Bush's War

join the discussion

What reactions do you have to this retrospective on the war in Iraq? Are there lessons in it for us and for the next U.S. president?

Dear FRONTLINE,

The lesson for us is that we need to sharply question our leaders and hold them to account. More specifically, the Fourth Estate, our press, needs to ask the hard questions and to investigate rather than parrotting the administration's jingoisms. How can we be an informed electorate if our press continues to roll over with a wink and a nod?

I thought the program was very good, long overdue, and agree with others here that it needs to continue and expand. I would like to protest of war covered as mentioned above, and how about those that didn't vote for this horror, like Sen. Byrd and Rep. Kucinich. Also, much more about the Iraqi people and a deeper dig into who has profitted, such as Bush's oil buddies and Cheney's pals at KBR. How about those weapons that we knew were there, that U.N. inspectors were guarding and dismantling, and once the inspectors were kicked out, were left unguarded and repeatedly looted?

Keep up the good work, Frontline, and fight the good fight.

Mary Godwin
Boonsboro, MD

Dear FRONTLINE,

It's discouraging that some of the comments want to attribute responsibility for the conflict in Iraq to Cheney or Rumsfeld or the neocons in general and imply that Bush didn't have control over his team.

He fired Rumsfeld, he got rid of Colin Powell. He's shown that he is the Executive and Commander-in-Chief. Truman said the "buck stops here", and that level of responsibility and integrity is what is so very lacking with this Administration. I would submit that it is the main problem with the present administration.

Similarly, to assert the Iraqi conflict is an anomaly of this administration is to ignore events like the Federal Government's response to Katrina and their disregard for the Kyoto Protocol. They aren't honorable people and Bush isn't an innocent bystander: Bush didn't receive the majority of the popular vote for his first term, maligned the integrity of first Ann Richards, then John McCain and finally John Kerry; he somehow managed to skate off with his dubious reputation (National Guard service, his DUIs, his academic performance and personal behavior at Yale and Harvard, the TX Angels and his oil company stock deal) and hoodwink enough people such that a writer from Denver, CO in one of the previous responses thinks we're all picking on him.

Poor man.

Yes, Cheney and Rumsfeld and Tenent and Rice and their supporters and sycophants (Addington, Libby, Gonzalez, Feith, Wolfowitz, Perle, Novak, De Lay, Rove, etc) played a part. Colin Powell's credibility was sullied by his behavior, particularly because he didn't resign and publically address the falseness of the claims that led us into the conflict.

But Bush bought it and he owns it. The buck stops there.

One issue this excellent edition of Frontline did ignore was two of the four main costs of this war. First of course is the destabilization of Iraq (and all of the subsequent death and destruction), a nation artificially drawn up by Churchill with a grease pencil after WWII and probably doomed to fall apart eventually, but a sovereign nation nonetheless.

Second was the ill will we have generated with the rest of the world; Rumsfeld and Cheney couldn't understand why other nations didn't want to police Iraq after the end of the invasion. How could they not realize that "... the US dropped it, now we pay for it"? We are hated by countries that used to look up to us; we are seen as bullies and liars, dishonest and arrogant on a level never seen before.

But the financial cost of the war along with the rise in petroleum prices have had an initial and lasting impact on our economy and the dollar. We won't recover in our lifetime; we will have a lasting and insidious debt and a crumbling infrastructure and much diminished economic power for some long time to come.

Finally, there's the human cost and even worse, the Administration's response to it. Bush called himself a "compassionate conservative". Where is that compassion for the Iraqis who have suffered and, closer to home, the men and woman who had to go through this meaningless exercise and are now maimed and traumatized by going to battle?

If Bush is a Christian, then it is not the Christianity I grew up with.

Looking at Bush's accomplishments, such as they are, and the incredible ill will that the Western world now bears toward the US (let alone damn near everyone else), whoever takes the reins during the next go-round is going to have his or her hands full.

We've allowed ourselves to fall into a rather large hole. Here's hoping we can crawl out of it. I have to echo a previous sentiment on these pages: God bless the President-elect who inherits this mess.

George Head
Hayward, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Bush's War is the very best report and analysis of the Iraq war across all media. As a former journalist, I have long admired Frontline's reporting, but this accomplishment is truly a work of art. That is because it represents so much research, so much effort at finding the informed sources and getting them on camera and such a careful and thorough analysis of the facts, some of which Frontline itself established. It effectively and convincingly tells the story of how the war was created by the Bush Administration with calculated deceit, and, revealingly, how it has been as mismanaged as probably any in our history.

