An excellent documentary on the Iraq War was broadcast by PBS (USA) in March of this year (2008). As a South African I can't tune in on PBS, but found a New York Times article (7 April 2008) on the online popularity of the documentary earlier today. Bush's War is a two hour, two-part, documentary available online from the PBS website in a series of 10-minute streams. The release of the documentary coincides with the 5th anniversary of the War.
The documentary is impressive for many reasons. Amongst others it includes an incredible amount of factual information; is comprehensive; includes scores of interviews with cabinet insiders, political commentators, journalists and authors; features amazing video quality for an online streamed feed (PBS has it's own media player...) and utilises the advantages of online information dissemination by providing optional links to full interviews (often with transcripts), time lines, etc. It's refreshing to view a documentary that holds your attention without trying to entertain.
I have watched the first three 10-minute streams and plan to watch the rest over time (I do have a day job...). The documentary starts with 9/11 and shows, based on credible information, just how early Iraq was put on the table as a target.
It also revisits the conflict-ridden relationship between Colin Powell and the cabinet neo-cons - particularly Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The rivalry between the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA is featured. It looks at the role played by John Yoo, then at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in providing legal memo's which assisted the Bush Administration in pursuing what Dick Cheney referred to as 'working the dark side' - a questionable, unconventional, strategy in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions, as well as America's own laws. The documentary continues in its very insightful, thorough, style to track the events and developments from 9/11 to where we are today.
In my view Bush's War represents a public broadcaster doing what it should be doing, informing and thus empowering the public. Now if only the SABC could generate this kind of material...
Additional information provided
Following the optional links to additional information that pops up throughout the documentary (online streamed version), and actually reading the linked articles, will take many hours. Some of the interesting information available in this remarkable feature by PBS, many from 'The Dark Side" - a previous PBS production that is utilised in Bush's War, are:
- Opinions on 'working the dark side'
Exploring what Dick Cheney meant when he famously said that America would have to 'work the dark side' in its 'War on Terror'. Go here.
- Office Politics & Other Anecdotes
"The tensions, conflicts, personality and politics that played out behind closed doors in the Bush administration, and in particular, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq."
For this very interesting article, go here.
- Interview with John Yoo. The legal memo guy from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Interview here.
- Interview with Richard Clarke
"A counterterrorism expert, ...was a member of the White House National Security Council... and is the author of Against all Enemies, an insider account of the Bush administration's policy-making in the war on terror. As an intelligence analyst ... and later, a high-level policy maker, Clarke offers insights into the interplay between the two worlds and shares some thoughts on the heated intelligence wars during the lead-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003..."
- Interview with Steve Coll
"...a New Yorker writer and the author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. His interview here offers an overview of George Tenet, his relationship with President Bush, his leadership of the CIA, and, in particular, his management of the intelligence community's assessment on Iraq's WMD programs -- an assessment that contributed to the case for war, but soon after was proven wrong."
- Interview with John McLaughlin
"The deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000 to 2004, and its acting director following George Tenet's resignation in July 2004, John McLaughlin has served 11 CIA directors. Here, he offers his perspective on some of the decisions and challenges during the months after 9/11 and then, the run-up to war in Iraq. He discusses the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that George Tenet backed, but which was soon proven wrong regarding Iraq's WMD capabilities. And he talks about the lessons the CIA learned from its intelligence failures and its involvement in the politicization of the intelligence process during this period."
- Interview with Richard Kerr
"...served in the CIA from 1960 to 1992, including three years as deputy director for intelligence (1986-'89) as deputy director (1989-'92) and a few months as acting director in 1991. In 2003, at the suggestion of Donald Rumsfeld, a group was put together to review the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, and Kerr was asked to head it. ...His group ultimately published four reports (two of which remain classified): The first looked at pre-war intelligence on Iraq; the second evaluated the raw intelligence that went into the infamous National Intelligence Estimate; the third assessed the strengths and weaknesses of intelligence analysis; and the fourth suggested improvements. Here, Kerr discusses his findings; his thoughts on the proper role and the future of the CIA; and his impressions of Dick Cheney and George Tenet."