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U.S. military in Tal'Afar, a town in Iraq near the Syrian border that was terrorized by Zarqawi's Al Qaeda forces for over a year.

What are your reactions to this report about the enemy that coalition forces face in Iraq? Can the U.S. strategy succeed?

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a Vietnam vet, who supported our war in Vietnam long after I left the military, I see an uncanny similarity to the Vietnam campaign in Iraq. Not that we face a similar enemy, we don't, but an uncanny resemblance of American policy, military strategy and tactics to Vietnam. I came to see by 1974 or so that the war we had started in Vietnam was a totally hopeless adventure. In 2003 I was opposed to this bravado, "shock and awe" military adventure in Iraq, right from the start.

That this Iraqi adventure was purely for political reasons was evident from the start. Every opportunity for public relations was used by the Bush administration, rather than an actual military strategy to actually control Iraq starting in May of 2003. That in itself is enough to gaurantee failure! But the war was fought in the most boneheaded way possible by the U.S.

Does anyone believe that displacing 250,000 people as we did in November-December 2004 in Fallujah will endear the populace to an occupying power? Any similarity in that policy to the "Strategic Hamlets" which were really concentration camps in Vietnam? Or the "Search & Destroy" methods in Vietnam? Missions in which we killed everything that moved! Particularly water buffalo which the peasants relied on for their survival.

I forsee a not to distant day when we will have to shoulder arms and march out of the country. It will probably happen after the nation of Iraq dissolves into civil war. We can not control the Iraqi Army or police forces. They are permeated with miltia members from various ethnic and sectarian groups. The insurgents are the least of our worries.

Amand Provencal
Taunton, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

All I can say is that I loved it. Have not gotten this kind of report on the war to date. You reporter is one tough cookie, he definitely deserves a raise. My only regret is that before you next episode it will not air again.

I think that any American Soldier should be thankfull for the story, it brings to light what they face everyday. This has shown why war is sometimes not avoidable. In the west we like peace. It is my hope that as we are all free, we can free the people of Iraq.

Being a father I want to see families there be able to have a night out and not worry about insurgants or being forced to belive something or die. There just are not engough words to describe the insight this provided.

Matt Hunter

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although you could not cover in one hour the complexity of this problem, I want to thank you for airing some of the issues that are not in the collective minds of many US citizens today. As others mentioned before, accountability for the torture and the corporate and political power grabbers is important to report as well if we are to be seen as a Democracy. I hope that you leave the online link to the show up for awhile because I am going to suggest to many that they check it out.

That being said, I am concerned that we are as bad as our government leaders that got us into this war when we do not educate ourselves better before deciding we, or they have all the answers. This area of the world is complex for the experts of the field and we need to see more to better assess the best way out, for all. I want to have more conversations with all concerned. Someone is obviously missing the point, if a man turns his back on his family in fear that he is being hoodwinked by satin and is being called to fight a bigger cause.

Moneta Kunz
Los Angeles, California

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The video of the full program, "The Insurgency," will be viewable on this site for several years.

Dear FRONTLINE,

...recent events in Iraq, as I know them, seem to be an impossible position for Americans to come out on top of. The "cartoon" incident and the carnage involved with the bombing of the Golden mosque are the latest incidents that make me believe that we cannot win unless we get full support from the world wide Muslim community.

Second, it seems to me that the hatred that these people have for America makes us the scapegoats for all that goes on in the region that they don't like. America did not produce the cartoons but they are being blamed partially now, but probably fully later on. American forces go to great lengths not to damage mosques but we will eventually be blamed for these events also. If Iraq falls into civil war, America will be blamed for that too.

I feel that in 100 years, this history will reflect that this is a religious war in spite of the denial of the Bush administration about this. The enemy certainly believes this now.

Now what should we do? I feel that the Islamic faith should be asked to take on this problem and that it should be put squarely on their shoulders. I have my doubts that this conflict can result in nothing other than the annihilation of democracy if we don't get support from the Islamic religion. There are simply too many of them.

Or it could turn out that this war will turn into the Islamic faith against anyone who is not Islamic. All religions everywhere should take it upon themselves to denounce extremist groups who do violent acts in the name of Jesus, Mohammad, Moses, Buddha, Joshua Smith, or any other religious leader. We should face the fact that this is another war between the religions and perhaps it should be fought this way.

