
ELLEN SPIRO: Yeah, he's been back a second time. And he's going back a third time. I constantly think about Cathy, you know, his mother and, yeah, thank god he came back alive. And now he's going off again And we had a guy show up for our screening in Kansas City who came home from his tour in Iraq and was agoraphobic. He couldn't leave the house for two years. His first time out of the house in these two years was coming to our screening in Kansas City. And there's just — so Tomas, you see visibly what's happened, but there's so many people for every Tomas that have come back with various mental and emotional issues that —
BILL MOYERS: Twenty-eight thousand, I believe I read, 28,000 wounded —
ELLEN SPIRO: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: I mean, seriously wounded.
ELLEN SPIRO: What's amazing about Tomas is that — and what's so hopeful about this story is that he takes his pain and turns it into something positive. He takes his pain and his anger and becomes an activist.
BILL MOYERS: He is angry?
ELLEN SPIRO: Yeah. He's got pretty good reason to be angry.
PHIL DONAHUE: Oh, yeah.
ELLEN SPIRO: But he transforms it. And we see this transformation in the course of this film. When Tomas says, "Bring the troops home," it means something different than when anyone else says it because he's talking about his younger brother.
BILL MOYERS: Help me understand what you've learned from doing this film, from Tomas, about why it is patriotism leads a young man or a woman to volunteer for a war?
ELLEN SPIRO: For Tomas it was about pride, you know? He loves his country. His grandfather served in the military. He saw that we were attacked, and his immediate 25-year-old male response was to go get them. And he wanted to protect his country. And he was stirred up by the fear. And the fear is what got this whole country behind the war, even though we learn now that the evidence was false and that it was manufactured and that everybody in Washington was following a script.
And the reason that we included that material that Phil watched so painstakingly and edited, which now looks like an exposé, even though it was there for anybody to see, is that it shows how we got there. And it makes the story really not about 2002. It makes the story about the future.
BILL MOYERS: How so?
ELLEN SPIRO: Let's not let it happen again. Let's see how we got there and let's not let it happen again.
PHIL DONAHUE: The saddest — the scene in our movie that I have — I still can't get through. It, you know, makes me — well up to talk about it. Tomas goes to an antiwar demonstration in Washington. And at the end of the demonstration he's wheeled up to a rope behind which are Gold Star Families, people who have lost loved ones in the war. They're holding their pictures up. And they're touching Tomas. It's a vicarious way to touch their loved one who didn't come home. And Tomas is available to them. He lets them. He gets it. I was so impressed with his empathy and you know, I mean, not every 20-something male is gonna get this, and he did. And it's another example of what is admirable about this young man.
BILL MOYERS: What's Tomas doing now? Have you stayed in touch with him since the film was finished?
ELLEN SPIRO: Oh, sure. We saw him yesterday. Tomas has executive produced a music album that has about 24 artists on it. Of — multiple generations.
PHIL DONAHUE: On the album. Bruce Springsteen. Yoko Ono signed for —
ELLEN SPIRO: John Lennon.
PHIL DONAHUE: — for her husband.
ELLEN SPIRO: Neil Young.
PHIL DONAHUE: Neil Young.
ELLEN SPIRO: System of a Down, Michael Franti, Bright Eyes. Some bands that are so young, you know, I haven't heard of them.
ELLEN SPIRO: And he's getting involved in his passion, which is music. And it's these songs that he put together for the album that helped him get through both the time when he was about to go to Iraq, his time in Iraq, and when he got home and dealing with his injury. This was the soundtrack of his survival through all this.
PHIL DONAHUE: By the way — they offered — the music people said to Tomas, we have $100,000. What would you like to do with it? And Tomas said, "I wanna give it to IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War." You know? This is a well-raised citizen. This is the patriot right here. This is a man who believes in the framers, who wants America to come back to their original vision. And I think he's done that in our film.
BILL MOYERS: Phil Donahue, Ellen Spiro, and your remarkable editor, Bernadine?
ELLEN SPIRO: Kolisch.
BILL MOYERS: Kolisch.
PHIL DONAHUE: Kolisch.
BILL MOYERS: Thanks to the three of you for a marvelous film.
ELLEN SPIRO: Thank you for having us, Bill.
[footage of political figures on the floor of congress, which is also an excerpt from the film]:
BARBARA BOXER (D-Calif.): The rush to say to the president, go at it alone. Don't worry about anybody else. I think it's hurting this debate. And I think that this debate looks political.
MARCY KAPTUR (D-Ohio): Three weeks before election seems to be an odd time to be authorizing war.
BARBARA LEE (D-Calif.): I urge you to oppose this rush to war. It is morally wrong, financially irresponsible and is not in our national security interest. We have options and we have an obligation to pursue them.
BOB MENENDEZ (D-N.J.): What is our post Saddam strategy in a country that has separatist desires by Kurds and Shiites, how long will we stay?
BARBARA BOXER (D-Calif.): How much will it cost?
KENT CONRAD (D-N.D.): How will we pay for this?
BOB MENENDEZ (D-N.J.): Are the estimates of $200 billion to prosecute this war the floor or the ceiling?
NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.): We must focus on building our own economy before we worry about Iraq's economy after we invade Iraq.
STEPHANIE TUBBS-JONES (D-Ohio): Mr. President, what happened to Osama Bin Laden? Do we know how long a war in Iraq would last? Has there been any assessment for the American people of how much a war in Iraq will cost our economy? Do you have any idea of the human loss we should expect —
CLERK: The time for the gentle lady has expired and I will remind members to address their remarks to the chair and not to the president.
ROBERT BYRD (D-W.Va.): In, in the name of the people of this country, in the name of the young men and women whose lives may be put on the line.
VOICE: Mr. Ensign, Ay. Mr. Enzi, AY
ROBERT BYRD (D-W.Va.): By the decision that this senate will make is too weighty, is too far reaching, and it's only fair to the people of America who are going to be asked to give in some instances everything that they've got, everything they have, if, if a war ensues, and I tell you my friends I don't want that on my conscience. Not I.
BILL MOYERS: If you go to our website at PBS.org you can find out where to see Body of War and learn more about Tomas Young's story. You can also find links to names of every American soldier killed in Iraq over the past five years.
That's it for the Journal. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you again next week.
I'm Bill Moyers.