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join the discussion: Are U.S. efforts to bring democracy to Iraq ill-conceived? Or is it a mission vital to America's national interests?  What should the U.S.  mission in Iraq be?
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Dear FRONTLINE,

It is a great documentary report done by a courageous team. Thanks a lot for the terrific job.
I have been always a strong opponent to the war in Iraq, which is an intrusion in nature by the American troops of the sovereign Iraq in my opinion.

I doubt the ability of some Americans who have good intention to solve the problems in Iraq. First of all, most people donít like their homeland occupied by armed soldiers from another country, so eventually, American troops have to leave Iraq.

Two, three, or 5 more years could American troops be able to stay in Iraq? Will that be long enough to create peace among different ethnic and religious groups who have been fighting with each other for years?

Sam Song
Seattle, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Please do another Frontline on Iraq. I'm a News Junkie. Your program seemed so honest. News Channels say, they are fair and balanced ,however, thier programs do not reflect honestly. Keep up the good work and be safe.

Michael melin
hibbing, mn

Dear FRONTLINE,

I add my name to those praising the first-rate reporting, under dangerous and difficult conditions, on the incredibly mixed picture in Iraq. I too wish for more of the same, and hope our leaders are exposed to such reportage. I am tremendously impressed as well with the quality of front-line military leaders portrayed--smart, dedicated, patient, insightful. I wish it had been such as they who had made the decision about whether or not go to war there in the first place.

Loren Woodson
Santa Monica , CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have been against this war and most wars since Viet Nam. I felt Col. William Mayville and Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno understand the politics of the area and respected the peoples views and fears. I was impressed. They made me feel the people reporting to them would not be put in harms way lightly. If they have to be there at least they would be led by caring human beings.

Rosemary Abell

Dear FRONTLINE,

I appreciated the recent program on Iraq. However, I am disturbed at the translations that were published. I am an Arabic linguist and I served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I disagree with the translations. The were poorly done, not only with the semantics, but several important words were missed which greatly changed the meaning of the translations. I hope that in the future, more time and effort will be given to accurate translation by multiple sources to ensure that the translations are correct and without bias.

Alan Norman
Jacksonville, NC

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Thank you for these comments. We very much appreciate the feedback we get. In the case of the translations, we had several native-speaking Arabic and Kurdish translators and one linguist working with the film's producers in the post-production phase. The translations they provided were often longer and more elaborate than those we used in the program's subtitles. We paraphrased some of what was said to make it easier for the viewer to read and understand. If any of the subtitles incorrectly represent the meaning of what was said, we would be happy to correct them.

Thanks again for watching and for taking the time to write.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Congratulations, every once in a while you hit a winner in a presentation, unlike some more challenging flops where the focus seems to be blaming one side and hiding pertinent history as in "Blackout" and "Chasing Saddam's Weapons". The only fault in the show is that you did not go 2 hours. You covered the fear, the hope, the possibilities, the immense difficulties ahead (and behind us and them), the cultural conflict among the Iraqis themselves, and between them and us. We got to see Iraqis with both limited vision and with much vision and we were surprised to see that some of our military officers had broad vision in their negotiating skills, while others still had little clue.

Gary Hall
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am an Iraqi-American sunni. I enjoyed your presentation very much. Saddam was a sunni by birth, but sunnis are not Saddam. In spite of what I saw in your report I am very optmistic that Iraq is and will be better.

Zaid Khalil
Fairfax, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for an excellent glimpse of Iraq as it exists in the aftermath of our invasion. I teach international students and this happened to be the focus of our discussion on the day this show was aired in our city. Their point and one that I think is justified is that democracy cannot be imposed but must arise from the desire of the people involved. The ethnic issues that exist in Iraq are ones which have deep roots and no easy solutions. The more Americans understand the complexities, the less likely we will be to choose leaders with simplistic solutions.

Madeline Garr
Nashville, TN

Dear FRONTLINE,

When did Americans become afraid of success? I must admit my shock at the numerous postings on this site proclaiming the situation in Iraq a disastrous mistake. Quite to the contrary, I am astounded at American efforts to secure a future for all Iraqis. Many seem to believe that any effort that involves loss of life or expenditures of money is simply not worth the hassle. I had hoped this type of sarcastic defeatism was gone after 9/11. America can no longer afford to sit behind its continental walls while a ground surge of hatred is sweeping the Middle East. Nation building is a tough business. The road will be long and arduous. Am I to believe that any task that involves sacrifice on our part is not worth the effort?

Today's society of instant communications craves instant results. We have barely been operating in Iraq for a year. It is preposterous to expect results in such a short time frame. I truly hope for all our sakes, that Americans can muster the will to see this most important mission through to a successful conclusion.

In closing, I would like to extend my absolute gratitude to all the men and women putting their lives on the line every day in Iraq. Lets keep them in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

Eli Renshaw
Philadelphia , PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Disappointing. You attribute ethnic tensions to "history" but neglect to include the U.S. and/or Europe in that history. You portray societies as "tribal," as if the people of the region are too primitive to maintain a democratic society. Yet, you fail to ask questions of the U.S. Where was the U.S. while Saddam was gassing the Kurds? In fact, from whom did Saddam acquire the chemical weapons? Do you think this history escapes Kurds in the North? Why did the U.S. drop support of democratic opposition after the 1st Gulf War? Do U.S. motives remain unquestioned in Southern Iraq? Yes, we need to look at "history." But how about starting with the U.S. history of supporting brutal tyrants instead of blaming the victims?

