Truly Beyond Redemption?

It’s not often I feel so moved as to break off from a post, to write compulsively on another subject, but this has saddened me so much I feel compelled to express the views welling up from within.

I have the the greatest regard for Bill Moyers. I seldom miss a viewing of his “Journal” on PBS. His is the voice of reason and balance amongst a media paralyzed by the inhibitions of corporate indoctrination. Yet tonight, I watched only the first fifteen minutes of Bill Moyer’s Journal, before reaching for the “Off” switch in disgust.

Tonight’s program, an “Iraq War Anniversary Edition”, was devoted to a new film by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro called, “Body of War”.[1] It follows the post-war life of one Thomas Young, a twenty-four year old US enlistee who wanted to fight in Afghanistan, but ended up in Iraq. Five days after arriving there, he was shot in the chest and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the nipples down.

It’s a sad case. One of many sad cases. Perhaps it’s a case just sad enough to deserve the telling. But not now. Not at this moment.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. To be precise, it marks the day when one major superpower, and a few other hangers-on-nations hoping to curry favor, invaded another sovereign nation that had shown, or made, no act of aggression towards its invaders.

In the last five years, 4,000 US troops have died due to their country’s aggression; 176 British troops have died due to their country’s aggression. Somewhere around 600,000 to 1,000,000 innocent Iraqis have died due, not to their country’s aggression, but at the whim of America and its so-called “allies” in this illegal war.

It might be expected that, five years on, Bill Moyers Journal would tell the story of an Iraqi widow trying desperately to survive without her breadwinner; perhaps, the sad tale of one of the 5,000,000 (yes, five million) Iraqi orphans resulting from this unprovoked military aggression.

I know Bill Moyers is against this war. I respect his efforts, the often lone voice of the US media, attempting to inject a modicum of reason and commonsense where none prevails. It is because of this respect, this empathy with a voice crying in the media wilderness, that tonight I fear for the very future of mankind.

I have lived in America five and a half years. There is much here that both confuses and depresses me. Most noticeable in this country, compared to other nations, is its self-centered, insular, self-indulgence. That self-indulgence was never more emphasized than tonight on Bill Moyer’s Journal.

Discounting the harm, suffering, violence, and humiliation imposed on the Iraqi people by a megalomaniac of stupendous proportions, a people who may have wanted rid of their dictator, but never at the price demanded by his assassins, tonight the “Journal” chose to focus on the effects this manipulated war has had on one of its own soldiers; the suffering of a fellow American.

One could hope the people of America have learned something from the degradation they’ve been dragged through, yet again, by leaders intent on cementing their own personal powerbase throughout the outside world. It happened in Vietnam, with disastrous consequences for that nation and its people.

Uneducated by experience, and with not an iota of remorse, America launched itself, yet again, on a bloody and endless round of violence, torture, slaughter, and violent self-aggrandizement that has once more destroyed a whole nation, its people, its vast historic treasures, its dignity, all at the whim of another megalomaniac president and his band of criminal cohorts.

I could have hoped that Bill Moyers, on such a significant date, might have turned outward and examined the results of such megalomania; its effects on the true victims of this carnage. Instead, he chose to turn inward, like the rest of the US media, and examine only the results of this war on the perpetrators; the guilty; the violators of international law. To examine only how they have suffered.

If the great Bill Moyers chooses this course, who is there left to speak out for the real victims?

[1] “Body of War”, Bill Moyer’s Journal, March 2008

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10 Replies to “Truly Beyond Redemption?”

  1. You’re right, RJ – of course. The USA is inward-looking and largely self-centered. You and I had the good fortune to be born in a small country, a jewel in a silver sea. A country who has needed to always look outward, for many reasons, so it comes naturally to us to do so. To uinderstand Americans one has to try to walk a mile in American shoes. A vast and diverse country, 50 country-like divisions within it. Looking across several states is, for them, like Brits looking toward foreign shores I suppose. I try not to blame them too much for their insularity.

    This is not me trying to defend American attitudes, just trying to understand ’em. Bill Moyers obviously appreciates the fact that the American people, watching the story of one of their own, will take in more of the horror of war from that than from watching a devastating tale of broken Iraqui lives. If Bill Moyers can imbue his viewers with the horrors of war in no other way than this – so be it.

    I find Tom Brokaw the only commentator I can stomach these days. I went off Moyers early on in the primary season when we still had 8 Democratic candidates. One week on his show he had a female professor as guest, and they discussed the Dem candidates, but left out the one they most needed to consider – Dennis Kucinich – ignored him but spoke about all of the other seven. I’ve never watched Moyers again since then.

  2. Twilight – I believe your second paragraph to be absolutely correct, and in a sense, it is due to that I felt compelled to write the post. I have great respect for Moyers. I remember the program you mention and the lack of a Kucinich debate. At the time I, too, was disgusted, but I guess TV shows have their time limitations, so gave Moyers the benefit on that occasion. I still consider him the least biased commentator on television. (Though, I respect Brokaw).

    That he should need to ignore the real victims of this aggression in favor of a whole program devoted to one wounded US soldier, in order to get his message across successfully, is not so much a sad indictment of him, as the nation he serves. It proves that America, in general, cares not about the price paid by innocent Iraqi citizens, only the cost to their own.

    Like you, I try to see it through their American eyes, but frankly, the view that unfolds does not infuse me with hope.

