Mirror TV Critic
It is not about us; it is about them. We sometimes forget that we are in this together. We voted in our President, he took us to war; our soldiers are fighting for us. Whether or not you agree with the war or support the President the fact remains: our soldiers are in harm’s way. We owe it to them to acknowledge the sacrifices they are making.
HBO has taken some heat for showing Baghdad ER, a documentary following the brave men and women on the front lines in Iraq, in particular, the wounded and the dead who are brought to and cared for at the 86th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) in the Army’s premier medical facility in Iraq. It is located in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
Some feel that the documentary is anti-war, pro-war or too upsetting for audiences. Or perhaps gives an unbalanced view of the war over there, since it only focuses on the wounded. Yes, it does that. But it also shows a dedicated medical staff and a loyal group of people – loyal to each other and loyal to the country.
If it all seems too upsetting to watch, try living through one day in the Baghdad ER. The filmmakers want you to know at the outset that 90 percent of soldiers wounded in Iraq survive. This makes it the highest rate of war survivors in US history. Not a bad stat – but one dead soldier is one too many.
Supporters and protestors of the war, those who haven’t fought over there, deserve to know what it’s really like. We as Americans owe it to them to watch. They spill their blood for our leader and our country – they shouldn’t be in it alone.
While we are plugged into American Idol and other escapist fantasies, television is also a medium that can be brought to the front lines. Here, the filmmakers have not slanted their view for or against the war – it isn’t about politics. We’ve had enough of politics. This is about reality. And, as Robin Williams once said, “Reality, what a concept.”
What is most moving about the documentary, just like HBO’s previous documentary, Last Letters Home, Baghdad ER reminds us that human beings are over there – not automatons or sadists (the face of the American soldier abusing Iraqis is how the world now remembers our men and women). Most of them are young men – some mother’s son, some child’s father – some of them, as a nurse points out, are even too young to drink.
What is most heartbreaking is how the soldiers reach out to each other for comfort. An image of one wounded soldier holding another’s hand through a painful operation, or two lying side by side in their cots, bloodied and battered, are images you can’t forget.
Purple Hearts are handed out, words of support are given, bodies are flown home, uniforms cut off and put back on again, limbs removed, legs chewed up from “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs, which are responsible for the majority of injuries over there.
“What I miss is being able to go more than a half a mile in any direction,” one doctor says. He hates the war. He hates it as much as he hates any war at any time in history. But in the end, he feels he’s making a difference over there. And when asked if given the choice to go back to Iraq and do it again, “in a heartbeat,” he says.
Baghdad ER should be mandatory viewing for all Americans. What these soldiers are doing for us should make us proud, whether we agree with the reasons for fighting or not. So make yourself watch, no matter how tough it is. Because if you shed a tear, if you sob like a baby, if you want to go break dishes – you’ve still got nothing on them.
For a complete schedule, visit www.hbo.com/docs/programs/baghdader
To support our troops, please visit http://soldiersangels.org/ or http://anysoldier. com