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I’ve just seen the new documentary No End In Sight. It’s a documentary about the aftermath of the Iraq war, from the point of view of the Americans on the ground trying to reconstruct it. It’s also the first movie I’ve seen that features the security contractor that guarded the film crew in Iraq prominently in the opening credits.
Their version of the story is that the Americans were, in fact, greeted as liberators for the first few days, but that the chaos of the first month after the fall of Baghdad disenfranchised and disillusioned the Iraqis. Much is made about the looting that immediately followed Baghdad’s occupation, and the filmmakers go so far as to imply that the military knew about it and made a conscious decision to allow it, underestimating the scale of the damage to Iraq’s infrastructure. When the bureaucrats arrived to run Iraq’s institutions they found there were none left. The government buildings where the records were kept had burned down, the rest had been gutted and stripped down to the rebar in the walls. The interim government had no phones, let alone computers.
Throughout the first year of Iraq’s liberation, power was handed from unqualified person to unqualified person, few had any experience or even fewer spoke the language. Edicts were handed down from Washington that contradicted the reality on the ground, few more so than De-Ba’athification and disbanding the Iraqi army, decisions that threw hundreds of thousands of trained military men, as well as engineers, doctors and teachers, out on the street and barred them from any future civil service in the new governement.
No End In Sight is a slow motion train wreck, coldly narrated by the individuals who were ordered to stand by and watch it happen. I was familiar with most of the facts, but what surprised me was how close the US came to making it work. Since the story is told by US intelligence and military insiders, they claim that they were doing their jobs perfectly but that a few key decisions made by a small group in Washington brought about the disastrous, yet entirely predictable insurgency.
Unlike a Michael Moore film, No End In Sight has no sense of humour, but it shares Moore’s need to hear the truth from the people on the ground. It doesn’t have the emotional subplots of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, nor does it propose any solutions, but the film presents its evidence and reaches its inevitable conclusion with the same methodical process of educating the audience and leading us by the hand behind the curtain of propaganda and mass media “common” knowledge.
It’s still only playing in select cities, but the list of cities is growing. Check it out and decide for yourself.