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Thomas P. Susdorf from the film “Gunner Palace."

Michael Tucker

“In war, everything matters.” An interview with filmmaker Mike Tucker

Twenty years ago today, the US invaded Iraq. Just weeks later, the American filmmaker — and frequent GZERO contributor — Mike Tucker embedded with a group of fresh-faced US troops in Iraq, to make the film “Gunner Palace.”

It was the first great documentary about the war – a gripping, chaotic, and occasionally darkly humorous portrait of what was, basically, a group of kids sent to kill in a country that they knew little about. One of those soldiers, Specialist Thomas P. Susdorf, is pictured above.

“To be a combat veteran is awesome, it’ll be great to look back on,” says one of Susdorf's fellow gunners partway through the film, “I’m just trying to get to the point where I can look back on it.”

That point is now. During the pandemic, Mike and co-director Petra Epperlein crisscrossed the United States, tracking down the Gunner Palace kids to learn how the war has shaped their lives ever since.

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The cost of war: Senator Tammy Duckworth on what we owe veterans
The cost of war: Senator Tammy Duckworth on what we owe veterans | GZERO World

The cost of war: Senator Tammy Duckworth on what we owe veterans

The true cost of war is a lot more than tanks, helicopters, and ammunition, according to US Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who joins GZERO World to reflect on the 20th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Duckworth was a helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq, one of thousands of veterans who returned home wounded, and intimately understands that the costs of war go far beyond the conflict ending.

Is the United States fulfilling its obligation to provide adequate services for its veterans? In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Duckworth emphasizes “the obligation we have to our veterans” to live up to the promises we made to them. The United States made a deal with its veterans, she says, “to honor their service and sacrifices,” and it is “non-negotiable to break that promise.” Otherwise, how can we expect people to volunteer to serve?

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