The War in Review

I realize I may register to your ear more like white noise in recommending to you the documentary on the Iraq War No End In Sight. Surely we've all mused on the misinformation and severely illogical decision-making which led us into this war in the first place and the systematic disregard for advice which keeps us there still. But somehow the experience of living through the time of the Iraq war, however critical, still does not leave me with a true understanding of the diplomatic and military processes whose sum is this mess of a reconstruction and occupation. In bits and pieces, congressional authorizations and troop movements over the course of the past five years are depressing but capable of digestion. Seeing these steps together, as missteps upon missteps is another thing entirely. It seems unnecessary to further encourage the near two thirds of the American people who already oppose the war to see a film which will likely turn their stomachs. And even less challenging to suggest it to you, FH Reader, as common sense tells me that you are even more likely to oppose the war than the average American.

But see it anyway. See it if only out of respect for the estimated 600,000+ of Iraqi civilian casualties estimated to date as a result of US invasion. Or for the nearly 4,000 American troop casualties. Or for the $1.8 trillion projected to be spent on the war by the time the country is stable enough for the United States to leave.

On the one hand, the film succeeds largely by letting the facts speak for themselves. You will not find any Michael Moore style cram-it-down-your throat liberalism. There aren't activists or Iraqi people on any soapboxes, leading what would be an easy beratement of American atrocities, diplomatic or otherwise. The film is mostly suits: interviews with bureaucrats, top officials of the Defense Department discussing their own experiences trying to work for a free and democratic Iraq. To supplement the diplomatic interviews, Director Charles Fergusson includes several soldiers and marines who served as well as American journalists who arrived in Baghdad shortly after the invasion. This particular choice on the part of the filmmaker makes the film more compelling than most, hearing the extreme criticisms of the anti-war movement instead spoken from the lips of those most likely to defend and champion Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I don't really know how to elaborate on the substance of the movie without doing it a disservice, as the movie so precisely captures what went so terribly wrong. I do, however, want to mention that in two different places, Fergusson includes the [controversial] footage of contract soldiers' mutilated bodies dragged through a city street to the sound of cheering crowds. He uses it to discuss the direction of the war and the relations between American forces and the Iraqi people at a certain point. Seeing it in such a context and now realizing what foreshadowing might have been gleaned, recalls to memory the reaction of the American public at the time of its release by domestic news media back in April 2004. Do you remember how people let out such a shout about seeing war atrocities committed against American soldiers on tv? Especially in the course of this documentary, that whole episode seems so tragically besides the point. Upon seeing the footage we should have screamed about what the hell was happening in Iraq in the name of "reconstruction" and instead we were preoccupied with our endless and blind patriotism--in this case supporting military honor at all costs.

Anyway, I don't want to keep you here and reinvent the meaning of the documentary's title. But. Sometimes amidst whatever else is currently filling your days, it's good for us to remember what it is that is shaping the world. Especially when it is the single thing that most defines the international reputation of the nation to which you belong.

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