End in Sight – A Movie Review
By Alice Embree
No End in Sight by Charles Ferguson is a powerful documentary. It will chill you to the bone. It is not, however an antiwar film.
If you have read The Assassins’ Gate by George Packer, much of this will be familiar terrain. Packer is featured prominently in this tale. The documentary explains that there was no credible connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 and then goes on to detail the Iraqi dictator’s abuses. The unilateral intervention that collapses the Hussein government is not the focus of this movie. Instead, we watch the agonizing post war blundering – the Paul Bremer aftermath. All you really need to know about the scale of the blundering is Katrina – incompetence and arrogance writ large – in blood and explosions not death by drowning.
The documentary is riveting. The director’s access to Richard Armitage, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson and other officials is compelling. It is reminiscent of the director’s skill with the story of Enron’s collapse in his previous work, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The director shines a laser beam at the arrogance and incompetence of the Bremer era. It is clear, as it was with The Assassins’ Gate that this war was lost in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by August 2003. It’s all over but the inexorably mounting death toll and the shouting about surges.
I suspect that many oppose the war on the grounds this film gives for opposition. It just wasn’t done right. Too few troops, not enough armor on the Humvees, and as this film demonstrates, post war blundering carried out by incompetent, true believers like Wolfowitz. If you don’t want to think Katrina, then think Justice Department. The administration was sending in young Republicans just out of college. They were closeted in the Green Zone designing traffic grids and banking systems while the electricity and water went to hell outside.
The film avoids many of the most sinister aspects of this war. In Vietnam, a generation with a draft took the war personally, while in this war, much is outsourced. We outsource indirectly to the working poor who volunteer and literally to the contractors who profit. This was part of the Neocon model from the beginning and the rationale for small troop levels. The number of contractors – 45,000 – mentioned in the film is nowhere near the number that the Nation has reported.
The role of oil in this war is given scant attention. At the end of the film, the price tag for the war includes the rising cost of gasoline, but the film never focuses on the fact that oil companies enjoy historic profits from the ongoing disruption. Nor does the film mention Iraqi opposition to the Oil Law which is always depicted by U.S. media as a means to “share” oil wealth among the Kurds, Shia and Sunni. In fact, the law privatizes this national resource. That gives a whole new meaning to the word “sharing” when you realize that international oil companies are the “sharees.”
This film leaves you with no doubt about the failures, but it builds a case for an alternative – if we had only used the “best and brightest,” those with Middle East experience, military background, Arabic language skills, then the debacle could have been avoided.
No End in Sight leaves you with the sense that what went wrong was not the hubris of unilateral intervention, but the post war incompetence. But, isn’t it all part of the same arrogant package laced with greed? Just as we filled the boots of the French colonialists in Vietnam, aren’t we now standing in the boots of British colonialism in Iraq? At least in the minds of Iraqis – we are the occupiers.