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FRONTLINE: Losing Iraq

Airs Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: In "Losing Iraq," a 90-minute special premiering Tuesday, July 29, 2014, FRONTLINE examines the unfolding chaos in Iraq: How did we get here? What went wrong? And what happens now?

Two-and-a-half years after the U.S. pulled out of Iraq — a conflict that is projected to cost America more than $2 trillion dollars — Iraq is once again in crisis, with Islamic extremists gaining ground, civil war hanging in the balance, and the Obama administration being pulled back towards the conflict. What went wrong? How did we get here? And what happens now? On July 29, FRONTLINE presented "Losing Iraq" — a special report on the war we left behind.

Courtesy of © STRINGER/IRAQ/Reuters/Corbis

In "Losing Iraq," a 90-minute special premiering Tuesday, July 29, 2014, FRONTLINE examines the unfolding chaos in Iraq: How did we get here? What went wrong? And what happens now?

Drawing on one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism (including more than 40 reports on the war on terror), as well as new, in-depth interviews with policymakers and military leaders, the investigative team behind "The Lost Year in Iraq," "The Torture Question," "Endgame" and "Bush’s War" traces the U.S. role from the 2003 invasion to the current violence — exploring how and why Iraq itself is now coming undone.

“In reporting this documentary and tracing the history of our involvement in Iraq, it’s become clear that the crisis that’s unfolding right now isn’t the result of just one or two big decisions,” says veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk. “It’s the tragic accumulation of many mistakes and miscalculations. You see them stack up — and you see how, from the very start, nearly every step of the way, we made fateful decisions.”

In "Losing Iraq," FRONTLINE reveals the key political stories behind the Iraq war’s defining moments: from the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein, to Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, to the U.S. role in creating Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government and then trying to restrain it, and to the Sunni tribal leaders and the violent rise of the radical jihadist group, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

“You can’t understand what’s happening right now in Iraq without understanding the context of the U.S.’s involvement — how the war has been fought, both deep inside the government and on the ground,” Kirk says. “With the violence in Iraq spreading, and questions about the U.S.’s involvement and responsibility permeating the national conversation, it’s our obligation and our promise to bring that context to the public in 'Losing Iraq'.”

"Losing Iraq" is a FRONTLINE production with the Kirk Documentary Group. The producers are Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore and Mike Wiser. The director is Michael Kirk. The writers are Michael Kirk and Mike Wiser. The reporter is Jim Gilmore. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

Past episodes of FRONTLINE are available for online viewing. FRONTLINE is on Facebook, Instagram and you can follow @frontlinepbs on Twitter.

"Losing Iraq" -- Preview

FRONTLINE examines the unfolding chaos in Iraq and how the U.S. is being pulled back into the conflict. Drawing on interviews with policymakers and military leaders, the film traces the U.S. role from the invasion to today's violence, showing how Iraq is coming undone, how we got here, what went wrong, and what happens next. "Losing Iraq" premieres Tuesday, July 29 on PBS and at pbs.org/frontline.