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Who's to blame for the failure of diplomacy in the months leading up to the war on Iraq? Can the U.S. and Europe repair the damage?


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your report presented clear facts that the US Government policy toward Iraq was to use military force from the start. Itís only pursued the UN diplomatic path to cloak their actions under some global legitimacy. The statement in the program ěThe US will only have future coalitions of the reluctantî is haunting. It is clear that there was several better means to tackle this problem. In the end, I feel that military force would be required to resolve the problem but there would not be so many bridges burned in the process.

The betrayal of Powell and Blair was obvious to the entire world. They were used to put up a smoke screen to hide the military agenda. This action has destroyed relations with some very important allies and it has destroyed Prime Minster Blairís creditability with all Europeans including Britain.

I hope that the people of the world understand that the United States Government policies can change after an election.

arlington, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

Tony Blair and George Bush seemed to have touched a few raw nerves. To dismiss their actions over Iraq as some right-wing conspiracy to grab oil or bully Europe is to be guilty of the same lack of understanding as they are often accused of.

One of demands of leadership is to occasionally go against the popular wisdom. Like it or not, the course of action choosen in Iraq will eventually be seen as the correct one.

William Page
tucson, az


Dear FRONTLINE,

Tony Blair has indeed had to pay some significant political prices for advocating military intervention in Iraq, despite the clear expression of his "moral" world view. Yet Frontline's assessment of Blair wasn't quite on the mark. Granted, the parliamentary opposition to intervention was large, but it's not quite accurate that it came from "all parties." A large bloc of the Labour Party has been anti-war, but Blair had the backing of many Conservatives -- so much so that analysts predicted in early March that he would need their support to carry a motion for war (all Liberal Democrats opposed Blair on the issue, but their numerical presence in parliament is so slight as to be nearly insignificant).

Even more off the mark was Tony Judt's comment that Blair has failed. For one, it's premature because Blair's political future rests as much on domestic issues as it does on foreign ones, and we won't know the combined impact of both until after the war is over. Two, it's simply wrong. Frontline pointed out that, in February, 122 Labour MPs revolted; but Frontline did not mention that they revolted over an amendment, not a motion, and -- most important -- that when it came time to vote on the motion to use force, the parliamentary total was 412 to 149. It was a huge victory for Blair. He certainly was embattled in achieving that victory, and he defied all expectations in doing so, but the fact that he did illustrates the dynamic, and often complicated, nature of politics.

Frontline would have been better served to have offered a deeper focus on Blair's motivations and a more substantive analysis of the political upheavels in Westminster (and less of a focus on the U.S. and France). After all, the title of this special is "Blair's War." Nevertheless, on tracing the development of the war against Iraq, the special was quite compelling.

Michael Smith
rowland heights, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

One point struck me more than anything else in your entire program: Dick Cheney and his "Hawkish" minority have some how become the voice of America. Clever boy that he is, Cheney and his cohorts have manipulated the psyche of adminstration to pursue this destructive course for what I'm betting is just another attempt to "save" the defense contractors and keep Texas oil stocks in the black.

Poor United States of America. We tout the liberties we love to uphold with an ignorance that lacks the historical perspective of our European counterparts. That single-minded perspective keeps us from seeing a more civilized answer to global issues. Eventually THAT will be our undoing.

Christi Williams
glendora, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

The second to the last fellow interviewed on the Blair's War program captured my prime concern about this incursion into Iraq without broader sanction from other countries.

We have lost the presumption of rightness, legitimacy, goodness and goodwill in the eyes of others in foreign capitals and on their streets. The consequence of this will be played out in years to come to our great detriment, I fear, in terms of how others see us. Itís a loss of innocence that parallels what occurred on 9/11 except that was caused by our own political clumsiness. This makes me angry.

Karl Sjogren
fremont, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

For a program entitled "Blair's War," there was relatively little about Blair. Could not more material have illustrated the man himself, the labor party leader who actually supports intervention in Iraq? What motivates him, this politician almost unique in European heads of government?

His eloquent and persuasive speaking style was essentially ignored, as were his rising poll numbers, but this fits Frontline's trademark ominous tone, both speaking and in content, in almost all of its productions. There is never any good news in the world, is there? Generally, after the average Frontline production, one wants to reach for the hemlock.

