I believe I’ve been quite clear in my long-standing opposition to the war in Iraq. Yet, I also believed that if we were to go to war, we ought not have gone understaffed, based on everything I had read at the time. This documentary written and directed by Charles Ferguson, and narrated by Campbell Scott, lays out the case that the failure of the United States military policy after the fall of Baghdad in the spring of 2003, far from being unforeseen, was utterly predictable. And there were high-ranking officials, many with military experience, telling the Bush administration that they were doing the occupation all wrong. These people included former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador to Iraq Barbara Bodine, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and, most notably, General Jay Garner, who was in charge of occupation of Iraq through May 2003.

No End In Sight, which I watched on DVD last week, lays out in painful detail the three main problems that took place. One was the failure by the US to provide security because they were understaffed when the looting of museums and other national treasures took place. The de-Ba’athification of Iraq showed serious loss of of the professional class, most of whom joined the Ba’ath party pretty much for the same reason managers joined the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, because that’s how to get and keep a job, not out of any ideological affinity. But perhaps the greatest blunder was to dismiss the Iraqi army; when the invading US Armed Forces told the army to go home, it did, but the entity, which predates the creation of the country of Iraq, was waiting for requests from the Americans to help rebuild Iraq, a call that failed to come. Thus, one created a situation with bunch of unemployed, angry people with guns that helped fuel the insurgency.

You may seethe to hear Donald Rumsfeld’s various pronouncements, one of which, early on, was that there WAS no insurgency. Many of these inept decisions were carried out by Paul Bremer, but it is not clear whether they were his initiatives, or that he was merely carrying out the wishes of chickenhawks such as Rummy, Dick Cheney, Paul Wofowitz and Doug Feith.

Ferguson filmed over 200 hours, and many of the extended interviews show up in the DVD extras, probably longer than the actual film.

However you feel about the Iraq war, its justification, or how it needs to be handled now, there’s little doubt that when you see this film, you’ll wonder how such early blunders were made, leading to many unnecessary Iraqi civilian and US military deaths.


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