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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Sight to See

Movie critics are prone to say, "If you only see one movie this year, make it this". However, rarely has that term been more appropriate than in the case of Charles Ferguson's self-financed documentary, No End In Sight, a brilliantly edited, calm and lucid, but utterly devastating examination of how the Bush Administration mishandled the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

You know most of the reasons for the chaos in that country, and No End doesn't present you with any new facts. But the concise and precise manner in which this documentary chronicles one catastrophic decision after another from an unfathomably incompetent, arrogant, intransigent and just plain idiotic US Administration, and the way it is so clearly and incontrovertibly argued, makes the film literally jaw-dropping to behold.

No End is compiled from interviews with military experts who were there on the ground, all of whose concerns and advice were largely ignored by the Bush Administration before, during and after the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Their insightful contributions are intercut with footage of press conferences held by former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was in effect running the operation. I didn't think it possible, but you come away from No End with an even lower opinion of Rumsfeld than you had before. On foot of the arguments here, history is sure to regard him as arguably the worst Secretary of anything in all the history of the United States. But then again, there are a lot of figures in the Bush Administration jostling for 'Worst Ever' positions, including the president himself.

All you can do is watch in disbelief and increasing anger as the damning evidence mounts: how there was zero post-war planning; how the Department of Defence ignored all advice from military experts with combat experience (unlike the cretinous quartet who planned the war, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz); the Administration's reliance on, and indeed pursuit of, dodgy and plain false intelligence to bolster their case for war; the failure to halt the looting in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam; the disastrous policy of De-Baathification that left most of the country's public sector unemployed and disenfranchised for life; the failure to guard ammunitions dumps; and, most calamitously, the decision by the Coalition Provisional Authority (who had never even visited Iraq at that point) to disband the Iraqi military not only without consulting those people trying to contain the chaos on the ground, but without even informing the State Department or even Bush himself. As the documentary spells out, this move put 500,000 soldiers on the streets, unemployed, impoverished and furious, fuelling an insurgency that they could have helped to prevent.

No End in Sight is shattering stuff, that in its profoundly depressing but essential examination of just how insanely rotten the last eight years of American "leadership" have been, predicts an even more dispiriting future for the US, the Middle East and the world, regardless of who takes over the White House in January 2009. This is almost unbearably sad to watch, but No End in Sight could legitimately lay claim to the title of film of the year - if not the decade.

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