How many years, how many lost lives, how many readily avoidable blunders has it been now since our Commander in Chief stood on the deck of that aircraft carrier under a sign declaring “Mission Accomplished” and announced that combat operations in Iraq had come to an end? The answer to these and dozens of other questions as to just exactly how the invasion wound up bungled as badly as it has been can be found in this exhaustive and authoritative documentary from first time writer-director Charles Ferguson.
The filmmaker’s approach is virtually the reverse of the one trademarked by Michael Moore. The voice of the film isn’t the director’s. The outrage, bewilderment and contempt expressed for the architects of the Iraq disaster aren’t either. Ferguson’s masterstroke is the telling of this tragic story in the voices of irrefutable witnesses to the quagmire-in-the-making officials at the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Intelligence Council, the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps and former Bush officials such as Richard Armitage and General Jay Garner. A great many voices are heard and they all have one thing in common: a consuming incredulousness as to the way advice from experts was consistently trivialized and even dismissed outright by a small inner circle of armchair warriors with virtually no military experience.
The director pulls back the curtain to reaveal a handful of administration officials setting events in motion as though playing a game with toy soldiers, shifting the focus from those responsiblble
for the attacks on 9/11 to a dictator who was known to have no connection to Al-Qaeda whatever just for the hell of it basically and then making one staggeringly stupid mistake after another in the wake of the invasion.
Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Bremer and their assistants-with the president just barely in the loop-can clearly be seen to have themselves set the stage for the insurgency. They needed no help from Osama bin Laden. U.S. forces failed to protect the Iraqi Museum and Library resulting in the loss of the country’s national heritage while sending the message to its people that their liberators placed little value on it.
By allowing the widespread looting which followed the assault on Baghdad to continue as American soldiers looked on, the administration sent the message that its citizens would have to look to Muslim militias for protection of their lives and property.
And the stupidest move of all: By disbanding the half million-man Iraqi army (which could have been used to restore order), the war’s
planners instead sent hundreds of thousands of suddenly unemployed, angry and heavily armed fighters into the streets where American personnel continue to be blown up by them on a regular basis to this day.
“No End In Sight” is the most important film of the year thus far and, more significantly, the most comprehensive, clear-eyed account of the Iraq debacle and the arrogance behind it that we have. If it doesn’t win the Oscar for best documentary, it will only be because its studio hired the same geniuses who sold this war to handle its award season marketing campaign.