The War Behind Closed Doors
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photo of the white houseIs a U.S. invasion of Iraq justified? Should America seek to project its power and values throughout the world -- as stated in the Bush administration's new foreign policy strategy ?


I found your program mesmerizing. Alhough Paul Wolfowitz reminds me of Dr. Strangelove, I must admit I was awed by the grandiosity and purity of his doctrine.

Your program explained a lot about why Bush is so intent on going to war without evidence that Iraq is an immediate threat to the US. What I am still curious about though is why Colin Powell has apparently changed his mind and is now siding with the hawks.

Thanks for the fascinating show,

Mark S
Landenberg, PA


I think that when you have presented an accurate program, you will get reponses from both sides of the spectrum. By the letters I have read, clearly you have a right to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Now for the bigger fish to fry. It's inevetable that we are going to war. I think for many of us in this country, being in favor or against it is a mute point. I think more importantly, we need to be prepared for the repurcussions of it.

If we watch Saddam Hussein and his underlings destroy missiles and other weapons,and we still attack, it will make the U.S. look like bullies in the eyes of the world. Will that cause a greater fervor among the Muslim world to inflict terror?
Certainly. Can we expext suicide terrorists on our trains and buses? All I can say is..."I'm glad I live in a little community in rural Wisconsin and I don't have to ride these vehicles."
The things that have made us hated in the eyes of people that want us dead will only be reinforced more when we start bombing Iraq. And I don't think that some saran wrap and duct tape is going to save all of us.

We really have no idea what to expect when the war starts; the stakes may very well be higher than when we entered WWII. If we do topple the Hussein regime, what happens to Northern Iraq, where a power vacuum will form and Iran already has at least 5000 troops ready to take over and more in the wings?
What happens when we go into Iraq and North Korea just happens to start aiming missiles at Hawaii and starts blackmailing us to feed it's people? A starving nation will go through immeasurable lengths to keep it's people down.
Finally, does going to war mean we will capture Saddam? Hardly.
As much as I hate to see this tyrant allowed to survive, and as much as I'm pissed that we didn't storm Baghdad in '91, I certainly hope this administration knows what it's doing.

Benjamin Wilke
Waupaca, WI


Thanks for an eye-opening episode.

More than ever, it's convincing that the president's agenda all along has been how to get re-elected for an all consuming second term. This irresponsible pre-occupation is taking much needed attention to more pressing issues facing the nation now.

The states are facing budget deficits with scary prospects of services cut backs. Yet the president keeps on insisting that we need to get into a war that financially we can not afford at this time. Is this what this nation needs now? This is no time to finish what Poppy didn't finish. This national interest not a personal vendetta!

Ricardo Arcea
Anaheim, CA


The one irony is that if the US spreads 'American like' democracies they will begin to compete for resources that America deems vital for its interests. Oil is the primary example.

Once that happens America according to the Bush Doctrine will have to preempt them for being too American...

Brian Woods
San Francisco, California


Very good documentary.

In my mind though 9/11 spawned two major thoughts: one was the revival of the pre-emptive doctrine, the other was the conclusion that 9/11 was caused by 30 years of serious Arab mismanagement of their societies.

I vividly memember the interview Michael Rose had with the Egyptian embassador on channel 13 just after the collapse of the Clinton initiated deal on the Palestinian case early 2000. After Bill had a fit he came to the conclusion that no serious Middle-East solution was possible without structural changes.

With 9/11 came the realization that such structural changes would not only be necessary for solving the problems in the Middle-East, they were also necessary to guarantee US safety by stopping these societies from breeding out human bombs. Thus Cheney's speech in your documentary.

Kees Metzger
Bridgewater, NJ


Above all, this issue, like most others of foreign policy, is incredibly complex.

I find it almost amazing that people, most of whom are so poorly educated on this matter, can weigh in so decisively in one direction or another.

Can the US tolerate having "rogue" leaders who pose a present or near-term threat to our domestic security? Conversely, will the world tolerate a country that pursues hegemony - we may argue that this case is "justified" but what is to signal to the world community that this isn't the first in a long line of unilateral policing?

And, does this new doctrine imply that we must pursue other regimes that may not be so easily subdued N. Korea?

Most of all, I have concerns about sending billions of dollars to Turkey, our Men and Women to Iraq, and the potential cost of maintaining a post-war balance when we are increasing class sizes right here at home and cutting funding for programs like Frontline.

I commend you for a very even-handed presentation of the history of this matter. Please give us more!

Christopher Farkas
San Jose, CA


I think this program did an excellent job in outlining the different points of view of those within the Bush administration, especially how the shift from containment to pre-emption has occurred.

The interviews available at are also very insightful, I would recommend everyone participating in the discussions to read over those as well.

Miguel Gonzalez
San Diego, California


It seems to me the Greeks had a word and concept for the evangelical self-righteousness that this administration is turning into doctrine: hubris.

I fear we are seeing a tragedy unfold before our eyes.

Douglas Post
Pasadena, CA


Excellent program but there is one glaring omission that I am dumbfounded that you failed to report on. What was the effect of our allies stance on this subject? What about the British staunch support and the French and German opposition. One of the most potent critisms of the current administration's policies is its almost total disregard for the opinions of anyone beyond the borders of this country. I am convinced that the opposition of the majority of the rest of the world is due in large part to the arrogance of the US administration who have ridden roughshod over everyone else as if they are of no importance whatsoever. Your program has, unfortunately, followed the same high handed path with absolutely NO mention of the any other member of the UN or of our important Allies.