Most people don't take the time to read extensively about important events like the Iraq War--events that seriously affect their lives without knowing or wanting to know it--and that is why a comprehensive, incisive and documented summary like Bush's War is so valuable to the task of informing the public about one of the momentous episodes of our history. And it is of a length that is accessible. Our democracy continues to suffer with great risk from the lack of reporting of the caliber that Frontline offers.

As any great work does, Bush's War has its flaws. It hardly mentioned and certainly did not fairly characterize the death and destruction the war has caused to the people of Iraq, which is the worst aspect of the war and which the mainstream media rarely mention. It also failed to report the 4,000 deaths and many more casualties and extensive psychological debilitation among the survivors of the American military men and women, who went to war to be deceived, as the documentary demonstrated. And Bush's War did not ask why: why was Bush so determined to go to war. Many books I am reviewing have explored that question but, it would be safe to say, none of the media has. It reflects the reality that the media fail to ask why about so much they report. They focus on who, what, when and where but the why seems to have been lost. And how, as well.

But overall, Bush's War is unique and deserves the highest honors in broadcasting. Too bad the rest of PBS' news coverage and analysis fall so far, far below Frontline's standard, ranking them only among the failures of the other mainstream media. I often puzzle that Frontline, and PBS' sanitized and simplistic, and, therefore, frequently misleading or misinforming, news programs could exist side by side.

Jack McCurdy
Petaluma, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched both episodes of Frontline's Bush's War. There were things I heard that were valuable to my inexplicable horror such as Bremer's instructions to shoot the looters. The looters being Iraqi citizens who had just been invaded and put out of work whom I thought were reacting quite appropriately in such extraordinary circumstances. I think Frontline did a great job of charting the destructive stupidity of the Bush Administration.

BUT, what was missing throughout the show was any discussion of one of Rumsfeld's and Cheney's destructive policies which was to outsource the war to private contractors and the war profiteering that ensued and still is ensuing. It was a glaring error. This decision was one of the explanations in part for why Rumsfeld did not send additional forces.

reb myles
new york city, ny

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Please check out FRONTLINE's separate full report on private contractors --"Private Warriors." It can be viewed online, plus there are many interviews and background articles to explore as well at:www.pbs.org/frontline/shows/warriors

Dear FRONTLINE,

Just because people are intelligent it doesn't necessarily follow that they are competent. George W. Bush has, throughout his life and especially his political career (as abbreviated as it was before he became President), made a point of surrounding himself with people he believes to be loyal to him, no matter the road he decides to take them down. The ones that are still with him, and/or stayed with him the longest, have turned out to be the least competent at the job he entrusted to them.

Some of the comments concerning this "slice of history" documentary noted this was not Bush's war. However, there should be NO mistake about why Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al were cramming the war down the world's throat; because George W. Bush wanted it. This war would provide the revenge he craved beyond all else. The attack of 9/11 merely provided the "opportunity" that Bush and his administration so deeply desired. Bravo to Frontline and PBS for this important, historic documentary.

Gordon Roark
DeSoto, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

I believe this documentary is rightfully titled. In the end Bush had the final say on how this war was to be conducted so without a doubt he owns this war. He made the decision to put Rumsfeld in charge. He made the decision to follow and endorse Cheney's view and method. A good leader would have seen the naivete of it all from the beginning and would evaluated every detail closely in order to make a responsible decisions. Instead he was pressured by two bullheaded subordinates.

South Pasadena, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you. "Bush's War" is a hallmark of investigative journalism. I am a photographer for a small newspaper in Virginia and this type of work makes me proud to call myself a journalist.

This documentary refutes the claim that the victors write the history books. Well done.

Pat Jarrett
Staunton, Virginia

Dear FRONTLINE,

Simply put, Frontline is one of the main reasons why I'm a regular PBS donor. Keep up the good work. It's nice to know that someone in the media is keeping our politicians accountable for their criminal actions.

Jim HIller
Beaverton, OR

Dear FRONTLINE,

I do not normally support PBS productions because of a particular producer who routinely produces specials that are unequivocally liberal as well as supporting "L"iberal causes. I don't have a problem with people being liberal but PBS is a place for objectivity. That said, there have been a number of PBS specials that have been very good, "The 50 Years War" being among them. Now, "Bush's War" can be counted.

Like many of the comments I have read, I am in agreement that the title is somewhat misleading. After watching the program, I thought a more fitting title would be "Chaney's war" or "Rumsfeld's War" or "When Politician's Want Something They Will Stop at Nothing to Get It"

It appeared to me that President Bush had very little to do with the war other than making the declaration. I saw a number of public servants who tried to do their jobs (Rice at least at first, Powell, and Tenant at least at first) and a number of public servants who did not do their jobs (Rumsfeld, Chaney to name a couple). I was very upset at what I saw. I used to like Rumsfeld because of the way he did not pander to the press but now I see him as a political monster and a bully, just like Chaney. I saw Bush asking questions but the people with the answers were simply providing answers to accomplish their own personal agenda.

