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A Very Tough Read & Heartbreaking Story Of A Dying Body Of War - Chris Hedges
#1
The Crucifixion of Tomas Young
Posted on Mar 10, 2013

Tomas Young at his home in Kansas City, Mo.

By Chris Hedges

KANSAS CITY, Mo.I flew to Kansas City last week to see Tomas Young. Young was paralyzed in Iraq in 2004. He is now receiving hospice care at his home. I knew him by reputation and the movie documentary "Body of War." He was one of the first veterans to publicly oppose the war in Iraq. He fought as long and as hard as he could against the war that crippled him, until his physical deterioration caught up with him.

"I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time because I had become helpless," he told me in his small house on the Kansas City outskirts where he intends to die. "I couldn't dress myself. People have to help me with the most rudimentary of things. I decided I did not want to go through life like that anymore. The pain, the frustration. …"

He stopped abruptly and called his wife. "Claudia, can I get some water?" She opened a bottle of water, took a swig so it would not spill when he sipped and handed it to him.

"I felt at the end of my rope," the 33-year-old Army veteran went on. "I made the decision to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away. This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes. I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note. After the anoxic brain injury in 2008 [a complication that Young suffered] I lost a lot of dexterity and strength in my upper body. So I wouldn't be able to shoot myself or even open the pill bottle to give myself an overdose. The only way I could think of doing it was to have Claudia open the pill bottle for me, but I didn't want her implicated."

"After you made that decision how did you feel?" I asked.

"I felt relieved," he answered. "I finally saw an end to this four-and-a-half-year fight. If I were in the same condition I was in during the filming of Body of War,' in a manual chair, able to feed and dress myself and transfer from my bed to the wheelchair, you and I would not be having this discussion. I can't even watch the movie anymore because it makes me sad to see how I was, compared to how I am. … Viewing the deterioration, I decided it was best to go out now rather than regress more."


Young will die for our sins. He will die for a war that should never have been fought. He will die for the lies of politicians. He will die for war profiteers. He will die for the careers of generals. He will die for a cheerleader press. He will die for a complacent public that made war possible. He bore all this upon his body. He was crucified. And there are hundreds of thousands of other crucified bodies like his in Baghdad and Kandahar and Peshawar and Walter Reed medical center. Mangled bodies and corpses, broken dreams, unending grief, betrayal, corporate profit, these are the true products of war. Tomas Young is the face of war they do not want you to see.

On April 4, 2004, Young was crammed into the back of a two-and-a-half-ton Army truck with 20 other soldiers in Sadr City, Iraq. Insurgents opened fire on the truck from above. "It was like shooting ducks in a barrel," he said. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spinal column. A second bullet shattered his knee. At first he did not know he had been shot. He felt woozy. He tried to pick up his M16. He couldn't lift his rifle from the truck bed. That was when he knew something was terribly wrong.

"I tried to say I'm going to be paralyzed, someone shoot me right now,' but there was only a hoarse whisper that came out because my lungs had collapsed," he said. "I knew the damage. I wanted to be taken out of my misery."

His squad leader, Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger, bent over and told him he would be all right. A few years later Young would see a clip of Miltenberger weeping as he recounted the story of how he had lied to Young.

"I tried to contact him," said Young, whose long red hair and flowing beard make him look like a biblical prophet. "I can't find him. I want to tell him it is OK."

Young had been in Iraq five days. It was his first deployment. After being wounded he was sent to an Army hospital in Kuwait, and although his legs, now useless, lay straight in front of him he felt as if he was still sitting cross-legged on the floor of the truck. That sensation lasted for about three weeks. It was an odd and painful initiation into his life as a paraplegic. His body, from then on, would play tricks on him.