Bruce Patterson
Tulsa, Olkahoma

Dear FRONTLINE,

This documentary provided a much needed perspective on the intricacies of the situation in Iraq. In an environment of polar extremes within the US media, I felt "The Insurgents" presented a much more grounded view of the situation - and I think its ultimate conclusion is correct. It is simply too early to tell, though at this point Iraq is neither a dismal waste of time nor it is a decidedly worthwhile pursuit.

What I do think is clear, particularly after listening to the first hand interviews with fundamentalist insurgents, is that this is indeed a struggle between freedom and fascism. As Americans, I think we can all unify in the hope for a liberal democracy in Iraq.

Alex Medearis
Stanford, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoy your informative programs, and enjoyed this one on the insurgency, but I have one 'bone to pick.' You let the U.S, forces off a little too easily. I am sure the individual members of the military as whole are making every and heroic effort to minimize their effect on the civilians, but the effect of military actions - whether in policy or 'collateral damge' - on the civilans cannot be overlooked or separated from the event of the insurgency. There was scant commentary on this. For example, you did make a brief remark on the number of refugess in Fallujah, but did not discuss the effect of that, nor show their condition at any depth. A note was made when showing forces entering a house looking for insurgents when the commentator did remark that such searches can produce hostility, but nothing more than a note, and quickly noted that the search yielded bomb devices (casting an arua of necessity and success over the operations and policy).

But, one, there is evidence to suggest that the there is a policy of a 'show of force' toward the civilians, particularly the trouble areas, and including but going beyond the searches. The force is not just to catch specific insurgents, but to make the population as a whole pay for 'supporting' them, and undergird the image of the strength of the U.S, army (after all, so the logic goes, these tribal Muslims only understand and respect force).Secondly, the massive assaults are not the dainty and discrete actions which your commentary suggested when reporting on such actions as the assault on Tal Afar. While the insurgency indeed was a horror for the civilians there, the assault itself was another horror. Your report did not even touch on that. The whole discussion and interviews showed the depth of the insurgent problem, but regarding the coalition force only included a interiew with a U.S, commander concerning how careful they were to avoid civilan casualties by evacuating the civilans(with the obligatory specific mention of children), nor was there discussion as to what the refugees went through, much less that they began running themselves ahead of the generous offer of the coalition forces. Reports suggest that many innocent civilans were as caught in the middle as anyone else.

Perhaps the horror of assault was worth the horror of the insurgency, but that 'trade off' needed to be debated and included. It is hard to believe that certain policies of action, and the very occupation itself (war is hell, after all) can be separated from the motive and circumstances of the insurgency. It is like a doctor discussing the effect of obesity on a body without considering the diet.

E. Pat Anderson
Milwauke, WI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Yesterday saw the notorious bombing of the holy Shiite mosque outside of Baghdad, and sectarian tensions are mounting. It seems to me that Al Zarqawi's group is pressing toward its own destruction, and that will come from Iraqis as well as insurgents fighting for secular interests. These radical, fundamentalist terrorists are truly a universal enemy and will be taken down by the very people they are terrorizing. Zarqawi's aim to start a civil war will fail. There is hope that the remaining sects of the insurgency will see their interests best realized through a democratic, representative government and not violence. Sooner than later, these people will realize that and Americans can fully achieve our goal: coming home. Excellent report, as usual.

STEVE MILNER
CHAPPAQUA, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

This should be required viewing for all Americans. Michael Ware is the most amazing man I have ever seen. The guy is insane, brilliant and perhaps one of the greatest communicators in my lifetime. The "mainstream media" has not come close to showing what Frontline produced. I almost felt like I was there. This is so complicated that it is very very troubling from several aspects. Our military is incredible, but there is no way our government saw it coming to what it is now. Iran is waiting to take over Iraq, and it may just happen. My prayers go out to each and every soldier. You are all so very brave.

Jeffrey Fojtik
Cudahy, Wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

This video has brought to light a side of the war that I did not see before; why we CAN NOT LEAVE IRAQ. I see that I may not be possible to win, but at the same time I know to run away would do more damage then good. We must stay tell the Iraq government can hold its own.

justin harrington
Vancouver, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just finished watching your Insurgency program. This report really affected how I view the whole concept of establishing a new government in Iraq, and really made me question the coalition's strategy. I'd imagine that the fact they're so divided and hodge-podge would add an extreme amount of difficulty in making the country truly secure.I also wonder what will happen to this democratic government after the coalition forces pull out. History has told us time and time again that when the radical minority doesn't like the current government or head politician, they either revolt or assassinate the leader. The Middle East seems to be 1000 years behind the rest of society politically, and trying to kick-start them into this completely foreign concept could just simply turn into another coup. I'd imagine that this current government will last but a few years, then after various revolts and rebel insurrections, they'll finally establish something like "The People's Islamic Public of Iraq," which would be an Islamic theocracy, similar to that of Iran.It is not a question as to whether the current US strategy can succeed, but rather how long it will take, and how long we're willing to stick around. We have a huge divide in our own nation concerning this war, and it could end up being the end of our war effort.Whether that is a good thing or not, I am quite sure.So in summary, I found your program very interesting, and the new information it gave me really made me think.

