Frontline on Iraq

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Who would have guessed the PBS show Frontline, regularly accused of dissing Mom, Chevrolet, and apple pie, would aired a documentary extremely friendly to President Bush's foreign policy right after the commander-in-chief issued his Iraqi ultimatum?

The Long Road to War is a genuinely interesting document, one that maps out many forgotten twists and turns taken since the Gulf War. One might have expected that the Frontline crew would have been basically anti-war, but it's really Colin Powell and his emphasis on pursuing limited, internationally agreed-upon military objectives, who emerges as the "problem" with US foreign policy, not the current set of hawks.

The Web site for the show is a rich medley of video and documents; one of the producers will be doing a live chat today via the WashPost at 11AM ET.

NEXT: War, What Is It Good For?

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  1. Lazarus Long,

    Well, that is my point. I mean, come on, are you really that dense? Why would I be incredulous unless I thought that he was in fact using such an explanation as a cover? Duh. I think you are conflating why I would go to war, with what Bush’s explanations are for war, and somehow via this disconnect you’ve come to the conclusion that I actually accept that Bush is going to war for the reason why I would go to war, which I don’t. Thus the incredulity.

    As far as your notion that the US is giving cement shoes to Saddam as a means to intimidate other thugs and tyrannies, that may be right, but again, that has little to do with terrorism.

  2. “Frontline uses independent producers more than they sue a regular staff.”

    Amusing typo.

  3. Laz is right – this operation has nothing to do with bringing democracy to Iraq, outside the soon-to-be-jaded mind of Paul Wolfowitz. We’re talking about an administration that gave a free hand to Russia in Chechnya, China in Xinjian, endoresed a coup in Venezuela, and who still call the Saudis “our allies.” These people argued before the Supreme Court that the right of Floridians to vote in fair elections was superceded by the need to prevent the instability occasioned by a court-supervised ballot count. And now we’re supposed to believe that they’d let the disposition of Iraqi oil fields and the basing rights of our military be determined by the popular will of the Iraqi people?

    When these people say, “Democracy,” think “American hegemony.” When they say, “Freedom,” think “state capitalism.”

  4. It could be your incredulity is based on the fact that Bush is “really after the oil and avenging his father” or some other horseshit rather than a logical move to increase security. If I am wrong then I appologize.

    >>As far as your notion that the US is giving cement shoes to Saddam as a means to intimidate other thugs and tyrannies, that may be right, but again, that has little to do with terrorism

  5. Well any government that can call for the continued “stability” of the Chinese government (and they don’t mean they don’t want civil strife, they mean they want the current regime to stay in power) – as both Clinton and W have – has some explaining to do. I mean these people are butchers and you want “normalized” trade relations with them? As a Chinese-American friend of mine says, if you expect China to change due to trade, then you must also expect a tiger to become a vegetarian if you feed it vegetables.

  6. Lazarus Long,

    Hmm, no, my incredulity is not due to those reasons.

  7. I am a big fan of Frontline. In the past five years, I’ve found their coverage of the Middle East to be singularly excellent.

    Unfortunately my PBS station (WGVU Grand Rapids, MI) is showing; Elvis, Chronic Pain, and the Laws of Money, along with the rest of the unwatchable Pledge Week crap. Although since this is the third consecutive week we’ve been subjected to this gruel it would be more accurate to call it Pledge Month.

    Ironically, this (lack of) programming is what will keep this long time PBS supporter from renewing my membership. I can forgive endless pinko propaganda (NOW), as long as I get the only television produced for intelligent/educated people (NOVA), as it is simply not available anywhere else. But if they refuse to air the shows I’d gladly pay for, so they can instead beg me to send them money – why the hell would I?

  8. Warren,

    Well, Bill Moyers has had the likes of the aforementioned Texas Congressman and Lew Rockwell (I know, the man is a closet neo-confederate, but still) on his program. And it least its not not Bill O’Reilly.

  9. I didn’t see it as an endorsement, I saw it in fact as an indictment of American imperialism.

    I mean, come on. We accuse Saddam of “war cimes,” but we willingly supported the extra-judicial executions of his party’s enemies in the 1960s. The fact that the Reagan administration went forward with its cynical and costly (in human life most of all) plan to keep Iraq in the war in order to check Iran is also damning.