Super Chico

Dear FRONTLINE,

It seems to me that if Iraq is going to have the bright future that so many of its people, and so many people around the world including myself would like to see it have, the people of Iraq need to assume some accountability for their own country.

Firstly they need to stop working against the Coalition forces and start working with them, and secondly they need to as a whole stand up against the forces of chaos and disorder, terrorism and extremism that are threatening their stability.

The United States itself was created because its people refused to accept the tyranny of the British Crown; it was created by ordinary people. Likewise, a new Iraq must be created by its people, not by outside influence.

Yes, the Iraqis need the help of the Coalition, but the military powers in Iraq can only open the door; Iraqis must walk through it.

Pte. Jason Sproule
N. Vancouver, British Columbia, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was much impressed with the program "Beyond Baghdad." I am a History & World Geography university instructor & would like to use this information in my upcoming courses with your permission. I am also a retired Army officer who served in Vietnam & Saudi Arabia, among other places. I see that once again the American government is apparently unable to comprehend that a nation like Iraq simply cannot grasp the concept of democracy -- even our version of it -- because it has never experienced it. It is the same as the situation in Vietnam where a Catholic minority dominated a Buddhist majority, and the U.S. wound up in the middle. And it is similar to what occurred in Iran at the time that I was an advisor in Saudi Arabia -- Americans in Iran were assured that the Shah was in complete control right up to the start of the fundamentalist revolution. We need to withdraw the force from Iraq after elections are held & cease to be the dominant military presence that all segments of the Iraqi population do not want. We must let them settle it -- we cannot do something for them that they do not understand. Aid and assistance as in Western Europe after WWII will work but military occupation will not. Thank you & keep up what you are doing. Sincerely, John Lembcke, Lt. Col. USA (Ret.)

John Lembcke
Barstow, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Job Well Done!

Frontline deserves all the support for a highly informative piece on the current Iraq milieu. It is hard for most Americans to appreciate the complex interactions between various ethnic and religious groups within Iraq, let alone the various attitudes towards the US-led coalition.

I think it is important to realize that Iraq's political boundaries were drawn up by colonialists in the days after World War I. The result of this has been the conglomoration of Sunnis, Shi'as, and Christians; Turks, Arabs, Kurds, and Persians. All of these groups have been forced together without their consent into a arbitrarily created nation state called "Iraq." It is going to be difficult, very difficult, to bring these groups into some form of community, let alone a democracy, without resistance and bloodshed, and I dont believe a year will suffice for stabilization to occur.

Frontline did a very wonderful job in highlighting this disturbing trend. If there is anything lacking in this segement, it is a historical analysis of the complex ethnic and religious interactions in Iraq.

But that is another story...

Oliver Bordallo
Santa Clara University, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Beyond Baghadad was a devestating and frightening show to watch. It confirms all my feelings that George W. Bush did not know what he was doing when he attacked Iraq. The Iraqi people are now the ones who are suffering. They still don't have enough water, electricity, and many of them have no homes.

Watching the tanks destroy the homes because they were supposed to have guns is something that I thought Nazis did, not Americans. It is no wonder why they have come to help them. I have read about the Ayatollah Ali Sistani and according to a story in the L.A. Times Sistani has told the American government that "I can be a good partner, I can play by your rules, but if you don't cooperate I can get nasty. His aide, Sheik Abdul-Medhi Karabalie has threatened more turbulence in Iraq if the U.S.did not change its stance." These two men are supposed to be "moderates" but they are very determined to have the elections before next June. As far as I am concerned George W. Bush has opened the door to much more violence then he ever counted on. Thank you for presenting this show, it is the best and most honest view of what is going on in Iraq.

Daria Case

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for your informative program. It helped to clarify and identify the many ethnic and religious factions that exist in Iraq. It left me feeling sad, overwhelmed, and even more frustrated than I was before viewing the program. The political situation in Iraq is much more complex than I had imagined. What was the Bush administration thinking...oil? Certainly not the well being of the Iraqi people. As in so many other cases after World War 1, countries such as Iraq were created, it appears, without much thought or regard for the ethnic composition of the people or the common factors that hold and denote "nationhood." The most unfortunate result of the present intervention in Iraq is how close the area is to civil war which can only bring more suffering and pain to the people.

Lea Bonucchi
san Anselmo, Ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear fellow viewers,
As Oliver Hardy said to Stan Laurel, ìHereís another fine mess youíve gotten me into.î


After watching frontlines tour across Iraq, I see a similarity in the young men of Iraq and the ones of N. Ireland, during the height of their campaign of terror; no job, no future, only weapons,and a religous cause. We as Americans have bitten off more than we can chew. According to Frontline,we are being accused of not full filling our promises and rightfully so. How can we win their trust if we do not, do what we say. You could see the frustration in the regional U.S. commanders faces as they explained how they had run out of reconstruction funding.


Once again, we rush in and make big promises and then fade away to tackle another uncharted frontier,to uphold Democracy and attempt to institute it in a country that cannot adapt to it, either politically or economically. When will we learn! In the real World, we as Americans need to stop force feeding utopian Democratic ideas to nations that have little or no chance of changing.

Sonny James
orlando, fla

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posted february 12, 2004

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