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No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson, 2007)

 

Setting its sights on an admittedly easy target, namely the U.S.ís botched occupation of post-war Iraq, Charles Fergusonís muckraking documentary No End in Sight sternly shakes old news at its audience in its fit of righteous indignation. Watching the film, which is well-organized but utterly artless, one wonders who, exactly, itís trying to sway. It examines recent, publically acknowledged (even overfamiliar) events, offering the opportunity for plenty of hindsight to be expressed by many of the talking heads who were most directly responsible for the situation. The ultimate result of the documentary, though, seems to be the creation in the audience the same kind of political impotence that led to the occupationís mistakes in the first place. Any indignation that might be aroused will go unsettled. The film represents a significantly irksome mode of back-patting mea culpa that all too easily excuses grave errors and inaction. It points fingers and complains, but it remains an entirely polite, almost bloodless affair. The message thatís set excuses inaction and mediocre performance. Furthermore, itís difficult to imagine that many who would pay to see the film would be surprised by much that it had to say, and those who are too set in their ways to hear out its partially cogent argument are a non-factor.

 

Ferguson has clearly done some homework about the problems surrounding the invasion of Iraq, but his essential thesis is centered on the post-war occupation, and not the invasion itself, making the film seem more impartial that it might otherwise appear. Given the great amount of arrogance and poorly-informed decision making at play here, the directorís cowardice on this front is puzzling. Ferguson allows the vast majority of his interview subjects to avoid any uncomfortable questions, making them seem suddenly thoughtful about their previous thoughtlessness. He creates a portrait of a technocracy founded on bad intelligence and lousy assumptions, but oddly never questions the initial choice to invade, whether the destruction of Iraq might actually have been the Bush administrationís unstated motive, or whether there was really any right way to have staged an occupation under the circumstances. The emphasis on the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the American ďde BaathificationĒ policy would seem more damning if they were placed in a larger context that could help to explain how such seemingly misguided decisions might have been arrived at. Merely suggesting that gross incompetence is to blame greatly oversimplifies the matter. From the evidence available, it scarcely seems like the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people were ever truly being courted. To damn the administration for failing to accomplish that task is a bit beside the point.

 

39 

Jeremy Heilman 

01-02-08