Keith Grove
Bartlett, IL

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

In early April, FRONTLINE will be broadcasting a program on this subject. Check out this web site in another week for more details.


It is clear to me that the intent of the program was merely to present the facts behind the development of current US foreign policy and not to make a case for one side or the other.

So it is interesting to me that it has provoked such a range of responses from viewers, from chanrges of war-mongering to accusations of sedition. It just goes to show how even the most clear and basic information can be colored or downright twisted by internal biases. Apparently, stating that "the sky is blue" would imply all manner of hidden messages or political agendas to these folks.

I, too, have taken a decisive stance on this issue war with Iraq, and at times have found myself thinking of the opposing side as irredeemably evil, but programs like this help me to remember that are no such simple divisions of black and white as much as certain others would like to believe that, and that both camps are stocked with intelligent, well-meaning individuals that are only doing what they feel is best for the nation. And that is what should be kept in mind by all of us in this debate. Whether we go to war or not, America will endure - as long as we remember that our strength is in our diversity, our democracy, and our willingness to continuously examine our actions and correct our mistakes.

The producers of Frontline are obviously well aware of this, too bad many of their viewers aren't.

Dallas Crum
Tucson, AZ


Your coverage of the background of the road to war with Iraq was outstanding.

While Frontline did make the case for President Bush much more clearly than the administration has done itself, you make it clear that there is no valid reason for the war.

The Bush Administration has not provided a case that any vital US interest is at stake which would warrant an attack on Iraq. The problem that worries me the most, it that the doctrine behind the logic of going to war will launch the US on a course of many wars and produce consequences much greater and more dangerous than we can guess.

Aubrey Mills
Mesa, AZ


I appreciate that Frontline took a balanced approach to reporting on the neo-conservatives and their influence in the current administration. It is hard to see from an outside perspective how far the neo-conservative doctrine will extend.

I think the biggest problem is that this has not been debated in a public venue. The media and congress are not discussing how far we will take these policies. Hopefully we will begin to see this debate open up in public forums.

I also think it would be very beneficial for Frontline to post a link to the New American Century's document, "Rebuilding America's Defenses. This document was written before Bush took office by Mr. Kristol, Mr. Wolfowitz, and many others currently in the administration. This additional reading will give your viewers a more detailed view of the strategies that are supported by the neo-conservatives. Many of the specifics of this document have been implemented post-9/11 and has proven to be a good representation of the doctrine currently being adopted.

This document could be viewed from a moderate perspective in which case this is a good blueprint for defense in the post-9/11 era. But taking this document to more of an extreme, it becomes a bluprint for imperialistic approach to defending American interests. The later is a very disturbing prospect. Because this is being debated behind closed doors, we don't know which of these prospectives is the direction we are going.

The link for this whitepaper is:

Justin Griep
Denver, CO


I appreciated your special on "The War Behind Closed Doors," but I am disappointed that you did not adequately address the link between many high level hawks in the administration and Israel.

Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz all have strong ties to Israel and it is well known that one of Israel's highest priorities is the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Given that the threat of terrorism is directly linked to our support for Israel as suggested by Osama Bin Laden himself, and since the policies advocated by administration hawks mirror those of Israel's right-wing government, it is irresponsible to ignore this link --- especially since Israel's heavy-handed strategy for defeating terrorism have been a failure and have made that country less secure than ever.

Kenneth Gozlyn
San Francisco, CA


It is clear from the comments in this discussion that your report has set out the facts with remarkable objectivity, as no one seems to argue about what they are. The praise or villification you get for your "bias" reveals that the divide isn't about what the Bush Doctrine IS, but rather what motivates it - a judgement you have wisely avoided. It's OUR job to read between the lines of your report to determine motive; and it is interesting how we all tend to read our own prior presumptions about this into the facts you have presented.

Such presumptions only cloud our discernment about the administration's motive. Is it realistic or helpful to argue endlessly between one extreme presumption the Bush administration is all-pure and flawless in a righteous cause and the other it is hell-bent on subjugating the world out of a malevolent lust for power?

But our president isn't Mother Theresa, nor is he Adolph Hitler. I believe that an objective assessment of your report reveals the "Bush Doctrine" to be a well-intentioned attempt by flawed human beings who struggle as we all do between good and bad motives to come to terms with this critical "moment of truth" in world affairs. I acknowledge that the course is fraught with peril, and that we must be vigilant as to the motives of our leaders. But the administration's critics do a disservice to the debate and marginalize their position when they insist that the deep motive of the Bush Doctrine is only corrupt. Have Tony Blair, Colin Powell, and so many other principled leaders also sold their souls to join this sinister cabal?

Paul Johnson
Carlsbad, CA


... I am definately disappointed in your program on this issue. It strikes me as deliberately misleading pro-war propoganda, that does little more than distort the facts to make Bush look far more sincere in this situation that he would ever be in our wildest dreams. Your credibility has taken a severe hit on this one.

Nyte Bytes
Chicago, Illinois


Clearly a biased piece of Anti-Bush PBS Commentary.

Craig Mosier
Rialto, CA



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