Campbell Scott, Gerald Burke, Ali Fahdil
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Magnolia (Theatrical), Red Envelope (DVD)
With his debut feature film, filmmaker Charles Ferguson has accomplished what Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore could not...a riveting, fact-filled, non-biased, nearly non-partisan cinematic journey through the unfathomable bungling of the Iraq War by a Bush Administration filled with armchair warriors, ego-driven lone rangers and do-gooding innocents with too little global experience to ever be entrusted with something as fragile as maintaining peace in post-Saddam Iraq.
"No End in Sight" is the film America wanted "Fahrenheit 9/11" to be...Heck, it's the film that Michael Moore wanted "Fahrenheit 9/11" to be. THIS film would have, I must believe, influenced the 2004 debacle we call the re-election of George W. Bush. THIS film would have shown America a difficult to accept, but undeniable truth...that it's trusted and empowered leader had blatantly lied and recklessly disregarded any opinion that disagreed with his own ego-driven personal agenda.
By now, those of you who are Bush supporters (There are a few left, right?) are probably saying "Nonpartisan? Yeah, right. Sounds like more left-wing propaganda to me."
Ferguson does what Moore couldn't have possibly done given his widely acknowledged reputation as a voice for the left wing...he gets Bush's own people to speak ON CAMERA. The vast majority of experts, military leaders and administration officials we see in "No End in Sight" are not Bush's left-wing opposition, but a wide array of of individuals who have been deep inside Bush's entrusted inner circle of leaders. They are not sharing hypothetical guesses about how it may have been in the days pre and post-invasion, but eyewitness accounts of the decisions, thought processes, logic, beliefs, words and relationships that shaped the Bush Administration's decisions and actions in Iraq.
In short, in "No End in Sight" Bush comes under friendly fire and it sure ain't pretty.
Now then, with a name like "The Peaceful Critic" you can probably guess my political leanings. From day one, I was opposed to the actions in Iraq and if it weren't so damn tragic I'd have to chuckle at the mind-numbing stupidity that is being revealed in a country that can, on occasion, get so wrapped up in the "American spirit" that we forget the basic difference between right and wrong.
Being American doesn't make us inherently right, a fact that seems to escape nearly every politico currently residing comfortably inside the "cowboys and indians" mentality of the Bush administration's pathetic excuse for foreign policy.
But, I digress. Back to "No End in Sight."
Ferguson largely spotlights two huge gaffes in the early days of the Iraqi War: 1) The looting that was allowed to continue and fueled the national feeling of instability, and 2) The disbanding of the Iraqi Army, many of whom were undoubtedly NOT loyal to Saddam.
These two factors, perhaps more than any other factors, have contributed to an insurgency that has led to nearly 4,000 U.S. casualties, a stunningly unstable national infrastructure, countless innocent Iraqi casualties and, seemingly, a U.S. military that lacks direction and focus in their everyday actions in a land where it's almost impossible who is friendly to them and who is not.
Unlike my own anti-war politics, Ferguson's politics are actually a bit more friendly to the Bush administration. While it would be easy to twist "No End in Sight" into a solid anti-war argument, it is clear that Ferguson is actually saying something even more dramatic...it didn't have to be this way. The U.S. could have won, hands down, this war were it not for the incompetent decision-making of the Bush Administration's armchair warriors.
It is difficult to watch "No End in Sight" without two feelings rising to the surface...sadness and anger.
"No End in Sight" ought to, even in a country where Fox News is allowed to call itself a news network, fuel an absolute rage that the trust and faith the American people placed in its leadership has been so blindly and shamelessly misplaced. We're not talking about casual decisions or the inevitable mistakes that occur as part of everyday military decisions...we're talking about cold and callous decision-making despite having clear evidence pointing to its polar opposite.
Yet, Ferguson's film, accompanied by an appropriately somber voiceover from Campbell Scott, also evokes even more intensely an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Even with an approach that larely stresses talking heads over dramatic imagery, Ferguson's film brings vividly to life the irrevocable destruction of a nation almost exclusively due to the ill-advised and poorly planned U.S. military actions. Along with the thousands of Iraqis killed, an infrastructure is destroyed, a national heritage has largely been plundered by looters and thieves and social systems in place for thousands of years have been utterly destroyed.
The tragedy is immense and, as a result, the insurgency seemingly inevitable.
"No End in Sight" doesn't offer any easy answers and, despite using those who dwelled inside Bush's inner circle, is clearly not a film interested in looking at both points of view. While the material is presented quite matter-of-factly and without a lot of the Moore-type editorializing, it is equally undeniable that Ferguson's film does contain moments of manipulated facts, photos and quotes not so much altered as presented in a different light so as to support the film's central theme.
A few minor flaws aside, "No End in Sight" is the first great documentary of 2007 and, most assuredly, destined for an Oscar nomination from an Academy filled to the brim with left-leaning, anti-Bush film folks who must be giggling with delight at the thought of spitting in the face of an American President who has done his share of spitting in the faces of Americans, Iraqis and anyone else who dares to disagree with him.
No end in sight?
Let the countdown begin...
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic