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Fired from MSNBC for Anti-War Views, Phil Donahue Speaks Out on Republicans and Journalism, While Campaigning for Norman Solomon in California

The legendary talk show host, who lost his show because he opposed the Iraq war, discusses the wars, the presidential candidates, and more in an in-depth interview.

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The American public did not see the pain that was inflicted on thousands and thousands of families. These were especially heinous injuries; I mean women had their faces blown off, I mean IEDs, blind kids, twenty something blind. And we don’t know anything about that.

Bush successfully threw a blanket over the painful coverage, and media cooperated. I just couldn’t believe that the land of the free would allow this to happen. And so I said I’m gonna, I nominated myself to show as many people as I could the pain of this one family, and tried to make the point that this is just one. There are thousands of other homes out there; the lives of the entire family are turned upside down. We’ve never been this close to a catastrophic injury.

This young man, it’s awful. And he recently had pulmonary embolism, so now his speech is affected and he has to be fed. He cannot hold the silverware. You know, what’s the sacrifice? Twenty something male, impotent? I mean, we’ll never be the same, the people who worked on this film. We saw some PTSD, we saw him struggling, with you know, he can’t, he’s a smoker, he can’t walk, he can’t get out of bed and get his cigarettes. …

I picked him up once on an airplane, I had to go and help him off the airplane.  That’s when you. … this is a spiritual experience. That’s when you realize how powerless, helpless he is, from the chest down he is a rag doll, and unless somebody comes up with a genome answer to this, which by the way, the man he fought for, George Bush, would not approve stem-cell research.

So all these things came colliding down on us and we went ahead with no script and we, I said “Thomas, I want to show the pain here. I don’t want to sanitize this at all. But I can’t do it unless you agree.” He said, “I want to do that too.” So I had his agreement, and off we went. And here I am.

DB: And it was indeed hard to look at, it was transformational in nature. And it was only one example of millions of young people and that’s why I bring this in the context of perhaps of one more, still, one more war. Imagine, can we take another ten or fifteen years, another war, with Iran? What does that mean? How do you respond to that kind of policy? What does that say about where we’re going?

PD: It says that we live in a nation of law, unless we’re scared. George Bush with great fanfare talked about democracy, went around the world “Democracy! Democracy!” and turned his back on the Bill of Rights. We have people in cages, around the world, no Red Cross. What is American to us? And while the bedrock of this nation, no habeas.

You know, you can’t be a proud American and waterboard somebody. You can’t be a proud American and deny access to a prisoner. And that’s what they were doing, because they had to protect us. And the framers, you know, the Bill of Rights is kind of a quaint, good, interesting idea but it’s not practical at [this] time. Especially now when you never know when somebody is going to drop a bomb on us.

This is how they are arguing. And I think it’s how we bombed Grenada, Grenada! Panama. We bomb people. We drop bombs on crowded cities at night where old people and children are sleeping. And the American population watches this on CNN and remain, largely, mute. That’s how we got here, I think.

DB: And of course, it was a New York Times’ reporter, named Judith Miller, that helped lie us into that war with Iraq, so that was the paper of record. And I guess I want to focus with you a little bit on the problems with media. Norm Solomon, of course, is no stranger. He cut his teeth becoming a very biting, moving, media critic, holding the corporate media accountable.

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