Campbell Scott – Narrator
Directed by Charles Ferguson
A grim and somber exploration of how grievous mistakes made after the invasion of Iraq spiraled out of control and possibly beyond repair, Ferguson’s debut doc is a brilliant piece of investigative journalism.
On March 19, 2003, U.S. troops invaded Iraq with the mission to depose the country’s dictatorial leader Saddam Hussein. Most Americans thought we’d be received with open arms by the people of the country, but over four years later, the situation in Iraq is worse than ever. Charles Ferguson’s documentary shows how fatal mistakes made by the administration caused the civil unrest and insurgency that ultimately led to the current chaos in the country.
Thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians have been killed in the four and half years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, and at this point, few people are able to justify the reasons for so much death. Even fewer people know the real reasons behind why things have remained so bad there over such a long period of time because the news media certainly hasn’t made much of an effort to explain the situation when they’re reporting the latest bombings or death. Many recent Iraq documentaries have dealt with the after-effects of the invasion of Iraq also without addressing how things got so bad.
Thankfully, author and first-time filmmaker Charles Ferguson’s curiosity was piqued enough to start asking questions, specifically about how things could have gotten so bad so quickly. The title of the resulting doc is clear in its implications that the mistakes made following the invasion of Iraq have been compounded so heavily that the situation will not be resolved or quelled any time soon. In that sense, “No End in Sight” fills in the blanks of previous Iraq documentaries while offering solid facts and information to prove its point.
The film is laid-out and structured like the best thesis paper, showing the horrors and atrocities first, then going back in time to learn how things got to that point. Gravely narrated by actor Campbell Scott, it recaps the post-9/11 events that led to the invasion of Iraq, covering similar ground as the 2006 doc “Why We Fight,” and then draws lines to the previous Gulf War of the early ’90s in which key members of the Bush Jr. administration were involved. From there, it follows the invasion of Iraq in a fairly linear fashion, as those responsible for making sure things go smoothly are met with resistance from all sides. A lot of the blame and fingerpointing lands on one Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority), whose decision to disband the Iraq military left thousands of angry armed men without jobs. It doesn’t take long for things to get out of control as these disgruntled Iraqis band together to create an insurgency that builds as the situation continues to be mishandled.
This comprehensive piece of investigative journalism spends a good chunk of time dealing with Bremer’s mistake, hearing from General Jay Garner and Col. Paul Hughes, two key members of ORHA (Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance), who preceded Bremer’s group after the invasion and watched as everything they worked hard to set up get swept under the rug. Things continue to deteriorate as even the United Nations’ attempt to help smooth the situation is met by resistance from Bremer, who hides inside Baghdad’s sheltered Green Zone rather than dealing with the implications of his decisions.
It’s hard for a movie like this not to take the liberal left-wing stance on the war, especially when few of those being deemed responsible for the mistakes made themselves available to be interviewed. Ferguson was able to get CPA advisor Walter Slocombe and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to talk on the record and admit that mistakes were made in damning interviews conducted in a similar way as Owen Morris did “The Fog of War” in that you can hear Ferguson’s question and immediately see the reaction of those being probed.
Sure, there is a lot of information to absorb in one sitting and it’s infuriating to watch and hear the despair in those telling these horror stories and then cut to footage of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a press conference denying the gravity of the situation while cracking jokes about it. One has to assume it was a good thing that he resigned last November before this documentary saw the light of day.
The Bottom Line:
Covering a lot of ground in its investigation of how things went sideways in Iraq, this informative documentary may be a lot to digest, and while it doesn’t offer any clear answers, just having all the facts combined with strong corroborative interviews from people who were there makes this a worthwhile endeavor, one that’ll leave the viewer enlightened and more than a bit angered about how the situation in Iraq was mishandled.