Monday, May 22, 2006

Baghdad ER

It was excrutiating to watch, but I'm glad I did.
The documentary Baghdad ER, shown yesterday on HBO, should be sent to Bush, Cheney and Rummy in gift wrapped boxes with a big red ribbon on top.
The Army allowed documentarians Matthew O'Neill and Jon Alpert close access to shoot 2 months in the life of its military hospital in Baghdad. The filmmakers capture the heroic sacrifice of both doctors and soldiers, which is probably what the Army wanted. They also did not flinch from recording live and up close the terrible carnage of the wounds suffered by mostly very young, inexperienced soldiers. Baghdad ER is probably the only testimony shown in the media as to how atrocious the Iraq war is. And we barely see the wounded civilian population.
So far, more than 17,000 American soldiers have been wounded. About 2400 killed. Just to watch a minute of this film makes these numbers impossible to accept. The little disclaimer at the beginning of the program does not prepare anybody for the gruesomeness of the images. And yet, through the oozing blood and the severed limbs and the torn flesh, you are always in the presence of sentient humanity. I haven't been able to get some of the images out of my head.
The filmmakers wisely refrain from speechifying or creating polemics. They train their cameras on the American soldiers. They let the decency and integrity of those people speak for themselves. The footage is so horribly raw that the Army's Surgeon General has advised soldiers who are on tour of duty or have been to refrain from watching because it could trigger trauma and nightmares.
Trauma and nightmares is what the leaders of this country should be having.

No comments:

Post a Comment