“The Surge: The Untold Story,” a short documentary film about the successful 2007 troop surge in Iraq, is set to air tonight on WHYY, a PBS affiliate in Philadelphia. While viewers will see a real war on screen, the battles that have been raging behind the scenes at WHYY have been interesting in their own right.
The film, produced by the Institute for the Study of War, takes a look at the Iraq War from a unique perspective and has received a number of favorable reviews. The documentary’s website summarizes, “The Surge: the Untold Story is the only documentary of its kind offering audiences a look into the real story of the Surge in Iraq, as told by top U.S. military commanders. These never-before-seen interviews move beyond Washington politics to tell the ground truth of a failing mission transformed into one of the most successful military operations in a generation of war fighting. This documentary honors the sacrifice, courage and ingenuity of military members in nearly impossible circumstances.”
Originally WHYY planned to feature a televised panel discussion along with the initial airing of the film. Marilyn Ware, a noted philanthropist and former ambassador to Finland, was set to host the panel composed of such influential people as Kimberly Kagan, Elizabeth Cheney, Ret. General Jack Keane, Ret. Lieutenant General James Dubik, New York Times reporter Michael Gordon, and Colonel David Sutherland. After protest from Curtis Thomsen, a loud liberal donor, and a reportedly slim RSVP list, WHYY has scrapped the panel discussion but will still be airing the film. WHYY spokesman, Art Ellis, told The Daily Caller that the station might consider hosting a panel again later in the year.
“It is basically a situation where PBS is doing the right thing by airing the show but missing the point by canceling the panel,” said the documentary’s writer and director Jason Meath. “WHYY’s intentions are good, the results just are not all the way there.”
The mover of this chain of events, former psychology professor Curtis Thomsen, has been sending myriad emails and requests to WHYY demanding they stop the program from airing. “All the members of that panel were from the Institute for the Study of War,” Thomsen told The Daily Caller. “Even though they say they are nonpartisan it is a very right wing organization.”
Thomsen is certain that Republicans are in the process of infiltrating WHYY and influencing the network’s content.
“Republicans have complained that the content of WHYY is too liberal, now people like Marilyn Ware are donating money and putting pressure on WHYY to play the things they want to see,” he said.
Addressing Thomsen’s grievances, Ellis said, “Curtis has been circulating A LOT of emails. In one he claims that Marilyn Ware is a big donor, she has not donated a cent to WHYY.”
Ellis adamantly continued, “We do not make programming decisions based on who gives money to us.”
Despite what Ellis says, Thomsen, a member of the station’s Mercury Society Silver Circle, a designation reserved for those who donate at least $2,500 a year, plans to cut WHYY out of his will.
“In my will I had planned to leave $200,000 to them. No more,” he said.
“If he were to watch the film he would see it is not a partisan movie,” Meath countered. “These are the people who made the surge a success. We do not feature politicians, this is all from the soldiers’ point of view.”
Evil republican cabal or liberal kookery aside, a film saluting our heroes on Independence Day weekend could never be a bad thing.