No End in Sight

No End in Sight

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            How many of us have watched the news, or listened to reports on the Iraq war and asked ourselves “How could it have gotten this bad?” Charles Ferguson’s new documentary “No End in Sight” details, event by horrifyingly blundered event, just how and why the entire country was thrown into a half-bombed-out bedlam run by heavily-armed militias and extremist clerics, all at the hands of an incompetent and uncaring American government.

            I was following the events of the war pretty closely. The razing of Fallujah, the destruction of the museums, the bombing of the UN embassy, but “No End in Sight” really effectively summates all the horrors from day one, making the entire bungled affair seem clear and understandable. And, by extension, utterly terrifying.  It would be funny, were it not for all the death.

 

            What’s amazing about our involvement in Iraq is not that the Bush administration decided to go there for no good reason, or that the advertised objective keeps changing, or that people are being killed there every day. The amazing thing is that when given a certain decision about where to head, the administration would persistently and frustratingly always make the worst possibly choice. They wanted to invade Iraq, so they gave a small group of non-experienced, non-Arabic-speaking officials about 50 days to plan it (the WWII invasion of Germany was planned for about 10 years). They sent troops over to take down Baghdad, but didn’t send over enough troops to protect the Ba’ath government buildings that were inevitably looted by a now lawless people. Public buildings like libraries and museums were gutted. Seeing burned out libraries, or missing artifacts from the most ancient known period of human history (Iraq was once known as Uruk, the setting for Gilgamsh) made me weep. The only building that the troops were able to protect was (surprise, surprise) the oil ministry.

 

            Most daunting, though, was when the U.S. decided to disband Iraq’s military. Hm… So, we can use a local force, which speaks the language and knows the country and is already part of a government that desperately needs to be rebuilt… or we can fire them all, use unprepared soldiers in poorly armored vehicles, and not really give any thought as to what all the unemployed soldiers will now do. Certainly they won’t join any of the hundreds of willingly violent militias springing up all over the country.

 

            And, of course, the Iraqis are well armed. None of the weapons stores that we helped Saddam Hussein build up (we gave him arms back when he was fighting Iran) were protected to any degree when we decided to tear him down. The Iraqis pretty much have a bottomless well of guns, ammunition, rockets, and bombs.

 

            The film is told through interviews with generals, war planners, ex White House chiefs of staff, and others involved in the planning. Most have come forth to explain the mistakes that were made, although one or two foolishly are still trying to defend what’s going on over there. The general consensus made by the film is that the war was planned and hatched by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Condoleezza Rice, none of whom have any war experience, and was either co-planned, or merely enthusiastically supported by the president (Bush is never directly blamed; it’s not too clear if he’s a mastermind, or just the one with the approving signature).

 

            We’ve put ourselves in a position where Baghdad is now ruled by the U.S., local grassroots democracies, various Islamic clerics, various militias, while large sections have no law at all. Seeing a map of who controls what looks like a smashed cereal bowl. It makes the City of God look like Pleasantville. No one can pull out, but at the same time, nothing can be accomplished by staying. There really is no end in sight.

 

            A film like “No End in Sight” could easily be accused of preaching to the choir; perhaps only people already against the Iraq war will see it. I was surprised, though, at how complete, clinical, and comprehensive it was. It’s certainly not defending anything we’re doing over there, but it’s not trying to ruffle any feathers. It’s not at all a polemic, it’s a history. A sad, sad, unfortunate history of the last few years. No matter where you “stand” on the Iraq war, you owe it to yourself to see this film, and be informed as possible on it. Is there a solution?

 

            A quote from the film: “There were about 500 ways to do this wrong, and about two or three to do it right. What we didn’t know is that we were going to go through all 500 first.”

             The film was narrated by Campbell Scott.

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Published in: on August 9, 2007 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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