  10. First of all this is really funny:
    “Quite frankly, the only place I ever see libertarians on TV is PBS. Which I find highly ironic.”

    Second, I can’t understand those of you that focus on the inconsistencies in American policy toward Iraq v. China, Sauid Arabia, N. Korea, Venezueala, etc. I think Iraq is step one. There will be others. W is taking an ideological stand, that’s clear to me, and this just happens to be the most convenient/easy place to start. What would you have him do? Suddenly announce that all evil dictators are enemies of the U.S., and we’ll take them all on at the same time WWF-style? Come on. You’d never have that kind of expectation of a president you supported. Argue against the war, the President, whatever, but don’t hold him to an impossible standard and criticize him for not meeting it.

  11. Okay, we are responsible for Saddam to a certain extent. But after watching this documentary, can anyone really prove the US rushed to war. Given the reluctance of C. Powell in the first conflict, I see this as a last option — Europe just disagrees with the timing.

    I’ve been convinced that containment won’t work and that it is cost the Iraqi people too much.

  12. joe,

    what is “state capitalism?”

    Capitalism (as is my shit-haired understanding) means freedom of markets with little–or, ideally NO–interference on the part of the govt save for taxation and some reasonable regulation (for health, safety and envirnmental reasons).

    So, could you define “state capitalism”, please? I already know I’m an idiot, so don’t bother reminding me 😉

  13. Spork,

    “Capitalism (as is my shit-haired understanding) means freedom of markets with little–or, ideally NO–interference on the part of the govt save for taxation and some reasonable regulation.” What you described is not “capitalism.” It is “laissez-faire.” It is a wonder of modern political maneuvering that the two are widely considered to be the same.

    Capitalism began its life as a slur hurled by Marxists at the state supported industrial economies, which were organized in such a way as to promote the interests of the propertied class by limiting the power of workers and the influence of foreign competitors. “Capital” meaning money, as in those who have money, and “ism” meaning an ideology based on favoring or promoting something. Think of “Islamism.” This ideology is so dominant in our society that the numerous interventions made by the government to benefit the capitalist class are not even noticed, and they get to argue from the moral high ground of “limited government” while benefitting from a powerful government that intervenes aggressively to promote their interests. The dominance of this ideology is so complete that the word for defending the interests of the wealthy – capitalism – has become a virtual synonymn for the word freedom.

    For example, think of tenant farmers. Even if the farmer is generating productive wealth from the land, even if he is paying an agreed upon rent, even if generations of his family’s sweat and blood have soaked into the soil on which he toils, if an owner who has never even seen the farm orders him off the land, the state will send its muscle to enforce the desires of that owner, and will spend your and my tax dollars to do so. Why? Because the ideology of protecting the interests of the property owning class has destroyed the natural right to work land that your labor has improved-to the point that this isn’t even questioned. A system of neutral-seeming contracts and laws makes this appear fair, and hides the imbalance of power, rights, and freedoms.

    For a more complete view, I’d recommend http://www.mutualist.net

    …you shit-haired idiot 🙂

  14. I’m not surprised at all. Frontline broke the story of terrorist training camps in Iraq. PBS is the fairest, most objective, and most respectful of diverse opinions of any network on TV.

  15. It was interesting the way last night’s show was edited. Taken individually, I think some of those episodes create a different impression.

  16. Well, I never said there was a “rush to war.” My point is that shortsighted and ill-thought policies have gotten into this mess, and that I am skeptical about a change in this pattern. W. can talk all day about “bringing” democracy to Iraq, the middle east, etc., but I am waiting for it to actually to happen, and I will be highly incredulous until it does happen. In other words, I’ve got no issue with rousting thugs and tyrants out of power, and bringing some justice to the less blessed parts of the planet, but I have no trust that the US government will actually do this.

  17. Wow, thanks for the education (I spent my college ECO 101 class time dry heaving from the previous night’s kegger).

    I’ve always heard that Adam Smith was “the father of modern Capitalism”, or some such epithet. Smith, I’ve gathered, was refuting the neo-feudal European industrial model by extolling the virtues of, as you say, “laissez-faire.” So, I guess I am just using the modern vernacular “capitalism” while you were referring to the “Capitalism”. (and identifying it as “state-capitalism” being the clue to yer meaning.)

