Documentary Review – Frontline: Bush’s War


Get Bushs War from Amazon.com
Get "Bush's War" from Amazon.com

One of, in my opinion, the best documentary series on currently on television is PBS’s series Frontline. The show has won the Pullitzer prize, as well as multiple Emmy awards and Peabody awards and I generally consider it to be pinnacle of broadcast journalism today. Towards the end of George W. Bush’s final term, they did a documentary on the state of the War in Iraq, and how it got to where it is now, titled Bush’s War. A lot of documentaries have been done about the war since it started – how does this one hold up?

The Premise: So, for those who have currently been under a rock for 8 years – The United States currently in the midst of two wars. One war is in Iraq, one is in Afganistan. Both were fought against dictatorships, the former was a totalitarian dictatorship lead by a man with delusions of Blofeld-dom, the latter being a theocratic state ruled under a version of Islam that I can best describe as one that was “folded, spindled, and mutilated”. Finally, the latter (the one if Afganistan) was waged in response to the September 11th attacks, and the other (the Iraq War) was waged under false pretenses using bogus intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. This documentary is about that one (they did a seperate documentary about the war in Afganistan later.)

The Good: This show takes a lot of time laying things out – which is a good thing, and, with the amount of time it gets (I’ll get into that later), it’s very comprehensive. The interviews are excellent, with the participants where possible, and with people who know about the participants (in terms of reporters, biographers, etc.) if the participants of the events themselves won’t take part in the documentary. The film does a very good job of laying the blame for how we got into Iraq, and all of the mess that ensued at the feet of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their group of Neocons. Condoleezza Rice  and President Bush themselves aren’t totally spared the blame of the war, but Cheney and Rumsfeld are generally made out to be the “masterminds”.

The Bad: We get glimpses of the internal struggles between Cheney and Rumsfeld’s camp at the White House, and between Rice, Powell, and Tenet’s camp. However, we get little more than that. Considering that those struggles shaped how the case for war was laid out, as well as how the war was ultimately managed once the occupation of Iraq began, those struggles are an important part of the tale, and it’s unfortunate that that section is so short. This ties in with…

The Ugly: This film takes four hours, in two, two-hour long installments to lay everything out – and it’s still not enough. I’m currently reading a fairly substantial book, titled Going To War by Russ Hoyle, right now – and that spends 472 pages just describing how we got into Iraq, much less how we messed up the occupation once we got in there. To be absolutely honest, this could probably have stood one more two-hour installment.

The Verdict: As US forces slowly move out of Iraq, it’s important to look back on the past of the occupation, see what went before, and see how, hopefully, we won’t get bogged down in an mess again – and hopefully learn some lessons which can be applied to our other occupation – in Afganistan. I’d reccomend buying this (or watching it through Frontline’s web page, or streaming it or renting it through Netflix.)

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