He was transferred from Kuwait to the U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, and then to Walter Reed, in Washington, D.C. He asked if he could meet Ralph Nader, and Nader visited him in the hospital with Phil Donahue. Donahue, who had been fired by MSNBC a year earlier for speaking out against the war, would go on, with Ellen Spiro, to make the 2007 film "Body of War," a brutally honest account of Young's daily struggle with his physical and emotional scars of war. In the documentary, he suffers dizzy spells that force him to lower his head into his hands. He wears frozen gel inserts in a cooling jacket because he cannot control his body temperature. He struggles to find a solution to his erectile dysfunction. He downs fistfuls of medicationscarbamazepine, for nerve pain; coumadin, a blood thinner; tizanidine, an anti-spasm medication; gabapentin, another nerve pain medication, bupropion, an antidepressant; omeprazole, for morning nausea; and morphine. His mother has to insert a catheter into his penis. He joins Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, to protest with Iraq Veterans Against the War. His first wife leaves him.

"You know, you see a guy who's paralyzed and in a wheelchair and you think he's just in a wheelchair," he says in "Body of War." "You don't think about the, you know, the stuff inside that's paralyzed. I can't cough because my stomach muscles are paralyzed, so I can't work up the full coughing energy. I'm more susceptible to urinary tract infections, and there's a great big erection sidebar to this whole story."

In early March 2008 a blood clot in his right armthe arm that bears a color tattoo of a character from Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are"caused his arm to swell. He was taken to the Kansas City Veterans Affairs hospital, where he was given the blood thinner coumadin before being released. One month later, the VA took him off coumadin and soon afterward the clot migrated to one of his lungs. He suffered a massive pulmonary embolism and fell into a coma. When he awoke from the coma in the hospital he could barely speak. He had lost most of his upper-body mobility and short-term memory, and his speech was slurred significantly.

It was then that he began to experience debilitating pain in his abdomen. The hospital would not give him narcotics because such drugs slow digestion, making it harder for the bowels to function. Young could digest only soup and Jell-O. In November, in a desperate bid to halt the pain, he had his colon removed. He was fitted with a colostomy bag. The pain disappeared for a few days and then came roaring back. He could not hold down food, even pureed food, because his stomach opening had shrunk. The doctors dilated his stomach. He could eat only soup and oatmeal. Three weeks ago he had his stomach stretched again. And that was enough.

"I will go off the feeding [tube] after me and my wife's anniversary," April 20, the date on which he married Claudia in 2012. "I was married once before. It didn't end well. It was a non-amicable divorce. At first I thought I would [just] wait for my brother and his wife, my niece and my grandparents to visit me, but the one thing I will miss most in my life is my wife. I want to spend a little more time with her. I want to spend a full year with someone without the problems that plagued my previous [marriage]. I don't know how long it will take when I stop eating. If it takes too long I may take steps to quicken my departure. I have saved a bottle of liquid morphine. I can down that at one time with all my sleeping medication."


Young's room is painted a midnight blue and has a large cutout of Batman on one wall. He loved the superhero as a child because "he was a regular person who had a horrible thing happen to him and wanted to save society."

Young joined the Army immediately after 9/11 to go to Afghanistan and hunt down the people behind the attacks. He did not oppose the Afghanistan war. "In fact, if I had been injured in Afghanistan, there would be no Body of War' movie to begin with," he said. But he never understood the call to invade Iraq. "When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor we didn't invade China just because they looked the same," he said.

He became increasingly depressed about his impending deployment to Iraq when he was in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He asked the battalion doctor for antidepressants. The doctor said he had to meet first with the unit's chaplain, who told him, "I think you will be happier when you get over to Iraq and start killing Iraqis."

"I was dumbstruck by his response," Young said.

He has not decided what will be done with his ashes. He flirted with the idea of having them plowed into ground where marijuana would be planted but then wondered if anyone would want to smoke the crop. He knows there will be no clergy at the memorial service held after his death. "It will just be people reminiscing over my life," he said.

"I spend a lot of time sitting here in my bedroom, watching TV or sleeping," he said. "I have foundI don't know if it is the result of my decision or not[it is] equally hard to be alone or to be around people. This includes my wife. I am rarely happy. Maybe it is because when I am alone all I have with me are my thoughts, and my mind is a very hazardous place to go. When I am around people I feel as if I have to put on a facade of being the happy little soldier."

He listens, when he is well enough, to audiobooks with Claudia. Among them have been Al Franken's satirical book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" and Michael Moore's "The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader." He was a voracious reader but can no longer turn the pages of a book. He finds some solace in the French film "The Intouchables," about a paraplegic and his caregiver, and "The Sessions," a film based on an essay by the paralyzed poet Mark O'Brien.

