The Mourning Show


It started as just another C-SPAN call-in show bright and early on October 27. Then moderator Peter Slen punched up a call from south Florida. Here’s an edited transcript:

Slen: Good morning, Miami Beach.

Caller: Good morning! Thank you for C-SPAN. I watch it every day! Uh, I would like to say I had the occasion the other day to spend the entire day with troops that had come back from Iraq and had been wounded and—I also visited troops during the Vietnam era, but the thing that I was most shocked by, as I walked into the hospital, the first person I ran into was a boy about 19 or 20 years old who’d lost both of his arms. And when I walked into the hospital and visited all these boys all day long—everyone had lost either one arm, one limb, or two limbs . . . and there were a lot of legs that seemed to be missing. A couple of the boys told me it was because the rockets pierce their vehicles so much, it’s like being kind of in a tin can. Three guys in the same vehicle have lost a leg. Another thing that I saw was that if they’d lost one leg, that the shrapnel that had hit the other leg had been so devastating that they were having to pull, like, the thigh—you know, the muscle and the thigh—around the bottom of the calf to try to make the leg workable. But in some cases these boys had lost one leg and the other leg was so damaged that they weren’t sure what they were gonna be able to do.

Slen: Where did you spend the day?

Caller: Walter Reed [Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.].

Slen: And you’re down in Miami Beach, back in Miami Beach?

Caller: I’m down here today.

Slen: What were you doing at Walter Reed? Are you a volunteer?

Caller: No, I was just asked to come and spend the day. I was working that day in Washington, D.C., and—

Slen: What kind of work do you do?

Caller: Um, I’m an entertainer.

Slen: Oh, what kind of entertaining? Are you USO?

Caller: No, I actually was called by the USO but I’m—I’m just an entertainer. And I really don’t want to go much past that, but um—

Slen: Is this Cher?

Caller: Yeah.

Slen: And you spent the day at Walter Reed.

Caller: Yeah. And I spent the day with—I mean they were great guys. . . . They had the most unbelievable courage. It took everything that I have as a person to—to not, you know, break down while I was talking to these guys. But I just think that if there was no reason for this war, this was the most heinous thing I’d ever seen. And also I wonder why are none of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president—why aren’t they taking pictures with all these guys? Because I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden and why there aren’t pictures of them, because you know, talking about the dead and the wounded, that’s two different things, but these wounded are so devastatingly wounded. It’s unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable to me. You know, if you’re going to send these people to war, then don’t hide them. Have some news coverage where people are sitting and talking to these guys and seeing how they are and seeing their spirit. It’s just—I think it’s a crime.

Additional reporting: Sheelah Kolhatkar and Ashley Glacel