Four stars (NR)
At this point, the vast majority of Americans agree that the Iraq war is a disaster. There is still spirited argument over whether it was a mistake in the first place and God knows there is vast disagreement over how the conflict should be resolved, but most people agree that when it comes to the Iraq war, the powers-that-be really screwed things up. No End in Sight explains how. Charles Ferguson, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, meticulously details the mismanagement of the war through interviews with people who were directly involved.
What does the documentary reveal? That there was plenty of solid cautionary information available, but it was not heeded — or in some cases, not even reviewed — because the small group of people making the big decisions were too busy charging full speed ahead, despite the fact that they didn’t know all that much about Iraq and they didn’t know all that much about waging war.
After a brief history lesson, the film jumps to the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein, to George W. Bush’s infamous speech in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner, and tries to sort out how the apparent victory turned into what it turned into. A parade of talking heads follows, but the film never feels dry. Ferguson and his crew keep things moving at a good clip, cutting from one interviewee to the next as the portrait of bullheadedness and incompetence on a massive scale emerges.
Interviewees include former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell; Gen. Jay Garner, the first coalition administrator of occupied Iraq; and others who were directly involved in the war, along with numerous experts, analysts and scholars, plus some American officers and soldiers who served in Iraq.
If you were put off by Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, rest assured that No End in Sight is a traditional documentary without any zippy high jinks. Ferguson doesn’t grandstand and, while the film has a clear point of view, there is no ideological bullying here.
I hope a lot of you decide to see this movie. I wish everyone connected with the war was required to see it. I’ve avoided going into the many specific points made by the film, because you should hear them yourself, properly explained by the people who know. If only the White House had listened to these people.
The scariest thing about No End in Sight is the truth of its title. The Bush Administration continues to plow forward with their agenda, despite the protests, despite the lopsided election results, despite the calls for change from their own party. Most experts agree that, to avoid triggering even more chaos and death in Iraq, any withdrawal will have to be slow and thoughtful. Slow and thoughtful. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. My God, what a mess.