August 13, 2007
An Iraq Documentary
Based on Facts, Not Michael Moore-Style Cheekiness
Want to know what
caused post-war Iraq to melt down the way it has, without reading any of
the innumerable 700-page books that tell the same story? See the new
documentary “No End in Sight,” entering wide release this week. Directed
by Charles Ferguson, it tells the story both convincingly and very
briskly – without the condescending sneer that’s become synonymous with
Bush-era political films.
follows the first year after the invasion and the massive bungling that
followed, with one authority after another – Democrat and Republican,
military and civilian – testifying about the Bush administration making
one blunder after another, mostly because they failed to listen to those
on the ground.
“No End in Sight”
helps get across just how Iraq turned into what is likely an
unsalvageable disaster, a fact that is by now completely obvious to
anyone who is honest, or at least to anyone not on the editorial staff
of the Weekly Standard.
We’re taken through the first few months of the occupation, as the
Americans stand by while ancient artifacts are looted, violence begins
cresting and civil authority begins breaking down. Then, in what was
ultimately the war’s most disastrous decision, Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) Chairman Paul Bremer disbands the Iraqi army, leading
almost directly to the creation of the Sunni insurgency.
decisions include the staffing of CPA with GOP political hacks,
including (in one anecdote) the 20-something daughter of a Bush
contributor being put in charge of directing car traffic in Baghdad, and
a series of instances in which the people on the ground in Iraq were
overruled by people in Washington who had never been to Iraq, knew
nothing about the Middle East or post-war construction and did not speak
a word of Arabic.
A litany of books
making all the same points have been released in the last few years,
including Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco,” David Corn and Michael Isikoff’s
“Hubris” and James Fallows’s “Blind Into Baghdad.” Anyone who has read
them will know the story by now. Still, it’s refreshing to actually see
the people involved tell the stories of what went wrong – especially
people who were actually there. You can see the frustration in the eyes
of a man like Col. Paul Hughes, who clearly wanted to do right by the
Iraqis and was prevented from doing so by clueless bureaucrats.
thing that’s refreshing about “No End in Sight”. It’s missing the
cheekiness, the preaching-to-the-choir certainty, the preening, the
shallow attempts at humor and the ethically questionable editing choices
that audiences have come to expect from political documentaries, thanks
to the foul influence of Michael Moore and his numerous imitators.
While Ferguson is
interested in telling the story of how the Bushies bungled the
occupation, what he’s not interested in doing is making larger
pronouncements about every American political disaster of the past
century, or of tying the Iraq war either to some deficiency in the
American character, or to mysterious, sinister ulterior motives.
Contrast this with Moore, who laughably alleged in "Fahrenheit 9/11"
that the U.S. really invaded Afghanistan not because of Bin Laden, but
over a pipeline – one that was never actually built.
The success of
Moore’s last few films have led to a series of documentaries seemingly
aimed at getting urban liberal audiences to have their exact political
opinions spewed directly back at them, so that they can see a treatment
of complex political issues without being challenged in any way
self-congratulation has even started to spill over into action-adventure
features. The almost universally-praised "The Bourne Ultimatum"
continued the trend that every major Hollywood action-adventure movie
has to "commentate on current events" by including both 1) a torture
scene and 2) a cackling bureaucrat villain obviously modeled on Dick
While “No End in
Sight” will certainly serve to reinforce – correctly – most of the
viewpoints of its viewers, the audience I saw it with laughed derisively
at Cheney and Rumsfeld every time they appeared on screen. It doesn’t
make cheap shots, and not a single moment of it is argued dishonestly or
in bad faith.
“Can’t America do better than this?” asks a soldier who served in Iraq,
in the film’s closing moments. That’s a question that infuses the heart
of “No End in Sight”, and it’s one that Moore, a man more invested in
showing just how much better every other country is – would never even
think to ask.
© 2007 North Star Writers
Group. May not be republished without permission.
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