Last Sunday I watched this documentary on Iraq war. It constructs the events that led upto the war and the post war insurgency through a series of interviews of senior officials and decision makers who were closely involved in the war and post war activities.
A few years back I watched Fahrenheit 9/11, which was another scathing documentary on Bush and his Iraq policy. It projected Bush in a very bad light but it was highly exaggerated and extremely un-objective. It had a satirical, almost a cartoonish feel which reduced the impact.
The tone of ‘No End..” is completely different. Unlike Michael Moore, Ferguson does not give his opinion; the background commentary is minimal. Instead he presents his case in the form of series of interviews with people who were working in/for Iraq. The result is a chilling account of inept leadership and disastrous decision making leading to 100s of 1000s of lives lost and billions of dollars of wealth destroyed. What happens when the most powerful country in the world in led by an irresponsible and unintelligent leader!
Even before the Afghan war began, Bush and his aids were trying to draw connection to Iraq. Marc Galescor, a senior analyst who was tasked with this responsibility says that after extensive studies they concluded that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Yet the administration went about convincing the public that Iraq was in some way involved in the plot. Collin Powell and Richard Armitage expressed concern over Iraq and they were the only two people in the senior administration who had combat experience.
More than all the wrong decisions that led to the war, the greatest disaster was the way post war Iraq was handled. During world war 2, US started planning for the occupation of Germany, two years in advance whereas they planned for Iraq only for 60 days. Ambassador Barbara Bordine who was part of OHRA, the body responsible for reconstruction of Iraq expresses her frustration. How things were totally unstructured, they had no phones, no computers, did not even know whom to contact for what.
When the looting broke out, the army was given explicit instructions not to intervene and let the looting continue. Army officials just sat on their armored vehicles at intersections and watched as people looted. Rumsfield apparently told his commanders, “We are not here to run Iraq. We are here only to get rid of the regime”. The national museum and national library which held some of the oldest artifacts of mankind were destroyed. The looters had a free hand and no public or private property was safe. Bordine says that, that was when we truly lost Iraq. Until that point people were happy to be freed from Saddam and welcomed the US forces.
If this was not bad, Bush appointed Paul Bremer as the envoy to Iraq whose autocratic and non-consultative style of decision making distanced most of his own people. He made three fatal decisions which led to the insurgency and the state of chaos that we see today.
First, he stopped the formation of an interim Iraqi government which sent a message that the Americans were truly occupiers
Second, he implemented debathification process. All the members of Bath party were fired, which led to more 50,000 people losing their jobs. It also led to destabilizing the government, the economy and the education system since many of these officials were forced to join the party under Saddam.
The third and the deadliest of the decisions, Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army. This led to the unemployment of half a million military men who were trained in combat and use of weapons. They lost their livelihood, the only means of feeding their families and hence had no option but to join the insurgency. Iraq had 70 large weapon storage depots and many more ammunition dumps which were not secured by the American’s because they did not have enough people. Marc Galescor actually says that he reported that 18 thousand million tons of bombs are being taken away by armed Iraqi men and the response he received was “we do not have enough men to cover it”
Since the people if Iraq could not get any protection from Americans they had to depend of insurgents and local militia for security. This further strengthened the insurgents.
Now Iraq is a no man’s land. 10-15 bombings are reported every day and by all accounts it is grossly under reported. There are countless kidnappings, rapes and murders. According to estimates more than 600,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the beginning of the war.
It is damning. At the end of the movie, you feel an intense hatred for Bush. I wonder how he sleeps with so much blood on his conscience. I wonder how a nation which claims to be the greatest and oldest democracy in the world could elect Bush not just once but twice.