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join the discussion - What  do you think of Donald Rumsfeld's battle to overhaul the Defense Department  for fighting a new kind of warfare -- the  war on terrorism?    And, what's at stake for the U.S. military in Iraq

Dear FRONTLINE,


I was impressed with your piece on Rumsfeld's war. I did not realize how drastically we have changed as a nation in terms of our foreign policy in the past four years.
One point that I found very interesting was Rumsfeld's reasoning with the mess that is now left in Iraq. He downplayed the chaos and justified the mess by saying something along the lines of freedom being messy. As a school teacher in South Central Los Angeles I have learned to start the school year as a very tough teacher who imposes rules and consistantly administers consequences when rules are broken.

I am tough at the beginning of the year and I lighten up as the year goes on. If I let the students have all there freedoms at the begining of the year, my classroom would be in chaos.

As a school teacher, I was able to figure that out quickly. How come Rumsfeld and all the great minds in the administration not figure this out?

Dan Helenius
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Classic. That is all I have to say about the people who have posted their opinions here that this program was biased. Clearly ignoring the fact that the Bush Administration principals were asked to contribute (but didn't) and failure to address any of the factual issues raised by the piece are S.O.P. for most of those on the far right.

Case in pointÖclaiming that the comments by the generals fired by Rumsfeld can be summed up as "sour grapes" does little to address the fact that their opinions (while serving) turned out to be more accurate than the civilian bureaucrats that chose to ignore them.

It is truly a shame that there arenít more moderates on both sides of the political fence. It is increasingly difficult to find a person who can objectively analyze (& debate) the strengths and weaknesses present on either side.

Allen Abbott
Kansas City, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

If the civilian decision makers had read and studied the writings of Machiavelli on the occupation of territories after conquest, perhaps the current Iraqi fiasco could have been avoided.

K Herzog

Dear FRONTLINE,

I only got to see the second half of this program, but I am anxiously awaiting its online airing to view the rest.

For those that found it biased or anti-Bush administration, it is your only retort. I guess the truth hurts. They had been given opportunity to state their case, and yet turned Frontline down. So Frontline is clearly not to blame for the "liberal bias" of this piece. The current administrations repeated screw ups are.

This program answers a lot of questions that SHOULD be in the hearts and minds of ALL americans; we should not just follow our leaders blindly when so much is at stake. Question everything. question Frontline, question CNN, great, but how about starting with where we should question most, our political leaders.

penelope ann
trenton, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Now I know how to spell McNamara, its Rumsfeld.

Here we go again, McNamara the numbers cruncher, the super intelligentia, who could not see the forest for the trees in Vietnam.

This is Rumsfelds war, I think I am going to advise my grandchildren to go to Canada. I can't see them dying over OIL.

The clips taken from all of Rumsfelds news briefings, etc would make a great film. Hope some Producer will do that and show it on the big screeen. It would be great for someone in Congress to replay these during a Rumsfeld hearing in order to get reaction.


As an ex military officer I am shocked at the way the administraion has conducted this war. We have Vietnam all over again. You can't force democracy on society. Democracy comes from the bottom up not top down. The trickle down theory does not work in this case.

Hank Zekanis

Dear FRONTLINE,

This is an amazing piece of journalism. I only wish it was shown sooner, but can not complain as such informative and substantive pieces of journalism can't be easy to put together. The biggest question in Iraq wasn't the fall of the Iraqi army, but how to win the peace afterwards. It's seems to me planning for the invasion of Iraq was short sighted in the sense that no one effectively answered the question of how an invading American army would be received in an Arab country historically hostile to colonial and imperial powers. I think the assumption that Americans would be received as benevolent liberators was naive. The fact that the US acted unilaterally removed alot of the credibility to the argument we there as liberators.

As an optimist, I believed we had a chance to do something really good in Iraq and give our country a new kind of credibility in the middle east. Although, I was against our unilateral action, that was my opinion at the beginning of the war. Our leaders failed miserably and have done a grave injustice to our troops on the ground and the Iraqi people.

Xavier Diaz
San Jose, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Rumsfeldís War was overall an excellent presentation, but there was one serious error in it. The implication throughout that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is the engine of transformation within the Pentagon is simply untrue.

Transformation had been the dominant topic of discussion within the Army since General Shinseki made his first major address as Chief of Staff of the Army. The Stryker brigades, lighter brigade-sized battle organizations, a lighter more mobile force, and other innovations are a direct result of General Shinsekiís vision and clear plan to transform the Army to the new Objective Force. Over the past couple of years, the media (and you) have listened to the rhetoric of Secretary Rumsfeld without looking carefully into what was actually going on in the Pentagon. Secretary Rumsfeld simple interpreted transformation as smaller (and cheaper) forces with the tragic results we now have in Iraq.

Gary Howard

Dear FRONTLINE,

As usual, an incredibly thought provoking piece. To those who are accusing Frontline of bias, I'd like to remind them that the principles were all asked to appear on the broadcast and declined. Further more, Dana Priest correctly pointed out that the uniformed military is overwhelmingly republican. Do those republican military leaders who appeared on the broadcast have a 'leftist' bias? I think not. Military leaders at the pentagon have been, until now, quietly seething about how their good advice was ignored by their civilian commanders. Frontline finally gave them a chance to finally explain why this iraqi occupation has gone so catastrophically wrong.

Thanks yet again to Frontline.

