What are we doing in Baghad? No End in Sight addresses the question not in terms of why we invaded Iraq (illusory weapons of mass destruction, specious link to 9/11, pretense of creating democracy), but of exactly what American leaders did to turn Iraq into an anarchic abattoir. It begins in May 2003, when George W. Bush proclaimed an end to major combat, and, cutting between news footage and interviews with government officials, journalists, scholars, and uniformed personnel of sundry ranks, tells the dismal tale of how Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon succeeded in the daunting task of nation-wrecking. Arrogance, ignorance, cronyism, corruption, and incompetence transformed a military victory into a civil debacle. With the acquiescence of the president and collaboration of the vice president, Rumsfeld and his cabal, men with minimal experience in combat or occupation, seized control and, ignoring the State Department and the CIA, blundered their way into chaos. The occupation authority allowed looters to plunder Baghdad and demoralize the population. When American overseers purged Ba’ath Party members from civil-service positions, they created widespread unemployment and resentment, undermining reconstruction. By dissolving the Iraqi army, they fueled a violent insurgency.
Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, and J. Paul Bremer, the clueless autocrat who ran the Coalition Provisional Authority, refused requests for interviews. But Charles Ferguson, a scholar making his first film, captures the incredulity, exasperation, and anger of many who worked closely with them — including Barbara Bodine, an American ambassador who struggles to be diplomatic in recalling her government’s ineptitude in Iraq; General Jay Garner, Bremer’s predecessor in charge of the occupation; Colonel Paul Hughes, director of strategic policy for the occupation whose strategic counsel was scorned; Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell; and Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state. No End in Sight begs the question whether we should have invaded Iraq. But it leaves no question that hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of billions of dollars spent because Americans in charge did not know what they were doing. Now we, at least, know.
No End in Sight
Writ. & dir. Charles Ferguson (NR)