Sunday, March 09, 2008

How To Respond to No End in Sight?

No End in Sight is a very important documentary that premiered last year at Sundance and is no available on DVD.

No End is Sight, while frequently critical of the way the Bush administration has handled the war in Iraq tells the story with much more honesty, details, integrity, and finesse that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 .

The film is written, produced, and directed by Charles Ferguson (pictured right). Ferguson could potentially be the most intelligent director to have made a film in 2007. Ferguson received his Ph.D. in political science from M.I.T. in 1989. He then went on to do post-doctoral research as well as provided consultation to the white house, department of defense, and companies like Apple, Xerox, and Texas Instruments. All before founding Vermeer Technologies which created the program Front Page prior to selling the company to Microsoft. And now he's been nominated for an Oscar for No End In Sight.

Who is this guy?

The film is powerful and really help lay out some history and the events behind what is and has been going on in Iraq with some important interviews that especially help outline some of the failures of the United States government in it's initial and on-going occupation efforts.

The film's main criticisms are specific and mainly directed (but not limited to) decisions by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and L. Paul Bremer.

Rumsfeld is specifically criticized for his poor coordination of ORHA (the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance) and later the CPA (the Coalition Provisional Authority), as well as his shady dealings and representation of the war, specifically as it influenced American perception of the situation and the needs for troops in reconstruction.

L. Paul Bremer was the Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, for just over a year in 2003 and 2004. Yet watching this film, you almost feel like his poor decisions warrant him being charged for war crimes for his unilateral decision making regarding "De-Ba'athification, not providing enough troops and specifically disbanding the Iraqi army.

To say that this film is pro-war/anti-war is impossible, because when it comes down to it, the Iraqi-situation as shown in this film is something so unique, that while troops and military seem essential, their "war" role is portrayed as far less important than their reconstruction and peace keeping role.

How To Respond?

I don't really know how to respond to this film. As a documentary I enjoyed and recommended it.

As an American, it's hard to know how to respond. It's so heartbreaking to get what I have to believe is a true look at the real Baghdad/Iraq situation. There are scenes where you believe the journalist and Iraqi's that describe a regime under Saddam Hussein as life under "little Satan" but their current life is under control of "big Satan."

This film makes me disappointed in American leadership. I was already critical of many of the decisions made by the Bush administration along the way, especially by Bush and Rumsfeld, so the groundwork for my beliefs were already there, but this film only fueled the fire.

It certainly makes me even more curious as to how upcoming white house leaders (whether McCain, Obama or Clinton) will lead America, Iraq, and the world through this ongoing situation/conflict/war/tragedy.'

You watch this film and you feel informed, but powerless. "What can I do?" I find myself asking. I wish there was a tangible way to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq who in despair find hope in religious fundamentalism, rebel groups, violence, and hate.

If I watch the film and find myself asking "where is the hope?" I imagine the Sunni and Shiite Muslims ask the same question, but for them it is not a question of theory, but a question that drives their every waking decision.

What about those formerly in the Ba'ath party or the military? What about people's who lives have been destroyed by rioting, violence, and destruction of life and property? What about women and children who's husbands have been imprisoned and are left with nothing?

I don't know how to respond. Director/Producer/Genius Charles Ferguson laid out this film with such care and yet there are no simple outlines lined out in the end credits. No simple solutions. There's no message of buy this product, or donate to this cause, or vote for this leader.

If you've seen this film, what was your conclusions on seeing it, how should we respond.

If you haven't seen this film, see it...I believe it's 100 minutes well spent. To begin to understand something so important that is shaping our world.

8 comments:

jasdye said...

rc,

1) great movie. should be required viewing in social studies, history and poli-sci classes from jr. high up.

2) it's available for free viewing here:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6182969183854471645&pr=goog-sl
(sorry, i forgot how to tag links)

3) i know one reaction that's maybe not the most productive for iraq, but it may help us from making more blunderous mistakes: Impeach Bush and Cheney.

