Movie review: Shock and awe with 'No End in Sight'

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2007 - 4:16 PM

"No End in Sight" casts a cool eye on the administration's failures in Iraq.

It's the thesis of the Iraq documentary "No End in Sight" that the insurgency that has killed thousands of Americans was not an unavoidable consequence of our military presence, but the product of unrealistic policies imposed by Department of Defense officials who didn't put much faith in their most experienced officers' advice.

The people pressing those charges are not second-guessing outsiders but former senior advisers to the Bush administration, including deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, reconstruction czar Gen. Jay Garner, Colin Powell's chief of staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson and ambassador Barbara Bodine. The picture they paint is of a Katrina-style failure of leadership on an international scale, with inexperienced political appointees making ill-considered decisions with huge repercussions.

National Intelligence Council chairman Robert Hutchins reports with scarcely concealed frustration that President Bush would not even read one-page briefings on the situation. "We watched our careful planning, our detailed planning, essentially discarded," the State Department's Wilkerson said. In Bodine's words, "There were 500 ways to do it wrong and two or three ways to do it right. What we didn't understand was, we were going to go through all 500."

The program to disband the Iraqi army overnight, for example, created a force of half a million jobless, angry, armed men looking for ways to use their military training. And lack of postinvasion protection for Iraqi citizens fostered a climate of lawlessness that might have been quelled if the local military had been shifted to policing the streets.

Political scientist-turned-filmmaker Charles Ferguson doesn't offer a political diatribe, but rather a managerial critique. Apart from bitterly ironic clips of former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld pooh-poohing negative reports from the war zone ("I don't do quagmires."Stuff happens!"), he dispenses with Michael Moore-style theatrics, crafting a carefully organized indictment of postinvasion policy with news footage and authoritative talking heads.

But what those heads say is devastating -- a litany of missed opportunities, faulty assumptions and rebuffed expertise. Even dedicated news junkies will gain new understanding of a campaign with no end in sight.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186


    3½ out of 4 stars

    Unrated; War violence.

    The setup: A documentary on the postinvasion occupation policies that fueled the Iraqi insurgency.

    What works: A coolly logical exposition by authoritative and well-placed Bush administration insiders.

    What doesn't: Many top officials declined to be interviewed.

    Great line: Donald Rumsfeld's dismissal of rampant looting as a video clip of a person stealing a vase is played over and over.

    Where: Uptown.

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