At any rate, as a military member, I support our decision to go to war in both Iraq and Afghanistan because I believe that it didn't matter who was president it would have eventually happened. But, I support those decisions because that is my job. But, I don't like how that goal was achieved. There were other ways to accomplish Iraq than for two politicians (Rumsfeld and Chaney) to manipulate intelligence. They are exactly right, policy should be wrapped around intelligence not the other way around.

After seeing this special I now understand how the military can be used as tools, just as it was used in the very beginning of Afghanistan. Rumsfeld lost the argument and the CIA went in first, then Rumsfeld drug his feet when the CIA needed us to get involved to make a point and then started withdrawing troops to make a point. I just couldn't believe that we would be used so carelessly by a politician who is supposed to be our boss.

Thank you very much for producing this special, I have purchased my copy.

Alexandria, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought one of the most significant details mentioned in this great piece, and which is very pertinent to the current chaos in Basra, is that "After weeks of negotiations, a truce is signed in early October. Casey spends $1.2 million buying back weapons from Sadr's militia and an additional $330 million in reconstruction funds for Sadr City." i.e. the U.S. paid $332 million to bribe al-Sadr into a truce. I have never seen this referenced in any other media report. I think the American public would be shocked if this fact were more widely publicized.THANKS

Pam Wilson
San Diego, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I liked your Bush's War, but I have two quibbles over the title.From what I saw, Pres. Bush had very little to do with this war, aside from the decision to attack Irag. In fact, he appears to be a very minor player who played a very limited role once the war began.I also question the whole idea that this war somehow belongs to Bush. As long as we still have a constitution, Congress has the power to wage war, not the president. Your program pretty much ignored the role of the Congress in starting and continuing the war. It seems clear that the Republican party leadership played an important part in crushing dissent within the party and forcing all but a handful of Republicans to go along with the war. I don't like the president or his administration and I would like nothing better than to blame them for everything that has gone wrong in the past 7 years, but a big portion of blame must fall on the Congress.

Madison, Wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching this I was simply stunned.

I have been struggling to find the word to describe what I saw. Negligence comes to mind. In a business setting, lawsuits would be flying, there would be a public uproar and executives would end up in jail. How on earth can our public servants get off so easily.

Timothy Matanovich
Golden, Colorado

Dear FRONTLINE,

Hands down one of the best accounts of the run-up to the war and the corresponding years that followed. The numerous first hand accounts and interviews with senior officials intimately involved illustrates the the behind the scenes struggle that ensued before the war.

I found the Paul Pillar interview to be especially insightful and sincere, and one of the defining moments of the series was when he personally took responsibility for the report he helped produce, and the effect it had on the push to war. I couldnt help but feel sorry for Colin Powell and his legacy post the war. His reservations regarding the quality of the intelligence and the foreign policy implications were well heeded, but watching the replay of him speak to the UN and personally staking his reputation and integrity on the line was uncomfortable to say the least.

Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you are on, this series should be an eye opening look at just how dangerous the "war machine" can be and just how easy facts can be distorted to fit a given doctrine.

A superb example of investigative journalism and public television at its finest. Well done.

Chris Stooksbury
New York, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

to anyone who thinks bush is doing a good job or this war of yours is a good idea just think how 3 trillion dollars less debt would affect your country, your childrens futures, and your economy. to the guy who said theres enough americans supporting the war to continue it bush has a 19% approval rating.When you said congress cant do anything about it it's probably because all the emergency powers bush has granted himself pretty much makes him a dictator. And when you say the surge is working, if you mean paying iraqi insurgents not to attack us troups working then i guess so. And when you say the world is a harsh place, I completely agree. Aggressive preemptive wars waged by the US, overthrowing of democratically elected governments by the CIA, and the suppresion of your own population is one of the best examples of an abusive government and injustice of this generation. One day I hope youll wake up from the ignorance that is america.

kyle evans
brandon, manitoba

Dear FRONTLINE,

Very smart, but without mentioning the oil issue, as the real one behind this war and following this line and explaining the role of some companys like Halliburton, this documentary is covering up like the rest of the media.

Mazin Nahawi

more


home . introduction . watch online . annotated video timeline . 400+ extended interviews . join the discussion . battlefield stories . 
slideshows/video . timelines/maps . reporters' dispatches . live chat with producer michael kirk
readings & links . site map . dvd & transcript . press reaction
credits . privacy policy . journalistic guidelines . FRONTLINE series home . wgbh . pbs

posted march 24, 2008

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation