August 13, 2007



"When we started reconstruction, we joked that there were five hundred ways to do it wrong and two or three ways to do it right. What we didn't understand was that we were going to go through all five hundred." -- Ambassador Barbara Bodine

If you’re in the mood for a cheery, escapist summer movie with lots of special effects and a happy ending, don’t even watch this film’s trailer. But if you’re sick of our propaganda-heavy TV news, you’ll be shocked and informed by this fact-heavy series of interviews with military and intelligence agents who tell the tale of the botched war effort in Iraq. I’m not really going to comment much on the style of the documentary. Though there are plenty of arresting and moving images and you do get to hear some Iraqi voices for a change, it’s a very basic, dry and not particularly stylish documentary.

If you want a more comprehensive, less biased review, here’s a excerpt of TIME magazine’s:

“That said, prepare to be riveted: No End in Sight, Charles Ferguson's first film, is without question the most important movie you are likely to see this year. It is not a film that simply massages your pre-existing attitudes about the war in Iraq. Rather it is a work that tells you things you almost certainly did not know about that disaster or things that have been lost to sight as chaos, anarchy and our feelings of helplessness have grown over the years since the invasion of 2003. Specifically, what it says is that the war was lost by the "coalition" in its first month — when U.S. forces failed to protect the Iraqi museum and library, among 20 other invaluable cultural, social and political sites.”


You’d have to be an idiot to need reminding that going into Iraq was a farce in the first place since there were no weapons of mass destruction found and no connection between Al Quaeda, the perpretators of 9/11, and Saddam Hussein. But you may not have realized that Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and other hawks consistently ignored their own agencies’ research and intelligence to push through their plans to invade in Iraq. Several of these warmongering goons were the architects of the first attack on Iraq under Bush Sr, and were determined to finish the job and attack Iraq well before 9/11 gave them an excuse which the American public, reeling from grief, would accept. A poor excuse, but one which many Americans still believe. (I’ll never forget a young guy on a bus explaing to his girlfriend, “Yeah, they couldn’t find Osama so they went over to his country and got rid of their king.”) Sadly, that’s how simple many Americans are. And with the news acting as such an effective pro-war propaganda machine, you can’t always blame the people who for having misconceptions. Two bastions of the “liberal media”, CNN and the NY Tmes both publicly apologized—when it was too late--for not asking tougher questions on the invasion of Iraq.

But what you may be startled by is some of the ways in which
this war was mishandled, time and time again. The facts and figures were coming so quickly that I couldn’t grasp them all, but here are a few which stuck out. This is really more of a summary than a review, but to see all of these the facts/opinions from the major players of the Iraq “reconstruction” packed into 102 minutes is a powerful and damning glimpse inside a corrupt and careless administration.

Initially, we were welcomed by Iraqis as liberators.

This view changed when widespread looting broke out, and American soldiers did nothing to stop it. (They were too busy looking for WMD and Saddam.) Though scholars begged the military to protect a library containing some of the oldest manuscripts in the world and a museum full of ancient, priceless artifacts, the only thing our boys protected was the oil. So gangs were free to plunder these treasures and did.

Bush didn’t read the many dossiers produced by his own intelligent agencies which warned that invading Iraq would result in civil war. The dunce wouldn’t even read the one page executive summary provided for him! When the NY Times reported on the dire warnings from Bush’s own staff, he dismissed the reports he’d never read as “guesswork”. Excuse me, honey, but if you refuse to read the reports of your own agents regarding the aftermath of your attack, aren’t you the one doing the fucking guesswork? Kinda reminds me of that old redneck Vietnam slogan I heard growing up: “Kill ‘em all an then sort them out later.” It’s typical of Bush’s schoolyard bully approach to foreign policy with no foresight or responsibility. Just attack. The footage which shows Bush proudly bobbing his head when he proclaimed “Mission accomplished” in uniform aboard that ship makes him look like a revoltingly cocky red-neck rooster who’s just ousted his competition in the hen-house. I’d seen the footage before, but the man’s body language, particularly in light of the hollowness of his “victory”, really is disturbing on a big screen.

ORHA, headed by Barbara Bodine, was the first US envoy sent to govern post-war Iraq. Very well respected with experienced in the Middle East, Barbara was floored by the lack of preparation which she was faced with. Her posse only first met at the Pentagon 50 days prior to their departure, and she joked about the chaos which welcomed her: “We didn’t even have a phone list—but it didn’t matter since for the first few days we had no phones.” Barbara was fired for being “difficult.”

There were 5 interpreters who spoke Arabic. (And you may recall that one or more interpreters were relieved of their duties for being gay, despite the severe shortage of interpreters.) But why would you bother to communicate with someone who might disagree with you? It’s easier to just kill ‘em!