Zachary Dobbels
Vancouver, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your articles were very informative, and presented the views of the Insurgents and also that of our coalition forces. I think the U.S. strategy will succeed, with due time. If we pull our troops out of Iraq, the insurgents will have accomplished their purpose and will destroy democracy. Iraq will go back to a dictatorship with opressive leaders like Saddam Hussein, and the United States will have lsot valuable lives, time and money to accomplish nothing.

The insurgency is just as strong in numbers as it has ever been, and they continue to murder and terrorize citizens and troops. We need to continue teaching hte Iraqi troops to support themselves, and make sure the situation is stable in Iraq before we leave. We have witnessed some major progress in Iraq: the country now has a constitution, and the people are electing their leaders. I think this is often overlooked by many who opposed the war in Iraq- it is doing an overall good thing for the people there.

Talia Sharee Sharp
Vancouver, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought that the doccumentry was interesting, and I thought it was good that someone finally puts the truth out there. America is being lied to about what is going on in Iraq. I think that the troops are doing a good job and, if it wasn't for the American troops, then Iraq would be in trouble.

The public needs to quit bashing Bush and realize that the troops are over in Iraq for a reason. Troops wouldn't be sent to Iraq just to die.Everyone needs to wake up and face the facts that we are in a war and people are going to die.

Tim Clark

Dear FRONTLINE,

Before I watched "The Insurgency", I was unsure of what was going on and what the coalition forces had to go through. I didn't have a clear understanding of why we were in Iraq. While watching this broadcast I was entered into the real life battles that are faced each second by the coalition forces. It opened my eyes and created an opinion in me.

I believe that we should be in Iraq. We may have went in for questionable reasons, but by placing a Democratic government in Iraq I think that we can save the people and help rebuild the country. The government before was a dictatorship, with a leader that abused the human rights of his people, and they were bound to a life of terror. With Democracy, freedom can become reality, and people can live without looking over their shoulders.

Tiffany Frahm
Vancouver, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching your documentary, I have come to realize the predicament our coalition forces are facing with the insurgency. We are at a standstill due to the fact that no one is backing down.

It will take time, but i believe with the efforts of our military, it would be in the best interest of Iraq if we kept fighting the insurgency. Leaving right now would cause the Iraqi democracy to cease, after American, and Iraqi forces have worked so hard to build a democracy from virtually nothing.

Lindsey Hecker
Vancouver, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a veteran of OIF, the perspective and insight that you provide about the insurgency is quite interesting. I was in Tal Afar before COL McMaster and the 3rd ACR arrived - during the period when the insurgents had a strong grip on the city. COL McMaster had the luxury of having enough soldiers to accomplish his very successful vision of what was needed to defeat the insurgents in that city. He was also fortunate to have cooperative local leaders who seem to have the courage and vision to defy the insurgents.

Prior to his arrival with approximately 4,000 US soldiers, there were maybe 500 soldiers to patrol the same area (approx. twice the size of Connecticut). One of the main reasons that the city was in dire condition was that there were never enough soldiers to be effective in that area. If a commander's hands are tied by a lack of troops on the ground, there is a limited amount that he can do to conduct an effective counterinsurgency campaign. It is a well known fact that insurgencies require a disporportionately large number of troops to counter them.

The decision made to limit the amount of US troops in country to a bare minimum has had a tactical impact on the ground. The very freedom of movement that the insurgents enjoy is in some ways related to the number of soldiers able to counter them.

I feel that the relatively small number of US soldiers in the country has prolonged the conflict by giving the insurgents a larger degree of freedom to operate. I believe that this is one aspect of the conflict that you negelected to highlight -- many US commanders know how to conduct counterinsurgency operations, but sometimes they are constrained by a lack of resources.

Tim Vidra
Denver, Colorado

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posted feb. 21, 2006

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