Friday, January 20, 2006

Truth Is The Real Hero of War

The executive editor of The Digital Journalist, Peter Howe, writes of the impact that images and text have on our emotions in a piece entitled Disposable Heroes. He praises Nina Berman for her work on Purple Hearts and her ability to bring a more personal awareness of the atrocities by putting a face on the realities of war. I have to agree, and I've always felt the public should be exposed to all aspects of war. Only by putting a face on it can we somehow begin to realize the horrendous suffering and despair that comes from war. There is no honor in war, save the brotherhood between the people who find themselves embroiled in the day to day survival of life and death situations. If there was some way all the people of the world could smell that very distinctive odor of burning human flesh; if they could see streets littered with pieces of arms, legs, and the heads of people like themselves; if they could hear the screams of the suffering; then just perhaps we could begin the journey towards peace, and the people would demand that our corporate politicians be replaced by people who are concerned about humanity rather than capital or trade policies.

There is a video presentation, hosted on the Digital Journalist web site, which offers a glimpse of what the book Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq is all about.
Nina didn't start out with the intention of producing a book, but simply wanted to satisfy the urge that drives all good journalists - curiosity. She kept on hearing reports from Iraq that a certain number of soldiers were wounded in actions that were taking place around that country, but realized that she was seeing no images of the them at all. Furthermore, she could find no listings of the wounded from the Department of Defense or any other source. The other thing that she couldn't find in the beginning was any interest in the story from magazines or other publications. So she set out by herself to track down likely subjects, using the modern journalist's best friend, Google, as a starting point. She described her method in a recent interview: "I would plug certain words like amputee, wounded, arm, brain damage, soldier comes home, and I would find local newspaper stories, and try and figure out if the soldier was probably back from hospital by then. I would also look in the stories for whatever names would be involved, sometimes a politician, sometimes a bank, sometimes a friend of the family, or I'd call the local newspaper reporter, anything to get a phone number for the family." This detective work, plus the permission from Newsweek to let her use their name, got her the access she needed to get started.

There have been 7,500 American servicemen and women who have been wounded in action and there is another estimated 18,000 others who have been injured in combat support. These numbers are totaled from the first eighteen months of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Washington Post maintains a website, Faces of the Fallen, which lists all casualties by month and year.

"Some war stories will never make the nightly news" according to Mike Tucker and Petra Epperlein, directors of the movie Gunner Palace, and compilers of Baghdad Diaries. Trailers of the movie Gunner Palace can be viewed via Yahoo. This is a story told by the troops in a personal and emotional way that most of the public has never witnessed before in our history. Alternet did a piece pertaining to the movie called Brokedown Palace. The availability of knowledge and the technology we now have, gives us a window to war that we've always needed and there is no doubt in my mind, this is part of the r-evolution via information. This sharing of information and placing faces on the war is so instrumental in promoting mind-changes of our public citizens, and in turn, our elected officials! I really like this quote from one of the soldiers of the movie, "For y'all this is just a show, but we live in this movie."

Patricia Foulkrod has produced and directed a documentary entitled The Ground Truth: The Human Cost of War, and now she is producing another entitled The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends. In this documentary, Foulkrod shows the realities confronting the troops upon their return home. This documentary is in the lineup for this years Sundance Film Festival documentary competition.
Despite the national cry to "Support Our Troops," soldiers are returning home alone and isolated - their trauma often exacerbated by an underfunded VA system. As military reports indicate, many soldiers are coming home with severe depression, drug, alcohol, and marital problems; some are taking their own life. Yet, the military and most Americans continue to react as if these soldiers are having a bad day... a day we want to assume will soon get better.

The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends provides an opportunity for a new awareness and national dialogue regarding our consciousness of killing. The film invites the American people to learn and take responsibility for the inescapable and enormous human price that is paid when we send people to kill. It asks that we deeply comprehend the physical, mental, and spiritual cost of killing in war, and to ask ourselves are we willing to pay it.

Again, in Foulkrod's journalism, she succeeds in putting a face on the war. I know many of you are thinking how disturbing it is to view death, destruction, and inhumanity. Yes, it is very disturbing and extremely depressing. But we must all become associated with the real aspects of war rather than the glorified, hero idolized renditions the Hollywood media spins out with Wayne and Schwarzenegger as indestructable idols.

Iraqi veteran Sean Huze, who also appears in Foulkrod's documentary, has become an aspiring playwright. His first debut was The Sandstorm: Stories from the Front, and he also has another play about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder entitled "The Dragon Slayer", which will premiere in Los Angeles this March. Another veteran, Paul Rieckhoff, back in June 2004 along with a couple of other veterans, some volunteers and massive credit-card debt., founded Operation Truth (which is now called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) IAVA is dedicated to the troops and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the civilian supporters of these troops. IAVA is about real news from real troops who have been in combat and who still remain in the war zones. And then there is veteran Jimmy Massey, who is a co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The IVAW has been instrumental in getting the "truth" out to the public concerning the wars in the middle east. And the supporters of these few individuals I've mentioned is in the millions and growing. I am proud of the conscience efforts of all these people and their commitment is not unappreciated.

I wish we could have had the availability of the web back during my hitch in Uncle Sam's service, but I don't think I was as smart in my early twenties as these guys are now! I suppose it's an evolutionary thing or maybe it's just an IQ thing! But if I can spread the truth through this humble blog, no matter how minute the audience, then I've done a small service to all of us. If just one person shares this information, then perhaps there will be two or three more who will also pass it on. And who knows, eventually, perhaps the entire world will see and hear the truth and we will begin to see another piece of the information puzzle uncovered. The puzzle of humanity!

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