'Frontine' takes a sweep look at Iraq war
Steve Johnson
`Frontline' takes a sweeps look at Iraq war
Thu Feb 12 14:06:36 2004


`Frontline' takes a sweeps look at Iraq war
By Steve Johnson
Tribune television critic

February 12, 2004

After last week's obligatory nod to sweeps month with the rebroadcast of its very careful look at "American Porn," PBS' "Frontline" Thursday starts a run of meaty episodes of the kind that have made this TV's top investigative series.

Two of them look at the Iraq tangle, beginning with Thursday's "Beyond Baghdad" (8 p.m., Chicago WTTW-Ch. 11-PBS), correspondent Martin Smith's enlightening and, ultimately, depressing exploration of American interactions outside the Iraqi capital, taped in November.

The second, "The Invasion of Iraq," airing Feb. 26(PBS), will try to offer a "definitive television history of America's most recent war." "Frontline" has been incisive on Iraq thus far, and there's no reason to expect an attempt to detail the war's hows and whys will fall under the weight of its ambitions.

In between, next Thursday, Smith again leads an investigation, this time into the corporate tax shelters, illegal and otherwise, that shift the burden of U.S. taxation onto the less sophisticated, costing wage slaves like you and me an average of 15 percent extra, according to one expert estimate. (Feb. 19th - PBS)

In "Beyond Baghdad," Smith accepts the top U.S. administrator's challenge to reporters that they need to get out of Baghdad to tell the real and balanced story of the occupation. He does, and he finds little cause for optimism.

At key points in trying to win hearts and minds, American military commanders ran out of money, they tell Smith. The good humor and good intentions of the U.S. military men and women interviewed here are impressive, but there's also a sense of fatalism to their remarks: We're doing what we can, but who knows?

Iraqi factionalism is so bitter, people's fears of what may happen under democracy so extreme, Smith says, that "even if the Americans do everything right, the problem is, it may not be enough. The whole experiment can still fail."


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