Again and again, Bush-appointed official were relieved of their duties when they didn’t cow-tow to the White House’s hawkish agenda. From distinguished generals Jay Garner and Shinsekei, who recommended from the start that many more troops were needed to secure the region. In comparison to the number of boots on the ground deemed necessary for other recent military occupations, the amount of troops authorized by the Pentagon for Operation Iraqi Freedom—yeah, freedom from water and electricity—was a fraction of what was needed. Which confirms my suspicions that the war machine wasn’t just inept, their goal is chaos in the region which isn’t going to end—hence the flick’s name…

An American professor visiting Iraq was surprised to bump into one of his students in the Palace. When he asked her what she was doing there--she’d just graduated--she told him that she was in charge of organizing Baghdad’s traffic. The professor expressed shock that this totally inexperienced recent graduate would be given such a daunting task. Many such inexperienced appointees to Iraq got government jobs as payback for their daddy’s campaign contributions to Bush.


The most disastrous appointment was Jerry Bremer, who in lock-step with the Bush administration, enacted several devastating changes.

All members of Saddam’s Baathist party were immediately fired. This intensified the chaos, ridding the country of it’s civil servants, librarians, and everyone who else who made the country run smoothly. Well, as smoothly as Saddam’s brutal dictatorship ever ran.

Then Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, which sent 100,000 disgruntled, unemployed armed men into the streets filled with hatred towards their occupiers. The groundwork for the insurgency was laid. At the time, the Americans still were not really protecting against the peace. They were too busy busting in the doors of Iraqi families in the middle of the night to arresting large numbers of military-aged men—just for being of military age. In a country in which women don’t usually work, these arrests yanked away families’ breadwinners, adding yet another gripe of US forces. Because of the looters frequent raping and kidnapping of children, women had already stopped driving and largely stayed indoors.

Also left unguarded were huge stockpiles of weapons left by Saddam, to which the thugs helped themselves, despite repeated warnings to US officials that they must secure them. (Duh!) I suppose the film was finished before recent figures were released which show that 180,000 US weapons were “lost.” If I’m not mistaken, there was also a massive amount of US funds unaccounted for recently. Aren’t you glad your tax dollars are being spent so wisely?

Adding to the craziness, 45,000 US contractors set up shop in Iraq to profit off of the war—another reason I think that this war will never end--it makes companies like Halliburton too much money. To give you one example of how these no-bid contractors are robbing us blind, two similar buildings were erected. One by a using local Iraqi labor and one by Parsons. The first cost $600,000, the second over $2,000,000. (I think I got this figure right. It might have been $200,000 for the first figure.) Which would you rather pay? Americans get so excited over the idea of tax cuts. I wonder how much each of these losses could have tacked onto our refunds?

The independent contractors also have their own security forces, which are free from the rules which dictate the US military’s conduct. They’re able to shoot and kill as they please and the documentary actually obtained a home video from one of the contractors’ security which shows them joy-riding around with country music blaring as they shot out cars on the highway.

This private militia was probably armed better than the US soldiers, though the US spends more on defense than every other nation combined. In one memorable scene, a soldier asks Rumsfeld at a press conference why they don’t have armored humvees. The large group of his fellow soldiers burst into applause at the voicing of a question, concerning their safety, which was obviously on all of their minds. Rumsfeld responds with his famous line “You don’t go to war with the army you want, you go to work with the army you have.” Well, Rummy, if you really cared about the soldiers welfare, maybe you’d wait until you I have proper equipment before you invade—I mean liberate a nation.

One marine recalled how at one point, desperate for armor, the troops would try to pick pieces of bullet-proof glass and metal from wrecks to paste onto their cars to make them a little bit safer. He wondered why all of the car companies closing in the states from lack of business couldn’t be resuscitated as producers of armored humvees. Good point! At the end of the film, this earnest young marine asks “Is this the best America can do?” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

I’m a confirmed peacenik who has never supported the war in Iraq. But this documentary actually made me respect the military more. There ARE intelligent, responsible men and women in these intelligence agencies giving the president sound advice, which he promptly ignores. If he even reads it! (Did I mention that I think that winning for Bush is de-stabiizing the Middle East?) And there are very honorable soldiers who want to defend the US against a perceived threat. Too bad there wasn’t one in Iraq, the war that we’re still fighting years after victory was declared. And with a proven liar like Bush as your commander-in-chief of our military, you’re just a pawn In his greedy quest for oil. One soldier with facial scars, tormented by epileptic fits since his return home from duty, expresses his hope that the Iraq war will be won so he can feel that his suffering was for something meaningful. I hope he’ll settle for something that’s just plain mean.

I feel like I’ve given a lot of the movie away, but since it has a very limited release, many of you may never get a chance to see it. One other point which resonated with me was that due to the economic hardship resulting from the US trade embargo against Iraq throughout the Bush, Sr. and Clinton administrations, the Iraqi people turned to fundamentalist religion to comfort them in their time of financial need. With our own country sinking lower and lower into debt largely because of this war, I wonder if that’s why our nation seems increasingly fundamentalist Christian? Maybe Bush was taking better notes on policies in Iraq than anyone imagined. To use them on us. Hallelujah!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

christianity brings me no comfort, but i'm not a southerner or other type of moron

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That statement kind of declares that you are a moron!

9:50 PM  
Blogger Star Queen said...

Do "No End In Sight" rhyme with the movie "Zeitgeist?"

3:59 PM  

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