Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No End in Sight

"There are 500 ways of doing it wrong, and only 2 or 3 ways of doing it right. Little did we know we'd have to go through all 500 ways."

Charles Ferguson's comprehensive dissection of the Iraq War is as clinical as an autopsy--and just as much fun. It's the only movie in memory that has the bodyguards and security force listed in both the front and end credits. Using news footage from a variety of sources and interviews with a comprehensive number of people who had boots in the sand (but only one of the decision makers whohad their heads there), Ferguson precisely points to the errors made by the bureaucrats in the Bush administration, who made up their minds before they had the facts, and then cherry-picked the ones (however few) that skewed with their assumptions. It's a pattern that has represented this administration from...well, probably from its inception. Rather than look at the facts and draw conclusions (what's called the "scientific" method), these officials use an Academic approach, the lawyer's approach, the PR approach, and sift the facts that much their presumptions. Then to sell it, they spin it with homilies from the glib ("stuff happens!") to the ignorant ("there is no insurgency in Iraq, but there is a high degree of domestic violence") when the results are not what they expected. And the people in charge of carrying out these pipe-dreams are the bureaucrats and neophytes who are owed a favor, and under-perform in times of crisis.

And when they resign under a cloud, they get a medal.

One gets more than a sense of blundering from No End in Sight, one gets a sense of the arrogance in the face of incompetence, and lays blame on four individuals, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, with able assistance from Paul Wolfowitz, none of whom served in the military, but asked that military to do the impossible while tying their hands.

The interviews are culled from both the U.S. and Iraq, reporters, military, active and retired, grunts and advisors, the haunted looks on their faces and the barely-contained disgust in their tones speak volumes of how success was constantly foiled by the decisions of the Bush administration and its cronies who seemed determined to follow the least effective, most destructive, most expensive path, leaving Iraq with sporadic electricity, water every other day, cities in ruin and a populace half of which is unemployed due to American actions, and the other half subject to violence and the constant threat of kidnapping and desperate to find a solution--any solution. In this chaos, with a voild in leadership, the desire for a strong leader is seen in the fundamentalist clergy, who seem destined to be the next elected leaders and the enemies of the U.S.

"I don't "do" quagmires," says Rumsfeld (twice) in the film. Wrong again. He does them exceedingly well.

No End in Sight> is a must-see, because it goes beneath the headlines that have hardly explained the war to the American public. And it goes a long way in explaining how corruption of the political system can lead to high levels of incompetence, as has been seen with both Iraq and New Orleans. And it does so without any snarky sarcasm, or cheap shots (at least none that aren't provided by the Administration's own words and actions). But there's no audience for the information. In the huge auditorium where I saw the film, there were only two people: me, and another guy.

No End in Sight is a full-price ticket.

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