If you haven’t seen it yet, PBS’s documentary, “Bush’s War” is a very detailed walk through of our current War in Iraq.
While it’s a long show at 4.5 hours, it’s definitely worth watching.
While I won’t go into exhaustive detail, I wanted to share my high level observations.
I have new respect for Bush and Cheney and Rice
Most people who were paying attention understood that G.W. was a bit of a doofus before he was elected, and you could make the case that it was partially why he was elected. But at least in this documentary, you see him as a good natured doofus who’s in way, way over his head. He’s trusting his advisors who all have many years of senior white house policy making under their belts yet are all pulling in opposite directions, and he doesn’t have the experience or brainpower to understand who’s pulling the right way.
There’s a lot to not like about Cheney, and you won’t see too much of that changed here, but I didn’t know how badly the American intelligence community had failed around the whole Kuwait issue, and one can understand why he didn’t trust the CIA to provide good intelligence.
Condi Rice, along with Colin Powell enjoy a lot of love from this documentary, and in some ways, rightly so. But it’s clear that Condi lacked the horsepower to serve as an effective National Security Advisor, at least in an environment with such a strong VP, Sec of State, Sec of Defense and CIA director. Her biggest virtue through the documentary is her tenacity in fighting Donald Rumsfeld, and trying to turn around our non-existant military strategy.
Rumsfeld, Powell, Cheney and Tennant all did us a grave disservice.
Their power struggles throughout Bush’s first term lead to us missing out on capturing Bin Laden, and got us into a war that we had no reason to be fighting.
Cheney and Rumsfeld are really the bad guys of this documentary, with Rumsfeld being the worst. He’s constantly fighting everyone in the cabinet, lying to the press, withholding vital information from everyone, and doing nothing to actually make the situation better. It’s mind-blowing how bad he fucked this whole thing up, and mind-boggling how long it took for Bush to rein him in.
Tennant and Powell, who ostensibly lost the fight for their place at the president’s table, both rode the party line in the face of contrary evidence and compromised their integrity for continued access. While they don’t come off as bad guys, they clearly made very bad decisions, and both lied to the public as well.
Plan? What Plan?
The thing that stood out the strongest to me, and contrary to my perceptions of how the war was being executed, is how badly we wanted out from the moment we got there.
The documentary points out however briefly, that the Bush Adm. was interested in Iraq before 9/11, but it never really speculates why, other than the oft-cited “Saddam is a bad man” argument.
While the documentary never spells it out per-se, it’s pretty well shown that we only bothered to establish the weakest possible link between Al-queda and Iraq (because none existed) and the case for war was entirely founded on falsified evidence and hearsay of an Iraqi weapons program.
If it seems unclear to you what our plans were in Iraqi beyond deposing Saddam and installing a puppet government, the documentary suggests that the administration had none. Seriously. Nothing. They honestly thought that you could violently remove a national leader, replace him and be out in 3 weeks.
Of course, because they hadn’t planned anything besides the invasion, everything went to hell. We made some major mistakes (dissolving the Iraqi army and de-baathification seem to be the big ones) and largely let the country go to hell while we sat in military bases because we didn’t commit enough troops to actually secure anything.
The only thing in the documentary that made me genuinely mad was Tommy Franks. While there has been an endless progression of generals in charge of Iraq, my over-all impression has been that they have been forced into retirement by Rumsfeld for not following orders.
Franks resigned on his own because no one would listen to him. And was shortly followed by all the top military leadership in Iraq. While in most circumstances I would say, good for him, this really pissed me off.
I imagined myself a front line soldier, brought into Iraq by Franks, plunked into a military conflict with no planning, under-equipped and facing a dubious mission. When I wonder why I’m there, and if this really isn’t a pointless waste of life, and look to my leaders for support, they quit, and go home to the safety of America. But I don’t get to quit. I don’t get to go home. And when my tour is over, I get stop-lossed and sent back.
Our soldiers don’t get to quit when a jackass is giving him stupid orders. Why did Franks get to?
My take away from the whole documentary, in my own glib way of saying it is: The whole thing was a gigantic clusterfuck, caused largely by the my-dick-is-bigger-than-yours infighting of old men advising an idiot. Condi Rice is our savior and responsible for the only things in Iraq that have actually lead to progress. I think that pretty much sums it up.
What’s not there
4.5 hours is a lot, and there’s some pretty exhaustive time spent on a limited amount of topics. But I was pretty surprised by what they left out. I might have just missed these in the mix, and if I did feel free to correct me. These are the big things I noticed:
I don’t remember any mention of death-tolls on either side. Don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not, just seemed odd.
Almost no mention of oil
This was probably the most striking. While you can skeptically dismiss claims that we invaded Iraq for its oil, it was pretty well known that while the looting was going on just after the invasion (which the documentary spend a good handful of minutes on) we had plenty of people securing the oil ministry building and oil fields throughout Iraq.
There’s also no mention of how their oil industry has been handled since the invasion.
Not saying this is a terrible thing, but it seems relevant.
There’s no mention of billions of taxpayer dollars that is completely unaccounted for. 8.8 billion.
Haliberton and Blackwater
There was no mention of the use of contractors during the war, the awarding of billions of dollars of no bid contracts, or shooting of civilians by non-military US contractors.
“war on terror” in other countries
There was some mention of Abu Graib, but no mention of people captured in other countries (France, Spain, Germany, and taken to other countries for torture.)
Propaganda and the role of the media
There was no discussion at all of the complicit role of the media in the build up to the war.
The list could go on, but I think those are the major ones that I noticed. If I wanted to do some searching, I’m sure I could find many more.
The truth is, it would probably take days to really present all of the ways the Bush administration fucked this up. But this documentary hit the high notes pretty well.