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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 60.0° F  Fair
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Body of War: In the line of fire

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Two days after 9/11, Tomas Young contacted an Army recruiter and asked to be sent to Afghanistan to hunt down the evildoers. But by the time he shipped out, Iraq had replaced Afghanistan in the administration's thoughts. And a little over a week after arriving in Iraq, in March 2004, Young was shot just beneath the collar bone and paralyzed for life - a tough break made all the tougher by the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction anywhere to be found. Young, along with the rest of the American people, had been lied to, and what it cost him was his body. Hence, Body of War, Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue's up-close-and-personal look at Young's conversion from gung-ho recruit to disgruntled vet. He'd be the first to admit that he was a fool to rush in. He just wants the president to admit that he was one, too.

Body of War makes no bones about its antiwar stance; it's a piece of agitprop and proud of it. But it's so up-close-and-personal that it winds up transcending its political mission. We spend a lot of quality time with Young, who seems to become a man before our eyes; with his fiancée, Brie, who becomes his wife, then his ex-wife; and with his mother, Cathy, who has to do things no mother should be asked to do. I'd been warned about a scene where Cathy takes her first stab at inserting a catheter in Tomas' penis, but I wasn't prepared for how moving it would be, the ultimate act of love between mother and son, with moments of levity that will break your heart. It's a fascinating family, given that Tomas' brother heads off to Iraq while Tomas is finding himself as an antiwar activist. Cathy refers to her husband as a Limbaugh dittohead.

So, a house divided, which sets up another parallel between Young's broken body and the body politic. Spiro and Donahue juxtapose Young's spiritual journey with footage of Congress debating and voting on the resolution to allow President Bush to invade Iraq. And given what we know now, it can hardly be considered our finest hour. But if an impetuous kid who got caught in the line of fire can put his life back together, maybe the country can too.

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