Patrick Pineault
Riverside, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

One tries not to be skeptical of the media, but last night's FRONTLINE re Mr. Rumsfeld was so slanted against him that I must pass along my thoughts. You invited the Secretary, and he didn't accept your invitation. Fair enough. That doesn't mean you shouldn't televise a program on his performance over the past four years. But his principal critics were (1) an Army Secretary who had been fired by Mr. Rumsfeld, (2) a retired general who is backing Mr. Kerry and (3) reporters from one the nation's most liberal newspapers, all of whom were unsympathetic (to say the least)to Mr. Rumsfeld, both personally and as a Government official. All this one week before a national election! Shouldn't the program's timing alone spurred you to be especially

James Boylan
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Rumsfeld's War" was a very insightfull look into the preparations for the Irag War. What I found most interesting and revealing was the dynamics between Bush and his administration. The power struggle between Rumsfeld and Powell that resulted in Powell's virtual ousting shows , in my opinion , a lack of leadership from the Commander in Chief.

Joel Chavarria
Rancho Cucamonga, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have a brother serving in Iraq RIGHT NOW, and this report was decidedly one sided. Where were interviews with Colin Powell? Tommy Franks? Or Donald Rumsfeld himself? The soldiers in Iraq know what's going on, & nothing could have prevented the current situation in that country. Every little mud hut has a satellite dish or a cell phone. The locals and insurgents are technically savey. The terrorists know how to play the press, and this type of reporting does absolutely no good whatsoever for our brave soldiers or our country.

I find it highly suspect that PBS is showing this program so close to the election. I hope the next time you produce something like this, that it shows more of the actual players than just the ones who are no longer involved. It smells of sour grapes...
And by the way, I noticed that almost all the stills of Mr. Rumsfeld were black & white shots of him angry, grimacing or argueing. Only the press conference where he was taking questions showed him in a better light. Stills of President Bush were not complimentary, either. The background noise played during the program was grim sounding. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how the producers wanted this to play...
My brother signed up with the Guard knowing he would most likely go He's 40 years old. He believes in the cause. He's a carpenter who makes furniture out of scraps in his down time in Iraq, & gives it away to anyone who needs it. The soldiers are helping these people rebuild their lives while you people denigrate the American effort with these thinly veiled programs.
I'm embarassed by this show. Shame on you.

Caryn Christensen
pecatonica, il

Dear FRONTLINE,


Congratulations on an extraoordinary piece of journalisn. I especially appreciate the online material. It educated me. I am glad you were able to broadcast this program prior to the election. I learned much about Rumsfeld's career that I admire. However, he has clearly underestimated the demands of reconstruction. Alo, the military which he did so much to "modernize" is now in danger of demoralization. It is my hope that Kerry will win this election and that he will call upon Powell.

Mark Leach

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was shocked and awed while viewing this extremely informative documentary. I am spreading the word to all of my conservative, Bush administration supporting friends to view this online on Friday. I think people tend to forget that re-election of a president is also a re-election of his administration, and you have to look at their records as well.

I cannot believe no action was taken against Rumsfeld after the prison debacle in Iraq that was a direct result of his new, Geneva convention disregarding, interrogation tactics. The most disturbing concept I took away from this is how the stubborness of civilians in power disregarded the advice of military experts and have placed our troops in harms way. Now I fully understand what John Kerry has been so adamant about on the campaign trail. Thank you for making things very clear.

Chad Tolles
Grand Rapids, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

What a fantastic documentary. Unlike Fahrenheit 911, which is totally skewed and bias, this program presented truthful accounts, interviews, and pieces from people within our military and government. I am Bush supporter, however, it would be advantageous for Bush to ask Rumsfeld to resign or take step back, after viewing this program.

I do not understand how Rumsfeld thinks he can do away with 200 years of military training and tactics. I understand the importance of change and innovation, however, there must be a balance. I am confident Powell understands that balance, and if Bush knows what is best for this great country, he will start listening. The truth of the matter is that Saddam Hussein needed to be stoppped, but as your program indicated there has not been enough emphasis or enough troops for that matter to secure the country in a reasonable time. Thank you for giving us this program to ponder these issues.

Enza Tomlinson

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,
A few criticisms of Frontline: Rumsfeld's War
1. Treatment of General Franks was unconscionable. Referring to him as a "muddy boots soljer [sic]" and having chair-bound officers saying "Tommy drank the Kool-aid" is a peculiarly disrespectable manner to treat a General who went in with a lighter and leaner force and took out major combat land forces in a manner of weeks - all in an atmosphere of retired generals, the press and politicians questioning his generalship and competence (the chorus of not heavy enough and not enough forces). General Franks excellent book on the war was not even referenced. (also see 3 below)
2. No airtime or commentary was given to the chorus saying that the attacking forces were undermanned - only commentary that the post-major combat stabilization forces were undermanned.
3. The mentioned micro-managing politicians was not the only reason the military believes they lost the Vietnam War. The military believes another reason was an adversarial press that turned the American people against the forces in the field. Rumsfeld's War reeks of going down that same path - most of the program's commentators were from the press. Or fired Secretary White (see next). Or retired General Hoar, who supports Senator Kerry. (I note that General Franks supports President Bush).
4. No mention of the Crusader 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer that Secretary Rumsfeld cancelled (June 2002) or that Secretary White went behind Rumsfeld's back to Congress to attempt to save a program that Rumsfeld determined was too heavy and lacked precision fire. That certainly added to the tension between Rumsfeld and the Pentagon Army.

Thomas Hunnicutt
Miami, FL

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posted oct. 26, 2004

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