Baghdad ER

If you missed Baghdad ER on HBO last night, you missed one of the most gripping, disturbing, and human documentaries on the war yet made. It’s supposed to play again Memorial Day weekend, and I’m sure there are plans to release it for sale eventually, but it should be required viewing whether you are a ...

608534_baghdadER5.jpg
608534_baghdadER5.jpg

If you missed Baghdad ER on HBO last night, you missed one of the most gripping, disturbing, and human documentaries on the war yet made. It's supposed to play again Memorial Day weekend, and I'm sure there are plans to release it for sale eventually, but it should be required viewing whether you are a war supporter or war detractor.

It follows the rounds of ER doctors and nurses in the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad's Green Zone. It is a daily grind of violence and trauma, shown to us in unsparing, graphic images. The emotional toll hasn't been censored, and we watch as young men and women - some having been in Iraq for just one day - rotate in and out of the trauma rooms, covered in blood, mourning their newly lost friends and colleagues, and then departing for Walter Reed or returning to combat. All the while, the EMTs crack morbid jokes to stay sane and maintain a dedication and selflessness that is remarkable.

If you missed Baghdad ER on HBO last night, you missed one of the most gripping,

disturbing, and human documentaries on the war yet made. It’s supposed to play again Memorial Day weekend, and I’m sure there are plans to release it for sale eventually, but it should be required viewing whether you are a war supporter or war detractor.

It follows the rounds of ER doctors and nurses in the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad’s Green Zone. It is a daily grind of violence and trauma, shown to us in unsparing, graphic images. The emotional toll hasn’t been censored, and we watch as young men and women – some having been in Iraq for just one day – rotate in and out of the trauma rooms, covered in blood, mourning their newly lost friends and colleagues, and then departing for Walter Reed or returning to combat. All the while, the EMTs crack morbid jokes to stay sane and maintain a dedication and selflessness that is remarkable.

They also struggle to comprehend the utility of the unending violence. No one in this film disagrees – or agrees – on camera with the initial premise for war in Iraq; it is the senselessness of the continued, daily violence they attend to that leaves them grasping for meaning. As one ER doctor remarks: “I have to believe the people in this country are in a better place for [the war] – or will be in a better place for it. Otherwise it’s just sheer madness.”

But it is the sheer informational punch of this film that makes it necessary viewing. As another doctor says in the film, “I don’t think people can comprehend what we see here.” His backdrop is a floor slicked with blood. For anyone who thinks about this war, who supports this war, or who opposes this war, those are crucial – and devastating – images.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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