No End in Sight

(USA - 2007)

by Mike Lorefice

Cast: Campbell Scott
Genre: Documentary
Director: Charles Ferguson
Screenplay: Charles Ferguson
Cinematography: Antonio Rossi
Composer: Peter Nashel

Eschewing the usual rhetoric laden emotional appeals, Charles Ferguson presents a calm, clearheaded thesis on the initial mismanagement of the 3/03 invasion of Iraq that lost us the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people thus creating the ensuing problems such as the insurgence. A leftist though a millionaire who initially supported the war, Ferguson refuses to make whether we should have gone to war the issue, instead holding the administration accountable to at least doing what they decided to properly. Taking a journalistic approach, Ferguson conducted 200 hours of interviews with people who were directly involved and pieced them together into an organized, well thought out indictment of an inexperienced, arrogant, stubborn, and incredibly exclusive think tank that ignored, and often mocked, the expertise of their own military, reconstruction, and humanitarian leaders on the ground, opting instead to rush to a series of shortsighted and practically baseless decisions that rendered the region uncontrollable.

No End in Sight is very squarely an informative work, no more artistic than a PBS show, and in fact repeating many of the facts found in the Frontline episode The Lost Year in Iraq. It’s primary value lies in getting longtime diplomats and military officers who aren’t predisposed to Bush hating as they were largely their own appointees and advisors. The majority of those who aren’t consist of those who would be thought to be rightist (i.e. military). I derive distinct pleasure from seeing the Republicans criticize their own leadership because it can’t simply be written off to the usual partisanship. Of course, the fact that most are disillusioned by our failure to bring about a better, safer, and freer Iraq, and thus have an axe to grind with the administration as most resigned, were replaced, or were wounded in battle will certainly result in the right attempting to discount everything they say on those grounds. Nonetheless, the experiences of interviewees such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and former ORHA (Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance) head Jay Garner not only hold weight and bring new insight to the ongoing debate, but seem very reasonable. Their appeals are too common sense, calling for planning and equipment, asking for no less than to put the USA in a position to succeed. Barbara Bodine, for example, was appointed ORHA coordinator, but given a home base in Iraq that was devoid of such operating essentials as telephones, computers, even chairs! Regardless of party affiliation, everyone should be able to agree the USA should do better than that.

Halfway though the documentary the combination of the ineptness of the administration and their cool, casual, and pompous disregard for the well being of even their own people on the ground (examples include 1/8 of the hummers being equipped with the necessary armor) make it hard not to laugh as a defense mechanism. It’s almost unbelievable to the point of being surreal. You keep waiting for Peter Sellers to return from the grave, if only to prove we are trying to lose similar to The Duchy of Grand Fenwick in The Mouse That Roared. How could the world’s only remaining superpower be run by people who think it’s a good idea to put the Iraqi entire military and most of the professional class out of work? Getting rid of the enemy cabinet when you occupy a country is one thing, but we apparently even fired the librarians despite the fact that in order to reach a high position in Sadaam Hussein’s government you were forced to join his Ba’th party.

The primary fault of No End in Sight lies in confining itself to conducting an investigation based upon the premise that the goal was to conduct the war in the proper manner, you know, to win and secure Iraq in the quickest and most efficient manner. It’s practically akin to criticizing the Warren Commission investigation for doing a terrible job, cutting between people who tell you it wasn’t lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald in the book depository with three bullets, one of which was magic and clips of the politicians jesting off any legitimate questions about the omissions and refusing to comment on the destruction of evidence by intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities. Ferguson seems to start out with President George W. Bush as the uninformed, indifferent, and clueless figurehead who doesn’t even bother to read a 1 page summary, much less the detailed report, resulting in Ventriloquist Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld getting away with running amok. This if fine, but while I’d use a lot of words to describe Cheney & Rumsfeld, I’d never accuse them of being less than calculating, much less essentially conclude they are more or less equally out of touch and without plan. Ferguson tries to avoid anything that could be construed as a conspiracy theory, but it’s more important to uncover what exactly it is that they are trying to accomplish, and to do that you have to examine who benefits from the war.

Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers is obviously far more partisan, coming from the non-profit liberal public advocacy group, but in attempting to address the motives it likely comes far closer to the truth because unlike No End in Sight, it goes a lot further by examining the people we put in place of the disenfranchised Iraqi’s. Rather than helping Iraqi citizens by facilitating work for them, security and reconstruction were privatized with our tax dollars going to overpriced no bid contracts for US corporations such as Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater. The overwhelming number of US citizens now in Iraq are civilian employees rather than US military. Ferguson only touches upon such aspects, comparing a cheaper quickly finished construction project utilizing Iraqi citizens and a slow costly never finished one by a private contractor. Political payoffs are breached through a recent college grad whose father made a large campaign contribution being put in charge of the Baghdad traffic plan despite seemingly having no background or experience in the subject. But in general, he’d rather avoid the argument that privitization of war makes money for cronies while increasing cost, decreasing efficiency, and resulting in lesser trained mercenaries who are essentially beholden to no one becoming the face of the US in the minds of the people we are theoretically supposed to be helping. Perhaps that’s not entirely true, but for me something relating to the military industrial complex is a far more plausible reason to be there perpetually flooding tax dollars into Iraq than Bush, Cheney, Rummy, and co. all being boneheads.



* Copyright 2007 - Raging Bull Movie Reviews *