One by one, they approach the microphone to testify: the anti-war parents of U.S. soldiers addressing Congress earlier this year, when a mere 519 Americans had died in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They express feeling betrayed by the Bush administration. "Stop this madness," says one parent. "Bring the troops home now!"
Like an expanded, exploded, angrier version of the Iraqi war segments of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, the Deep Dish TV video series called Shocking and Awful: A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation hits to hurt.
The Dance of Death segment, produced by Mark Read, introduces not just parents who want the war over but disturbing facts and ideas about the troops themselves: The disproportionate number who are minorities and reservists, for instance; the relentless recruiting strategies the government employs to get them to serve; and, perhaps most unnervingly, the vast numbers of Iraqis who want their nominal liberators to vanish. "The people who most despise the Iraqi occupation are the people who most despised Saddam Hussein," says journalist Jeremy Scahill in Dance of Death. In another of the series' 13 half-hour segments, The Real Face of Occupation, a litany of violence, hardships and injustices prompts one Iraqi to ask, "We want to know how we can live now."
Deep Dish, a New York-based independent media outfit, is airing Shocking and Awful on Free Speech TV and on community-access channels nationwide. As part of its Wake Up and Dream Tour -- a community-outreach program intended to get young people involved in politics -- Deep Dish is also taking excerpts of Shocking and Awful on the road. The tour stops at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room Sept. 20.
In unvarnished segments such as The Real Face of Occupation, there's a welter of Iraqi voices, some furious, some reasoned, and some -- like an old man whose son was shot dead by American troops while waiting for a taxi -- simply disconsolate. And in segments including Dance of Death, there's a slashing attack on a White House that fabricated a war and then sent real soldiers to die in it. Other installments cover the cultural destruction of Iraq, homefront violence against immigrants, the massive international resistance to the war, how the war affects the lives of Iraqi women, the role of oil, and the enforced privatization of the Iraqi economy.
Another episode, titled Channels of War: The Media is the Military, explores the major-media sanitization of war. With its candidly activist viewpoint, Shocking and Awful is surely one antidote.