4) you're right in that there is no simple solution to the chaos that we helped construct in iraq. i don't think that leaving all now will be so beneficial, but i certainly don't think that we should maintain a militaristic presence there for any number of years, except in the most remote of circumstances that the iraqi people and government ask for our aid (and only our aid).

Fox said...

I agree with you on the effectiveness of this film. It was refreshing to see a political documentary that wasn't rabid and sensationalistic.

The director seemed genuinely interested in detailing how we screwed up in the crucial immediate aftermath of the war. (I especially find the disabling of the Ba'athist army to be the most thought provoking aspect here...)

Still, I didn't feel inclined to respond in any way. I took Mr. Ferguson's film to be nothing more than a news piece.

I don't mean that as a slag on *No End In Sight*, it's just, as with any documentary, I am skeptical b/c of the form's inherent manipulation of truth... whether it is poltical or not.

(I should disclose that I am not a true fan of documentaries, in general.)

Bennett said...

There is one Hope for Iraq.

Perhaps you could respond by opening a C28 there. I know a guy who used to work in the Iraqi/ American Chamber of Commerce.

Adam said...

As a nation we are very good at hindsight decision analysis. I don't if any other country does it better than us. If anyone wants to argue with me, I'll probably let you win this argument. I see the invasion as the United States calling Saddam's bluff, and now the joke is on us.

One thing I think has been positive in Iraq is that the military, especially the Army and Marines, are able to take some lessons they learned in the first few years and apply them this past year. The emphasis on COIN is one of the reasons for the downturn in violence over the past year. We have to finish what was started and find a way to make lemonade out of these lemons. I want to see a good outcome in Iraq, but military will is only one aspect of the fight.

Something the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have done is stretched our army and marine corps thin. I know there are many ordained ministers who read this blog. I hope you would consider becoming a chaplain in the Army. There are a lot of soldiers that need spiritual healing and counseling in and out of the war zone.

One last thing, calling for an impeachment of Bush and Cheney is foolish, short-sited and ruins the credibility of your argument.

nate said...

Thanks for the heads up...sounds up my alley. Thanks for posting the link, Jasdye.

From the beginning I felt like any effort was a futile attempt based off the history...namely, I am talking about setting up an American-esque democracy.

Speaking of documentaries, have you heard anything on that new Ben Stein film coming out?

Michael Parsons said...

Ahhhg I need to see it.

And now I can....Thanks for the link Jasdye!!!

Darrell said...

I haven't seen this yet, but I do want to see it. It looks a great deal more even-handed than Michael Moore's dreck.

I read a quote once from a documentary maker. I wish I could remember exactly who. It was something to the effect of "There is no such thing as a real documentary. The camera, by it's very presence, changes the reality it hopes to record unchanged."

jasdye said...

nate and michael,

thank you, but you can thank jeffery overstreet, who i got that link from.

darrell,

yep. every story is subjective. but, once we deal with that, i did believe this to be so much more cool-headed and even-handed than moore's usual dreck (much of which i find condescending and overbloated).

adam,

i may be foolish, short-sighted (well, at least near-sighted) and a bit ruinous, but i think that what little movement there is calling for an impeachment (a fully constitutional move, i believe) may be on to something.

if the nation is calling teachers to accountability (and a false and dangerous sense of accountability it is, this No Child Left Behind), why shouldn't we call our national leaders to accountability.

iraq did not pose a threat to us, it did not attack us. yet we attacked it first, under false pretenses. and then we doomed an entire nation and through it to the dogs of anarchy and militant religionism because we could not deal with the consequences of what we bore on that nation. in the process, thousands of our soldiers were killed, hundreds of thousands of their citizens were killed, countless more thrown into chaos, al qaeda set up shop and daily welcomed waves of recruits, we're free-falling into a deficit that my daughter's kids will probably still be paying off...

that's just a start.

the Bush/Cheney rule only has ten more months left in office. i'd rather not - if it can be helped - see what lame-duck movements he's going to make.

btw, talk about short-sighted: i voted for bush in 2000. i did not vote against him in 2004. that's something that i regret. (even though i don't live in Fl or Oh).

sorry, rc.
i now return to my regularly scheduled show.

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