    Understanding that (surprisingly); I’d say that perhaps it’s not, however, a sinister “modern political maneuvering”. “Capital”, as you say, means “money”. While Capitalism, as you’ve described it, meant “those who have money” (a Capitalist=absentee property owner profiting from the labor of others), the modern (Smithian/American) definition of Capitalism (property value and exchange according to market pressure) is just as legitimate. (I mean, “daisy cutter” doesn’t mean what it used to either!)

    All this blather has nothing to do with a post-war Iraq, of course. I guess I’m just saying that an etymology of the word “capitalism” is as relevent as it’s original usage, and that—as an arm-chair intellectual—I like to be spoken to at an American tenth grade level.

  18. I did not watch the latest Frontline. But, I have always felt that Frontline has generally done a very good job of reporting a story. Much better than you would expect from the networks or the rest of PBS’s stable of shows, which are largely editorials and commentary.

    If PBS ever loses its funding, the folks at Frontline should be able to find consumers for their product.

  19. Just to be correct, Carter encouraged Saddam to invade Iran. Yes, the born-again Baptist suggested that Iran would crumple in a matter of weeks.
    Frontline uses independent producers more than they sue a regular staff. That’s why their shows are free from PBS approved cant.

  20. Quite frankly, the only place I ever see libertarians on TV is PBS. Which I find highly ironic.

  21. >> W. can talk all day about “bringing” democracy to Iraq

  22. Lazarus Long,

    That’s the point, I am not buying its talking points. In fact, I am ridiculing them. I mean, duh, do you need someone to draw you a picture?

    BTW, this has very little to do with the global war on terror. Unless of course you think every remote threat to the US part of that war. Talk about paranoia run amok.

  23. >>That’s the point, I am not buying its talking points.>BTW, this has very little to do with the global war on terror.

  24. Smith was quite keen on pointing out that rich people would screw over those who were not rich via the government if they could get their hands on the levers of government (the same would of course apply if the opposite were true, whch Madison was right to point out in the Federalist Papers). But that really isn’t capitalism. Just because someone has a lot of money, and is willing to use some of it to get their ideas put into law doesn’t mean that they are capitalists. It just means that they are rich bastards who like to use the government’s power to coerce people for their own (sometimes admitedly good intentioned) ends (e.g., see the current Mayor of NY, Bloomberg).

  25. Smith was quite keen on pointing out that rich people would screw over those who were not rich via the government if they could get their hands on the levers of government (the same would of course apply if the opposite were true, whch Madison was right to point out in the Federalist Papers). But that really isn’t capitalism. Just because someone has a lot of money, and is willing to use some of it to get their ideas put into law doesn’t mean that they are capitalists. It just means that they are rich bastards who like to use the government’s power to coerce people for their own (sometimes admitedly good intentioned) ends (e.g., see the current Mayor of NY, Bloomberg).

  26. Joe, after all that, you STILL didn’t define STATE capitalism. You (more or less) described capitalism, but you still left us — and I think, Spork, too — hanging on the matter of STATE capitalism.

    If you’re at a loss, anyone on this forum is invited to jump in and tell us what “state-SPONSORED capitalism” is, please. (For it is that where, I believe, the confusion or ignorance lies.)

  27. Gary,

    I’d distinguish between fascist corporatism and state capitalism thusly: Fascists harness the plutocracy for the purposes of conquest, internal control, etc. State capitalists work with the plutocracy to advance a different set of interests, those being the advance of the plutocracy itself and the expansion of the conditions that benefit their interests. For example, the granting of land to railroads by the federal government was an act of state capitalism. The use of police and military to put down strikes. The use of eminent domain and tax funds to build industrial parks. The waging of war to open foreign markets. And, or course, the imposition of tarrifs on Pakistani textiles to protect domestic industry.

  28. JBourne,

    Well, by “state capitalism,” I think he may mean fascism, or maybe what is often termed “war communism,” where the state specifically directs the production, etc. of private entities.

    Capitalism with state sponsorship could obviously run the gamot from a minarchist state with “sponsorship” meaning the enforcement of contracts and the building of roads, to a state that tries to direct the economy via all measure of sticks and carrots.

  29. Also, folks like Jude Wanniski use the term “state capitalism” to describe communist economies like those of the USSR and China. I do not agree with that definition but that interpretation is also sometimes used.

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