'Uncovered' makes a powerful case for impeaching Bush
"It's not just those of us who've been privileged to serve, actually, in the government who are the patriots," says former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner near the end of Uncovered: the War on Iraq. "It's every citizen who respects and honors the fact that we have such a wonderful country." This sentiment and Turner's credentials are what make Robert Greenwald's button-down exposé revolutionary. Uncovered is a protest film driven by team players, true believers in American democracy and the free market, from Thomas E. White, who President George W. Bush nominated Secretary of the Army, to former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman, to former Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay, to now-familiar faces Richard Clarke and Joseph Wilson. More than two dozen foreign policy experts, intelligence professionals, and public servants calmly profess their outrage at the Bush administration, offering facts and analysis to back their claims that Bush and his staff knowingly misled Congress and the public to gain support for the war in Iraq.
Uncovered lacks the visual panache of Fahrenheit 9/11, and Michael Moore's gleeful anger as he turns the tools of the spin trade against its greatest practitioners. But it also largely avoids the criticism leveled at Moore, that he used editing and innuendo to exaggerate his case against Bush. Instead, Greenwald offers us a somber, almost point-by-point case for impeachment. "The most troubling thing about the fact, the distortions, and the misleading statements that Bush gave Congress is that it is a federal felony," intones former Nixon counsel John Dean, a man who ought to know. "It's a crime to mislead and distort information to present to the Congress." The impressive roster of witnesses for the prosecution is arrayed like an armada against the Bush administration's phalanx of prevaricators whose greatest hits (remember, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"?) are replayed for rebuttal: Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Bush himself, and then-CIA Director George Tenet.
One of the many disturbing developments that emerges during the film is the extent to which Bush's White House has taken control of the CIA - which was housed in Langley to preserve some independence from Washington's influence - and Tenet played along. Ray McGovern, a professorial 26-year veteran of the CIA who now runs an inner-city ministry group, watches with dismay as Tenet stands behind Powell during his pivotal February 2003 speech to the U.N. "That was a terrific blow to the morale of the CIA analysts," he says. Tenet regularly accompanied senior CIA analysts on their daily presidential briefing, a new practice under Bush, McGovern says.
News clips revisit Rice, Rumsfeld, and Bush as they reassure Congress and the American public that they are certain Saddam Hussein possesses biological and chemical weapons that pose an "imminent threat" to the U.S.; then Greenwald's experts testify that the CIA knew that Hussein's sarin gas and anthrax stores had long outlived their shelf life. Powell had to know, demonstrates another analyst, that the slides he showed the U.N. of Iraq's alleged WMD manufacturing sites were inconclusive at best and intentionally misleading at worst. Free of the rules of the courtroom, the director is sometimes able to make the defense testify against itself: "There are a lot of people who lie and get away with that," Rumsfeld croaks at a press briefing, "That's just a fact." Now that, I believe. •
By Elaine Wolff