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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Afraid of their handiwork?

Heroes in action in Afghanistan

Army Concerned About HBO War Film

Published: May 14, 2006

Senior Army officials have scaled back their planned participation in an advance screening of a documentary about an Army Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad out of concern that its grim medical scenes could demoralize soldiers and their families and negatively affect public opinion about the war, Army officials said Friday.

Two senior Army officers, who were granted anonymity to publicly discuss the private deliberations of Army leaders, said the secretary of the Army, Francis J. Harvey, had declined to attend the screening by HBO, scheduled for Monday night at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

High-ranking military officers, including Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, who is the Army chief of staff, and Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the surgeon general of the Army, had been expected to attend the screening but now will not, people involved in preparations for the event said.

The documentary, titled "Baghdad ER," chronicles two months at the 86th Combat Support Hospital, where filmmakers were given broad access to follow doctors, nurses, medics and others as they treated soldiers wounded by roadside bombs and in combat. As one nurse, Specialist Saidet Lanier, says in the film: "This is hard-core, raw, uncut trauma. Day after day, every day."

Several doctors featured in the film are planning to attend the screening, Mr. Boyce said.

A screening has also been scheduled at Fort Campbell, Ky., where the 86th Combat Support Hospital is based, and the documentary has been sent to medical teams at about 20 other bases for screenings.

The film, directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill, will be shown May 21 on HBO.

HBO has been promoting the documentary as a tribute to the heroism of the soldiers and medical personnel who are shown working under severe stress. But the producers acknowledge that its harrowing scenes could be interpreted differently.

"Anything showing the grim realities of war is, in a sense, antiwar," said Sheila Nevins, president of HBO's documentary and family unit. "In that way, the film is a sort of Rorschach test. You see in it what you bring to it."

The docs, nurses and staff who have managed to save over 90 percent of the wounded in the Iraq war are the real heroes. Often at risk from shelling, unlikely to be awarded medals for much of their work, having to live with the damage to human bodies for their entire lives, the Army brass couldn't swallow hard to honor their work.

It's easy to praise the SF trooper who saves a buddy or a cav scout who yanks his commander from a burning Bradley, the heroism is self-evident. But what reward is there for a 20 year old nurses aide who holds the hand of a severely wounded soldier, or the nurse who has to tell teenagers that their sergeant is going home minus a leg after they've waited a couple of hours.Or the doctor who has to tell someone that they will be going home missing a foot or part of their brain? If anyone doesn't think that takes courage of the highest sort, they understand very little.

Or the nurses and doctors who try to heal Iraqis we've wounded, not even knowing what to say?

Why couldn't the generals show up to honor their work? They have performed beyond any expectation and saved thousands of lives. It is bullshit to talk about lowered morale. Not getting your pay lowers morale. Getting divorced because you're never home lowers morale. Seeing a documentary on a channel you can change does no such thing.

posted by Steve @ 12:14:00 AM

12:14:00 AM

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