Richard Zierdt
north bethesda, maryland


Dear FRONTLINE,

As this piece clearly shows, the continental Europeans and the USA never had a clear meeting of the minds with Resolution 1441 - each saw in it what it wanted to. One saw the process as necessary paperwork, the other as the first step in a definable course of events. I give Colin Powell and others full credit for attempting to respect world interests and forge a legitimate consensus. But this latest disconnect has simply added to other events (international war crimes, Kyoto accord, accord on land mines, accord on chemical/biological weapons, etc.) that seem to position the current administration as either well intenetioned mavericks or ignornat xenophobes.

Frankly, Tony Blair made his choice as an individual and will live with political consequences. But it pains me to see our friends across the border being painted with the same brush as the current administration. For now, the world will probably view Colin Powell's 1992 visions of America becoming "the bully on the block" as national policy, if not a national trait. I can only hope that world can ultimately discern the difference between the politicians and the populace.

Philip Walston
vancouver, canada


Dear FRONTLINE,

So many of these writers' opinions seem to indicate that they, rather than President Bush and his advisors, have the relevant information on which to make the tough decision to go to war. I am appalled at the self-righteousness and tunnel vision of those who have no appreciation for the incredible freedoms America affords to its citizens. I could care less what the French, Germans, Canadians or the Martians, for that matter, think of what we are doing. Those countries did not have 9/11. I am behind the President 100%. and agree that we gave an inch and Saddam took light years. Enough is enough.

Deborah Shulman
irvine, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think there is a need to respond to an earlier comment from Waverly, Ohio about the so called "coalition of the willing". Forty-five countries might turn their nose to what is going on, but there are only four, let me type the again for emphasis, FOUR countries that are putting their troops into harm's way. These are the United States, Britain, Australia and a paltry 400 from Poland. Not so much of a coalition if they are not willing to be there when the shooting starts.

This is one principle that Tony Blair can be depended on for, although I believe after the shooting stops, like Churchill, he will have to pay a political price. (Powell also will not be around much longer, because he has been rendered irrelevant both by his own administration and Europe.) Our countries are running through Iraq like a bull through a china shop. Who is going to sweep it up when it is over, especially when we start paying attention to our economies. After our latest "reality television" series is over and we wipe the blurriness from our eyes. It certainly will not be this so called coalition. It will be "Old Europe" and the United Nations. Sorry Waverly, Ohio - your "coalition of the willing" is a dog that won't hunt!

Gregory Harshfield
portland, oregon


Dear FRONTLINE,

Near the end of your program on Tony Blair, you included a commentator from NY who said that Blair had failed in three areas. One he mentioned was positioning himself as a future leader in Europe.

A comment from another viewer on this forum stated: From this documentary one could deduce that Mr. Blair has bitten off more than he could chew in trying to be the power broker between the US and the EU.

And yet it was clear from your program that Blair was and is completely willing to make unpopular decisions based on his own personal convictions and principles that may very well cost him his political future.

This seems to be our modern divide. People who believe most leaders lie, manipulate, cheat and steal as they fight for power at any cost. And those of us who believe some good and honorable, albeit human, leaders exist who make decisions based on conscience and personal, deeply felt beliefs.

From observing his speeches, public conduct and manner, weighed against my own convictions and values, my intuition tells me that Blair is the latter: An honorable, principled leader and man.

Jeff Curtis
mesa, arizona


Dear FRONTLINE,

I first want to applaud Toni Blair, he is a man of personal conviction and one of the bravest political leaders I know. I am extremely touched and humbled by his friendship to our country and grateful to the British troops who are over there with us.

I understand that some of the global community thinks we are just a big bully, but Frontline did not in anyway acknowledge why France, Germany and Russia are not in support of this. Europe and Canada would like to make this war out to be for oil, what about France and Russia's business dealings with Iraq, they have something to lose as well if Saddum is replaced.

Terrorism in the past had been sporadic and against smaller targets, but 9-11 was against 3,000 innocent lives. Do you mean to tell me that if this happened in Germany or France that they would not be pounding the UN security council's and NATO's doors asking for assistance in directly attacking terrorism and those who support them?