Young, when he was in a wheelchair, found that many people behaved as if he was mentally disabled, or not even there. When he was being fitted for a tuxedo for a friend's wedding the salesman turned to his mother and asked her in front of him whether he could wear the company's shoes.

"I look at the TV through the lens of his eyes and can see he is invisible," said Claudia, standing in the living room as her husband rested in the bedroom. An array of books on death, the afterlife and dying are spread out around her. "No one is sick [on television]. No one is disabled. No one faces death. Dying in America is a very lonely business."

"If I had known then what I know now," Young said, "I would not have gone into the military. But I was 22, working various menial jobs, waiting tables, [working] in the copy department of an OfficeMax. My life was going nowhere. Sept. 11 happened. I saw us being attacked. I wanted to respond. I signed up two days later. I wanted to be a combat journalist. I thought the military would help me out of my financial rut. I thought I could use the GI Bill to go to school."


Young is not the first young man to be lured into war by the false sirens of glory and honor and then callously discarded by the war makers. His story has been told many times. It is the story of Hector in "The Iliad." It is the story of Joe Bonham, the protagonist in Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel "Johnny Got His Gun," whose arms, legs and face are blown away by an artillery shell, leaving him trapped in the inert remains of his body.


Bonham ruminates in the novel: "Inside me I'm screaming, nobody pays any attention. If I had arms, I could kill myself. If I had legs, I could run away. If I had a voice, I could talk and be some kind of company for myself. I could yell for help, but nobody would help me."

For Young, the war, the wound, the paralysis, the wheelchair, the anti-war demonstrations, the wife who left him and the one who didn't, the embolism, the loss of motor control, the slurred speech, the colostomy, the IV line for narcotics implanted in his chest, the open bed sores that expose his bones, the despairthe crushing despairthe decision to die, have come down to a girl. Aleksus, his only niece. She will not remember her uncle. But he lies in his dimly lit room, painkillers flowing into his broken body, and he thinks of her. He does not know exactly when he will die. But it must be before her second birthday, in June. He will not mar that day with his death.

And though he is an atheist, though he believes that there is nothing after deaththat, as he says, "the body is like a toy that runs out of batteries, only there are no replacements"his final act honors the promise of Aleksus' life. As he spoke to me softly of this childit hurts, even now, he said, to know she will grow up without himI wondered, sitting next to him on his bed, if he saw it, the glory of it, his final bow not before the specter of his death but the sanctity of her life. The resurrection.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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#2
Very moving. Heartbreaking. Inspiring. Human. Fuck war.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#3
I had read it earlier but didn't have the heart to post it.....Fuck War!
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
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#4
Entire hour of today's Democracy Now~! is an interview with Young about his immenant decision to die rather than suffer more pain and bodily disintegration and degredation. Tough and touching.
A small part...

We come 10 years later, 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq. Tomas Young, Iraq War veteran, wounded April 4th, 2004, his fifth day in Iraq, shot in Sadr City, is now writing a letter on this 10th anniversary called "The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran." Tomas, can you read some of your letter to the former president and vice president?
TOMAS YOUNG: Absolutely.
"I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of [those who bear those wounds. I am one of those.] I [am] one of the gravely injured. I am paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
"I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost parents, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have [done, witnessed, endured] in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us allthe human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
"Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, [and your privilege and power] cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.
"I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you arewho you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder" I'm sorry, the type is very small, and my eyes are going. "... Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americansmy fellow veteranswhose future you stole.
"I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the [9/11] attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the [U.S.] I did not join the Army to 'liberate' Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called 'democracy' in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq's oil revenues."
AMY GOODMAN: Tomas, we
TOMAS YOUNG: "Instead, this war"
AMY GOODMAN: Tomas, we're going to ask you to finish the letter after the broadcast, and we're going to post it at democracynow.org. But in these last few seconds of the show, is there anything that would convince you not to end your life in the next few months?
TOMAS YOUNG: Not at this moment. There may come a time in the future when I say, "Hey, things are getting better; maybe I should reconsider this." But at this moment, nothing in this world has made me change my mind as to what I'm going to do.



