'Today' Promotes Phil Donahue's Anti-Iraq War Doc

Phil Donahue looked across the film landscape littered with numerous anti-Iraq war box-office failures and decided he needed to add one more to the list and the "Today" show was more than happy to help him promote it. The liberal talk show host appeared on Tuesday's "Today" show with anti-Iraq war veteran/activist Tomas Young to plug what NBC's Ann Curry hailed as "a documentary that Sean Penn has called...part 'Coming Home,' part 'Born on the Fourth of July.'" Co-anchor Meredith Vieira, who conducted the interview, called the film "powerful."

The following is the Curry teaser followed by the full segment as it occurred on the April 1, "Today" show:

ANN CURRY: And also coming up this morning a movie, a documentary that Sean Penn has called, it's called "Body of War" the documentary. He's called it, "part 'Coming Home,' part 'Born on the Fourth of July.'" It's basically one soldier's story. A young man who signed up to fight after 9/11 and his life was permanently changed by the war in body and mind and spirit that Phil has a way, it's directed by Phil Donahue who's gonna be here, along with the now paralyzed veteran to talk about this journey.

...

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Phil Donahue has never been one to turn away from telling a difficult story and he is back at it. In a new documentary he co-directed, "Body of War," tells the story of one soldier. Tomas Young enlisted in the Army after 9/11, hoping to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Instead, he was sent to Iraq where on his very first mission he was instantly paralyzed from the chest down. Tomas Young, Phil Donahue, good morning to both of you.

PHIL DONAHUE: Hi Meredith.

TOMAS YOUNG: Good morning.

VIEIRA: You know I saw this film last night. It is so powerful Phil. I know that you met Tomas in the hospital. He had come back from Iraq paralyzed from the waist down, only a few days into his mission there. What was it about him that said to you, "I need to tell this soldier's story?"

DONAHUE: I think the gravity of his injury is what attracted me, attracted me to Tomas at the beginning. And I just thought the American people should see this. This is the drama being played out in thousands of homes in this country. Families who sent people like Tomas to this war and they've come back with injuries that turned the whole family upside down.

VIEIRA: And Tomas, you opened up your life to cameras and in, and in a very intimate and personal way. We see this film, we see the number of pills you have to take on a daily basis. You talk about bodily functions. You, you get married during the course of the film and talk very openly about not being a husband to your wife physically, having real issues there as well. Why, why did you want to tell this story? What, were you trying to make an anti-war statement here or something else?

YOUNG: Not necessarily an anti-war statement. But men and women all over the country who enlist go with the full knowledge and idea that they may come back home in a body bag or in one of those coffins, though we're not allowed to see coming off the planes. But nobody really thinks I'm gonna come home and I'm gonna be in a wheelchair or worse, I'm gonna be a quadriplegic who's living off a ventilator or something to that effect. No husband thinks that they're gonna come home and not be able to satisfy their wife or girlfriend. I wanted to show the ramifications and consequences of either making an impetuous decision, as far as military enlistment without all the options or anything in anybody's daily life, without fully recognizing all the angles and consequences that could happen.

VIEIRA: But you did go from warrior to anti-war activist and had you gone to Afghanistan instead of Iraq--because that's where you wanted to go, that's where you thought the problem was and still believe the real problem is--would you feel the same way? If the same thing had happened, but if in Afghanistan?

YOUNG: I would be against any military presence in Iraq, but also if I had been shot and paralyzed in Afghanistan, where I enlisted to go, there would be no "Body of War." You and I would not be talking right now. I would have never met Phil probably. I would have taken my monthly money from the government and gone home and shut up. But, unfortunately, I was shot in a war that I didn't think was just or fought for the right reasons.

VIEIRA: We actually have a clip from the, from the movie. This is a scene where you're at an anti-war demonstration in Washington and you, you're going past a group of, of mothers whose sons and daughters did not come back from the war. They died. We want to show their reaction to you.

[BEGIN CLIP]

MOTHER: I noticed in Washington when we were there with the Gold Star Mothers for Peace and the MFSO, whose babies have not come home, whose husbands have not come home, I noticed them touching Tomas, kissing him, hugging him, wanting to be near him. And I think there was a connection there, because he came home and their family members didn't.

[END CLIP]

VIEIRA: And that is your mom's voice that we we're hearing. What was that experience like for you, Tomas? Obviously for your mom it was very moving.

YOUNG: It was, it was indescribable. I mean, I, I don't feel any particular sort of pride or happiness in the fact that I came back and, and they didn't. But if I, if by allowing a mother, or a wife of somebody who didn't come home to, to touch my face, to feel some connection with me, for whatever reason, then I'm, I'm more than happy to step into that role because they need somebody to help turn to, to touch, to do whatever they need to let go of their grief. I'm more than happy to help with that.

VIEIRA: You know, there are veterans who come back injured in wars and, and still believe the sacrifice that they made is worth while. Certainly some that have been in Iraq. What would you say to them?

YOUNG: That is well within their rights as, A.) an American and B.) a soldier. And I, in fact, I think the only people who, who should be able to say that they support what happened over there are people who feel a real sacrifice and sense of loss associated with this war, people who have served. If you haven't seen what's going on over there or know anything of it, you really don't get a chance to be a sideline cheerleader. But in the same vain, anybody can be against this war in Iraq because all they want is the troops to come home safely and be used properly as they volunteered to defend the Constitution and the country.

VIEIRA: Tomas Young, thank you so much. Phil Donahue, extremely, extremely powerful film. Thank you for your time this morning.

DONAHUE: Thank you, Meredith.

VIEIRA: And "Body of War" opens across the country throughout the month.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.