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"America Vs. Iraq" premieres Aug. 26 on National Geographic

Melissa Hayer Published: August 21, 2013

National Geographic shares the inside story of the Iraq War from the key players involved during the two-hour special “America Vs. Iraq,” premiering at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26.

Details on “America Vs. Iraq,” provided by National Geographic, are as follows:

Perhaps it’s easy to turn a blind eye to Iraq, 10 years later ‹ to look away as the Iraqi people are on the verge of another war with themselves. And to fail to notice that nearly 1,000 people were killed last month, the deadliest month in the past five years. But some at the top can look now at the Iraq War with their eyes wide open. Is it confusion? Confidence? Regret? Pride? Anger?

Never before have the big players from Washington, London and Baghdad been brought together in one program to tell the inside story of the Iraq War. “America Vs. Iraq,” a powerful two-hour film premiering at 8 p.m. Monday, August 26, on National Geographic Channel (NGC), gives new insight into the decision making in this conflict that, for a decade, has split U.S. public opinion.

From the same team at Brook Lapping Productions who created NGC’s two Peabody award­ winning films Putin, Russia and the West and Iran and the West, “America Vs. Iraq” follows the lead up to war in January 2002 through the withdrawal of U.S. troops to Iraq today.

Original interviews include Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, General David Petraeus, National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, CIA head of Iraq Operations Luis Rueda, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Iraq’s three prime ministers since the fall of Saddam: Nouri al-Maliki, Ibrahim Jaafari and Ayad Allawi. Among the former members of Saddam’s regime who tell their part in the story is Saddam’s last foreign minister, Naji Sabri, who illuminates his role in a meeting with a CIA source that convinced Washington that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

“America Vs. Iraq” goes inside the Oval Office at the moment of war. Vice President Cheney says in the film: “The president kicked everybody out except me he asked me to stay and then turned to me and said, ŒDick what do you think we should do?’” Hear Cheney describe how in January 2002 he called in the CIA to ask whether they could engineer a coup to remove Saddam Hussein. He says he was convinced that the biggest threat of another terrorist attack after 9/11 was from Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Going to the UN to demand weapon inspectors return to the country ‹ as Colin Powell and many foreign statesman demanded ‹ would “get us all tangled up,” Cheney says.

We also hear from the top Iraqis who describe the lead-up to war from their side. General Hussam Amin, Iraq’s liaison to UN weapons inspectors, says, “President Saddam Hussein sent for me. He said America and Britain would never be satisfied. They would look for any excuse to go to war. So we must play for time.”

General Raad Hamdani of the Iraqi Republican Guard recounts his pleading conversation with Saddam, telling him that their weapons were obsolete. “We don¹t have modern air defense systems. We¹ll be target practice for American pilots.”

And an Iraqi general describes why Iraq ignored orders to destroy all of their WMDs after the first Gulf War, and what they did in the following years. He explains: “We feared an attack by Iran. So we kept some weapons and hid them from the UN. We had 85 missiles that could reach Tehran. We also had the biological weapons program. And we were researching chemical weapons. Š We got the order to destroy all the hidden weapons and the equipment that hadn’t been declared. And they were actually destroyed. But he ordered us to keep no written records. Why? Because documents can leak.”

In “America Vs. Iraq,” Jay Garner and Paul Bremer ‹ the two men who, after the fall of Saddam, were sent to restore Iraq ‹ each tell their story. Garner recalls the challenges he immediately faced: “I went to the hospital Š and they didn’t have any electricity or anything. I went to the sewage facility and there was nobody there and I thought, boy, you’ve gotta get this thing working, Œcause if we don’t, we’re gonna have an epidemic.”

They describe the telephone call from Washington, in which Bremer breaks the news to Garner that he is coming to take over from him (Garner had been in Iraq for less than a month). And Bremer also describes a private meeting with President Bush when he told him that his policy of a quick departure from Iraq could not be carried out.

Then, Walter Slocombe, the Pentagon official in charge of the Iraqi defense ministry, describes how he decided that Saddam’s army must be disbanded ‹ and its soldiers not paid. Coalition Adviser Colonel Paul Hughes recalls: “I was dumbstruck. How could he have done this? You don’t take 400,000 men who know where munitions are stored all over Iraq and say, ŒYou guys are no longer relevant.” General David Petraeus recalls his conversation with Slocombe, saying, “ŒWalt, your policies are killing our soldiers.” Š that got his attention.”

In 2006, Condoleezza Rice and her British counterpart, Jack Straw, went to Baghdad to tell Iraq’s first democratically elected prime minister to resign. Straw reveals: “We were the occupying powers, we were the postcolonial imperialists trying to remove a democratically elected Prime Minister; this was tough stuff.” As Rice uses all her diplomatic skills, former Prime Minister Jaafari recalls: “Rice had never been so gentle with me. Never before had I seen her being so feminine.”

After 10 years of war, more than 4,500 American forces and more than 120,000 Iraqis have lost their lives. This year, the sectarian violence only seems to increase, placing the liberators’ dreams of a peaceful Iraq still out of reach.

“America Vs. Iraq” is produced by Brook Lapping Productions for NGC. For Brook Lapping, series producer is Norma Percy. Executive producers are Brian Lapping and Paul Mitchell. Producer/Directors are David Alter and Charlie Smith. For NGC, executive producer is Michael Welsh; vice president, production & development is Kevin Mohs; senior vice president, production & development is Noel Siegel; president is Howard Owens.


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