9/11 Special: Body of War: Songs That Inspired an Iraq War Veteran (2008)

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by Mark Saleski

At this time, there’s really no point in starting another Iraq war ‘debate.’ It’s all been mashed out on the Internet so many times before. I have my opinions. You have yours.

You’re wrong. I’m right. You’re stupid. I’m misguided. It’s all about oil. It’s not about oil, you idiot. The terrorists need to be kept at bay. The troops are protecting our way of life. Protesters are morons. Statements like these only embolden the enemy. Shut up, you f**king chicken hawk. Peace activists are so naive. We’re a safer nation now. We’ve aided the terrorist recruitment effort. Hippies. Mission accomplished. There is no God but God. God bless America.

No matter what side you’re on, the fact remains that in a time of war, people are killed, disfigured, and discarded. Sure, it’s obvious, but it’s also something that often gets rationalized and/or ignored. Tomas Young knows this all too well. He enlisted shortly after 9/11, hoping to make a difference in Afghanistan. Instead, he was sent to Iraq and was paralyzed by a bullet to the spine less than a week into his tour of duty.

This soundtrack represents the music that inspired Young as he dealt with his new physical reality. Founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Tomas hopes that his organization and the “Body of War” documentary will serve as a “tool for counter recruitment.” Obviously, he has his reasons.

The chosen music is pretty wide-ranging, both in style and subtlety of content. Bruce Springsteen’s “Devils & Dust” is a world away from Serj Tankian’s “Empty Walls.” From Rage Against The Machine’s “Guerilla Radio” to a live Pearl Jam take on “Masters of War,” Tomas Young’s viewpoint on this war and associated social issues is presented.

I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiment of every song here but taken as a whole, it’s a fine consciousness-raising effort. The idea of socially conscious music has certainly fallen out of fashion. In some quarters, it’s even said that political messages and songcraft are incompatible. That ignores a long history of protest music. It’s also easy to say things like that when your future and your body haven’t been shattered by a bullet.

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