Never buying into President Bush's nebulous claims of Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorism nor the production of WMD (yet to be found) that served as outward justification for the unprecedented U.S. pre-emptive attack in the cradle of civilization, I was predisposed to agree with Syriana's political agenda. However, I found its contrived plot lacking substance and craved a film that would explore these issues with more clarity. This is now available in documentary form, and quite provocative and lively format in Oscar nominated No End in Sight.
The devastating revelations in Charles Ferguson's film will come as no surprise to anyone who's read Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack or Thomas E. Ricks' Fiasco, but filmmaker Ferguson condenses the ocean of material chronicling Bush administration bungling in Iraq to a palatable 102 minutes. Eschewing Michael Moore's juxtapositions for satirical effect, Ferguson judiciously selects his material from credible inside sources to show just how poorly conceived the entire Iraq operation has been from the start. It's like a horror show guaranteed to make you mad—over 3,000 Americans have sacrificed while over 80,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed from the resulting chaos. The strength of Ferguson's film comes from its clear delivery, sifting through over 200 hours of raw footage to craft an understandable "Iraq for Dummies" primer that unfortunately has been beyond the grasp of the Bush administration.
Although central figures like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Bremer all refused to be interviewed for the film, other key operatives like Richard Armitage consented—as did important former administrators (Lawrence Wilkerson, Barbara Bodine, Paul Hughes, and others), who grew disgruntled with incompetent U.S. operations in Iraq while witnessing them first hand. What emerges since the initial days of shock and awe when many Iraqis hoped that the U.S. was bringing positive changes to their country, is a portrait of utter incompetence that has doomed George W. Bush's Iraq mission a total failure. The U.S. post war operations in Iraq put a face on the old cliché : "those who fail to plan . . . plan to fail."
A former member of the Brookings Institute and former supporter of the war, director Ferguson had sufficient trust to get the administration officials that do appear on camera to be as candid as they can be, very much parallel to Woodward's revelatory best-seller. Both sources center on Dick Cheney's office and how it was hell bent to deliberately seek links to Hussein immediately after 9/11 despite all the evidence to the contrary. Even more damaging is the ludicrous lack of planning for the crucial post-war period that we've been bogged down with over the past five years—the anarchy resulting in shifting the balance of power in the Middle East to Iran, changing once positive Iraqi public opinion towards U.S. efforts into negatives, and spawning fertile ground for continued insurgency strikes and terrorist cells.
A complete and total FUBAR situation foreseen by many competent U.S. administrators, the warnings were ignored by President Bush and his inner war council of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz (political hacks without any field of battle experience). They unwisely disbanded the Iraqi army, immediately dismissed 50,000 Bathists from employment, and refused to enforce martial law. Predictable looting and chaos resulted, and the U.S. only guarded a lone oil rig for security purposes and sent Rumsfeld to press conferences for comic relief with his rhetorical double talk (that played more like buffoonery).
With Bush and his administration sinking in public opinion polls and soon to be thankfully ousted from office, more will be willing to check out the veracity of Ferguson's No End in Sight despite its dark outlook and condemnation of U.S. policy and administration. The Academy is likely to name it Best Documentary to give it a boost in viewership; however, one thing we can learn from history is that some will never acknowledge the truth. We continue to hope that we'll learn to avoid blunders by studying history; unfortunately, the political reality remains that too often set political agendas cloud the issues and plunges nations into unnecessary wars and chaos ... and insanity.