  3. Thanks for this post, RJA, for shedding the light on the blinkered Bill Moyers (whom I greatly respect as well).

    The absolute disregard for the Iraqis is, well, so American, isn’t it? Driven by this sense of entitlement and consequent disregard for the damage they inflict on the innocents.

    Iraq will not heal in our lifetime or our children’s. The devastation is horrific.

  4. I am astounded that you and some writing in have had this reaction. To consider Moyers’ and Donahue’s presentations self-indulgent??? WHAT!!?? You caNNOT set up a competition as to WHO is the worse off and then lump Thomas and his fellow soldiers into the perpetrator category cheney, bush, and his ilk have basically defined. Of COURSE the Iraqis have been victimized; of COURSE they deserved NONE of this treatment, but to say we’re denigrating THEM by discussing Thomas, is just ludicrous! If anything, there should be MORE Thomas stories told, and yes, more Iraqi stories told. Don’t set up a false competition! The enemy is NOT Thomas. The enemy is NOT Donahue, nor Moyers. The enemy is those who purposely set our country, our children, and Iraq up for devastation.

  5. WWW – yes, the absolute disregard for the Iraqis is ‘so American’. And it’s easy to blame the US media, whose pious mourning generally revolves only around US dead, with a virtual disregard for Iraqis. The American people have a responsibility that goes beyond lapping up their media content, then sitting with self-satisfied smiles assuming they’re fully informed on the whole picture, just because of a ten minute slot on NBC Nightly News. Others, and in fairness that does include many Americans, manage to source the truth behind the media’s garnished outpourings. We all have that responsibility, and should shoulder it.

    TOB – I’m sorry your link didn’t work. Please feel free to repost it.

    Bernice14 – welcome to Sparrow Chat. My point was not that discussing Thomas was denigrating Iraqis, but that it denigrated Americans. How? By exposing yet again the self-centered attitudes of so many Americans, whose only interest is the tally of American dead, with little regard for the rest of humanity beyond these shores, and none for those who continue to defend, as they view it, their country against foreign aggressors. Bill Moyers had an hour long program devoted to the five year anniversary of Bush’s war. Had he chosen to spend half that hour discussing the Donahue film, and the other half featuring Iraqi suffering, my article would never have been written. Bill Moyers is usually a fair and balanced journalist. He chose to spend all his time discussing the effect of the war on American lives, via the Thomas film. The result was an unbalanced, and to my mind, unfair program.

    No-one is suggesting Thomas, Moyers, or Donahue are the enemy. In truth, the true enemy are those Americans whose sole concern is for their own self-centered, nationalistic, way of life. A life that leaves no room for compassion and humanity towards the suffering of others, unless the victims hold US passports.

    These are the people who allowed the likes of Bush, Cheney, and Co to gain their power. After all, you can hardly call them enemies, when you, the people, voted them into power in the first place.

    If you truly want a democracy in this nation, the people have to take responsibility for it. Wallowing in a self-indulgent pit over one soldier with serious injury is no way to show war for what it is. Thomas’s injuries were horrific, but so are the wounds suffered daily by road and gun-crime victims, who never make it to the big or small screen. The injuries and suffering inflicted on Iraqis by American soldiers are no less horrific than those suffered by Thomas. In many cases, the difference is only that many of the Iraqi victims are innocent and unarmed civilians. Their stories deserve to be told on American television screens, if only to display to this nation what its government instigated in its name, and has continued to sanction over the last five years.

  6. RJ, the “link” is apparently what happens when one types wise web woman’s initials “www” in upper rather than lower case. The hi-tech thought police in action, eh? :^)

    Thanks for the cite, btw. I intentionally (and unusually), posted a second piece on the same day as my previous one, for the precise purpose of being ‘fair & balanced’, to coin a phrase.

  7. I think we disagree about very little. I do, however, disagree with “Wallowing in a self-indulgent pit over one soldier with serious injury is no way to show war for what it is.” because of human nature, unfortunately, being what it is. When something–anything–is too large, humans have much difficulty comprehending the enormity. Thus, bringing it down to an understandable entity makes the point. e.g. the cost of war in Iraq is in the trillions of dollars–whatever…most of us have NO comprehension of it, BUT, tell someone that EVERY SECOND it costs $4,000.00, and THAT IS understandable. Imagining 30,000 with horrible, debilitating injuries (including my son-in-law)–overwhelming; seeing one boy’s mom changing his cathether–hits home. Maybe you’re right–maybe it’s just Americans who have that me-me mentality, but I think when it comes to empathy, there are certain universals.

  8. TOB – I’ve never known you be other than ‘fair and balanced’. Well, fair, at least. Being as you’re a Liverpudlian, I can’t account for ‘balanced’, after a Saturday night in the local down Scotty Road.

    Bernice14 – I don’t really think we disagree at all. The sentence you picked out was meant to imply ‘in the context of isolation’. It is no way to show war for what it is, without all the other aspects to balance matters. Otherwise, Americans are left with the idea that it is only their dead and wounded that matter, and the enemy is just the enemy and not important. Sadly, enemies are human beings, too, and usually either innocent civilians, or young kids thinking they are doing their duty, just like Thomas or your son-in-law.

    America has kept itself insular for many years and the result is a certain ‘me-me’ mentality among many of its citizens, more obvious than, though not totally lacking, elsewhere. Empathy is universal, but it does have to nurtured. I’m afraid politicians worldwide have a tendency to try and suppress that.

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