My husband was a Desert Storm veteran. I deeply regret that it has come to war, but I see our country not as the bully on the playground, but the protector of the little guy against the bully. I support President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, along with 48 other nations, 100% in driving out the world's terrorists and those who support them.

Kiela Hudgins
norfolk, nebraska


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program provided a concise review of the lead up to the present tragedy of death and destruction in Iraq. My one concern is that analysis always tends to focus on the individual figure be it a Blair, a Bush, a Saddam rather than the forces and motivations behind these leaders. What interests does Blair really represent? Any of us who care to know, to inform ourselves, know who Bush represents and who he listens to around him. Diplomacy failed because the hawks were totally commited to armed aggression and regime change. Blair knew from the get go that this was the case and self importantly assured the US that he could deliver the UN. Bush has been rightly accused of hubris. Blair is not lacking in this characterisic either. If any nations come out of this mess with their morality and integrity intact it will be the French, Germans, Russians and especially those third world nations who faced up to bribes, threats and arm twisting and stood fast.

Ada Roca
medford, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

How do those who are so apposed to removing Saddam Hussein by force feel about the incredible suffering that 12 years of sanctions against the people or Iraq have caused?

Even without the threat of weapons of mass destruction the Western Europeans had little opposition to the removal of Slobodan Milosevic. I guess they felt a moral imperative for the people of Yugoslavia.

There was no outcry when the United States entered Somalia to depose those "ruling" that country.

What vested interest do those nations so apposed to dealing with Saddam Husseinís 12 years of ignoring the UNís resolutions of disarmament have.

If the moral imperative to save those suffering under the repressive conditions in Yugoslavia and Somalia exists then why does it not likewise exist in Iraq?

Military action is never acceptable but unfortunately it is sometimes necessary. It is equally unacceptable to randomly apply moral imperatives. If the world community finds this randomness acceptable then the only function of the UN should be the protection of sovernity. So long as it remains contained why should the world care what a nation does behind its own borders? I donít believe that this is an acceptable policy.

There are times that world needs to act. As repugnant as war is, this is one of those times.

ithaca, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for an interesting program, which told me one thing at least that I did not know: Tony Blair promised he would go to war in exchange for Bush's reluctant acceptance of the UN (the arrogance of his message burst through the screen!).

I would have liked you to say some other things we now know: that Bush had sided with the neo-cons appointed to his cabinet much before September 11; that September 11 was a magnificent excuse to put the neo-con plan into action (can we forget that Iran and North Korea are next, and that Rumsfeld is threatening Syria, the main target identified in the report "A Clean Break" submitted to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996 by Perle and his friends?).

For me the issue is clear: I might be in favor of this war despite the tremendous human cost, if, let's say, Nelson Mandela had proposed it and it was waged by, let's say, Sweden under UN mandate. But I cannot forget what "team Bush" is. It is not only what they are doing to the domestic economy and to the weakest people in our society, or how they came into power (have we forgotten the suit by African-Americans prevented from voting in Florida? or the Supreme Court's scandalous decision?). It is also how post-war Iraq is prefigured: from the appointment of Jay Garner to govern it, to the brazen way in which they are distributing contracts (with Iraqi people's money) to their friends, adding the fact that they NEVER intended to let the inspections work, and that they let Colin Powell cover himself with ridicule (and fake documents) on February 5. I do not believe that Bush's America can give lessons of democracy to the world, or that a "liberal empire" comes on the wake of American Tomahawk missiles. It may be better than civil war in Liberia, as one of your writers says, but there are other choices and other models. You cannot convince somebody who grew up in Latin America, like I have, that Richard Perle and Co.'s vision of empire is so benign. I don't think you could convince a Vietnamese, either. Sorry for this lengthy rant, like Kagan says, but I am overwhelmed by anger, despair and SHAME at what we are doing.

Magali Larson
philadelphia, pa


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your report makes it clear that Powell, along with Blair, was seduced by fundalmentalist zealots - Wolfowitz, Perle, Kagan and Cheney, et.al. How many of your viewers, do y'all suppose, have examined these unfolding events with clarity and probity; then recognized that when blood of innocents spatters a cloak of righteousness it can no longer mask malignant intent.

Rick Duiker
austin, texas

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