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March 21, 2003

The Balloon Goes Up

Stories from the beginnings of the war in Iraq, and how it compares with wars in our country's past.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks to Anthony Swofford, a former marine sniper and author of the Gulf War memoir Jarhead. He explains what he's seeing when he watches this new war with Iraq on television. (6 minutes)

Act One

Bombs Over Baghdad

Issam Shukri is an Iraqi man living in Canada. He lived in Baghdad when it was bombed during the first gulf war. He talks with Ira about how scary it was when the ground started shaking and the streetlights suddenly blinked out, and how hard it was to explain to his three-year-old son. (12 minutes)
Act Two

Act Two

Tice Ridley is a first lieutenant in the Army. He's been sending regular emails from Kuwait City, where he's stationed, about what it's like to wait for the war to begin, and what it's like to actually fight it. Excerpts are read by actor Tom Wright. (7 minutes)

Act Three

Act Three

What's French for French Fries? David Sedaris has been following the diplomatic fiascoes of the last few months from Paris, where he lives. Relations between France and the U.S. have been so horrible these days we asked him how it seemed from over there. He sent us this dispatch. (4 minutes)

Act Five

What Peacetime Forgets About Wartime

A few years back, a writer named Lee Sandlin wrote a story for the weekly paper The Chicago Reader about what makes wartime different—how a country's perceptions and logic during war are fundamentally different than during peace. It was a massive historical article, exhaustively researched. He was interested partly in World War Two—specifically, in why it'd been forgotten and what it was that had been forgotten. Actor Matt Malloy reads an excerpt. (10 minutes)

Act Six

Lessons From Ancient Wars

The story of a preventive act of war committed 3200 years ago, in the land that's now Turkey, not too far from Iraq. Seneca's The Trojan Woman takes place at the end of the Trojan war. MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Mary Zimmerman is directing the play at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. She talks with Ira about the play. In it, a child is murdered to prevent a war, though no one's really sure that if the child lived he'd have actually waged war on his neighbors. A superpower nation preaches about the child. "His life itself is a danger we cannot allow to continue to undermine the entire region's collective security." (5 minutes)