[URL="http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/21/exclusive_dying_iraq_war_veteran_tomas"]http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/21/exclusive_dying_iraq_war_veteran_tomas


[/URL]
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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#5

'Prosecute Bush and Cheney' - Death wish of paralyzed Iraq vet starving himself

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Published time: March 23, 2013 01:48
Edited time: March 23, 2013 23:04
Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, paralyzed from the chest down after serving in Iraq. (Reuters / Mark

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Anniversary, Bush, Health, Iraq, USA, War

Speaking to RT from his deathbed, an Iraq War veteran with only days to live explained why he wrote a letter to George Bush and Dick Cheney demanding they apologize for destroying a generation.
Tomas Young, 33, has been in a paraplegic state since the moment he was injured in a 2004 insurgent attack in Sadr City. He says that battle and the entire Iraq War was one that never should have been fought.
Young enlisted in the military just two days after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center driven by a thirst to seek revenge for the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans. But on the tenth anniversary of the United States' invasion of Iraq this week, Young wrote a letter to former President George W. Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, condemning them for taking so many thousands of Americans to Iraq for a war that he says was neither justified nor legal.
"I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States," he wrote. "I did not join the Army to liberate' Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called democracy' in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq's oil revenues."
Instead, what Young got was a bullet in the spine. Speaking to RT's Meghan Lopez this week, he said, "I wasn't received as a hero or not as a hero" when he first returned to the States, and right away he noticed there was a strong opposition to the very war he had been accidently fighting. Any sort of hero status,' he said, came later when he joined the group Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Now nearly a decade after being injured, Young says his days are numbered. In 2008 he suffered a blood clot in his lung and slipped into a coma for four days after being deprived of oxygen for hours.
"By all accounts, I should be dead," he tells RT.
Young is still alive today, but doesn't expect to last much longer. He says the VA hospital he would go to refused him narcotics to treat chronic pain, apparently because his cries and moans were not as loud as the other veterans seeking treatment.
"They had an opinion that If I was in truly horrible pain, I'd be screaming my head off. Apparently they thought that the only people who really hurt are the people who advertise it most," he tells RT.
Today Young is in a hospice facility but has stopped receiving any treatment for his multiple conditions, including those related to the paralyzing 2004 Iraqi ambush. He is also refusing nourishment and intends to very shortly die.
"This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes," Young told TruthDig.com earlier in the week. "I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note."
Before all is said and done, though, Young says there is something he still wants: an apology from Bush and Cheney. In the letter sent this week to the men he blames on the war, he wrote, "I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love."
"I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war," he wrote Bush and Cheney. "Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in US history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level moral, strategic, military and economic Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences."
When asked by RT if he hopes the so-called real war criminals' are prosecuted for their alleged crimes, Young said "absolutely."
"That's why they don't leave the country. They are afraid that if they step down in another country they will be arrested," he said.
Since publishing his open letter to Pres. Bush and Vice Pres. Cheney during the war's anniversary, Young's words have gone viral. Speaking to RT, he says he wants a response of sorts to be issued to not just him, but the rest of the United States.
"At the very least, I would like them to sincerely apologize to all of America for dropping the ball on Afghanistan and instead focused on Iraq. And I want them to admit that it was both a huge blunder and a terrible lie on the American people," he said.
And to those who may have the desire to protect America like he did in the wake of 9/11, Young warned of what going to war really means.
"Make sure that your son or daughter understands that they don't get to decide when or where they go to war. Its rich, predominately white men in the House and Senate that have the power to send children of other parents but not their own children off to die or be injured in a senseless war," he said.
http://www.russiatoday.com/usa/iraq-vete...young-689/
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#6
GWBu$h and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and John Ashcroft ---- Karma never forgets.

Chickenhawks all. Led by a deserter with a get out of jail free card. DISGUSTING.

As General Smedley Butler promoted: The youth should be the only ones allowed to vote for or against war and the CEOs & Politicians should be paid what the servicepeople are for the duration of the war.

Too much profit in war to ever stop it from inside the killing games like the fools on the hill know.
Read not to contradict and confute;
nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse;
but to weigh and consider.
FRANCIS BACON
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