Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No End in Sight

I'm not much of a moviegoer. The last film I saw in a theater was the Tom Cruise warrior-epic, "The Last Samurai." I wasn't expecting much, and I got what I expected. There was some nice scenery.

However, today I decided to break from my own indolence and commemorate 9-11 by taking in a matinee showing of Charles Ferguson's documentary, "No End in Sight: The American Occupation of Iraq." After purchasing my ticket, I walked into a completely empty screening room. It was a matinee, after all.

The following synopsis of Ferguson's film is taken from its website:

The first film of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into guerilla war, warlord rule, criminality and anarchy, NO END IN SIGHT is a jaw-dropping, insider’s tale of wholesale incompetence, recklessness and venality. Based on over 200 hours of footage, the film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003) as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts. NO END IN SIGHT examines the manner in which the principal errors of U.S. policy – the use of insufficient troop levels, allowing the looting of Baghdad, the purging of professionals from the Iraqi government, and the disbanding of the Iraqi military – largely created the insurgency and chaos that engulf Iraq today. How did a group of men with little or no military experience, knowledge of the Arab world or personal experience in Iraq come to make such flagrantly debilitating decisions? NO END IN SIGHT dissects the people, issues and facts behind the Bush Administration’s decisions and their consequences on the ground to provide a powerful look into how arrogance and ignorance turned a military victory into a seemingly endless and deepening nightmare of a war.

Most of this won't come as a shocking revelation at this point. George W. may be the last remaining person on Earth stubbornly unaware of the monumental bloodbath he has unleashed in Iraq. That he remains unaware can largely be attributed to his gift for ignoring unwelcome news, such as detailed intelligence documents that fail to buttress his "gut-instincts" on the war. Of course, I don't suppose we can call it a war, since major hostilities ceased in 2003.

A few teasers from the film:

The Chairman of the National Intelligence Council recalls that Bush dismissed his agency's Report on the State of the Insurgency in Iraq as mere guesswork. Bush's critique of the report was itself a matter of guesswork, since - according to the Chairman - Bush hadn't bothered to read the document. He hadn't bothered even to skim the report's one page Executive Summary. (see clip) Oddly, during this same period, the President found time for those endorphin-pumping mountain bike rides that seem to have so warped his judgement.

The decision to disband the Iraq Army was made from Washington in the space of about a week without any consultation of people on the ground in Iraq. As we know from the current debate, it is unclear whether or not the President was aware of this change of policy. The decision was made by people who, in the main, had never been to Iraq, and against the advice of just about everybody physically present there.

I recommend this film. It's always something of a comfort to see one's worst suspicions confirmed. I'm just sorry that there were so few of my fellow citizens there to share the experience. However, by the film's end, I was not entirely alone. When the lights came up, there was one other person in the theater. He rolled out of the room in a wheelchair. He looked to be in his late 50s or early 60s, and I couldn't help but wonder if he hadn't seen this story before.


Anonymous said...

The problem for the makers of films of this sort is that their impact is so minuscule.

Those who accept the truth of the almighty screw-up in Iraq will see it as confirmation of what they already believe; those who believe that some sort of democracy has been achieved in Iraq will dismiss the movie as partisan, propogandist, or as evidence of some unpatriotic conspiracy (whether they go to see the film or not).

Sadly, in neither case, are 'hearts and minds' won over, nor are attitudes changed; instead, our sense of our own rectitude and the inanity of those of opposing views is simply reinforced.

So, while it would be comforting to think that such revelatory tracts might be influential, the plain, sad, truth is that they aren't.

Black Sea said...

The function of this film isn't so much to persuade viewers that the Iraq occupation was grossly mishandled, but rather to shed some light on who, how, and why. It's one small part of the forensic process which one hopes will someday afford us a more realistic understanding of the uses and abuses of military and political power.

Part of what I was lamenting in my post was the disinclination among so many Americans to investigate what has actually happened in Iraq, this despite the fact that most Americans (77% according to a CBS News poll taken this summer) now see Iraq as a failing venture. Having reached this conclusion, they simply wish to think about something else. Apparently, our President isn't alone in his aversion to bad news.

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