“Don’t get mad, get even.”
--attributed to John F. Kennedy
Why is “Frontline’s” Iraq program a one-sided chronicle of Bush administration screw-ups? The enemy, it seems, is Republican—those who ruined the good America of multiculturalism, tolerance, and government programs to help the needy, who wreaked the good America that leaves other countries alone; the good America that began with the New Deal, spawned the civil rights revolution and women’s equality, and during the Clinton presidency overcame Reagan’s backlash against progressives. In 2000, this good America was poised to provide universal health care, to fight global warming, and to protect us from rapacious capitalists (Enron, Texas Oil), when Bush, after losing the popular vote, stole the White House and ruined it all.
Liberals like “Frontline’s” writer-producer-director Michael Kirk believe Bush used 9.11 to generate a “War on Terror” to help Republicans win the 2002 midterm elections. But then Bush “stepped in it.” He stupidly invaded Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein; a comical figure the world could have lived with who at least kept his Shiites under control, a faker with not a single weapon of mass destruction, and a secularist with no connection to 9.11 religious militants. By going after Saddam, Bush embraced the mistake that would undo his presidency, thereby righting the wrong of Bush’s stolen 2000 election.
The liberals Bush pushed aside had revenge on their minds. Revenge is best served cold. As in “Frontline.”
Kirk’s story of Iraq doesn’t break new ground. Instead, “Frontline” recaps the media’s years-long effort to document everything that went wrong in Iraq, even when mistakes contradict other mistakes. For example, Kirk’s experts pounded Bush for not providing overwhelming force, as the Powell Doctrine required. Then Kirk’s narrative denounced Bush for sticking with Rumsfeld, who advocated a “light footprint” in Iraq through 2006. But when Bush fired Rumsfeld and pushed through an increase in U.S. troops, Kirk’s show jumps on Bush for throwing good soldiers and marines at a hopeless cause. In short, “Frontline’s” media people attack Rumsfeld for trying to leave too soon, and Bush for staying too long.
“Frontline” criticizes Bush for having a U.S. proconsul (Bremer) run Iraq, for taking him out too early, and for backing a democratically chosen Shiite (al Maliki) who wasn’t secular and who wouldn’t have been “selected principal by your local school board.” Are we supposed to encourage democracy or frustrate it? “Frontline’s” chronicle of mistakes doesn’t seem to care.
“Frontline” scores Bush for blocking the destruction of Fallujah in 2003, thus allowing the insurgency to take root, then later attacks Bush for having destroyed Fallujah in 2004, thus discouraging Sunni participation in the January 2005 Iraqi elections (“Frontline” fails to mention more Sunni voters stepped forward in two subsequent 2005 elections). In “Frontline’s” simple world, whatever action Bush took blew up in his face. To make its point, “Frontline” ignores Fallujah today, a city run by Sunnis who back the Bush-led U.S. military and fight al Qaeda.
Iraq is bad. Bush is bad. To “Frontline”, what happens to Iraq hardly matters. Iraq’s people hardly matter. The only thing that matters is payback for Bush’s illegitimate 2000 win.