by Michael I. Niman
It’s been a few years since Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 set box-office records ablaze but failed to generate enough popular resistance to keep the Bush junta from seizing a second term in the White House. Then there was a mélange of amateurish anti-Moore videos that hardly met the high production and accuracy standards of YouTube. While successfully proving theories that lower primates can indeed operate video cameras, none of these filmlets adequately responded to the points presented in Fahrenheit 9/11.
Now, more than three years after Fahrenheit 9/11’s debut, an early Iraq policy supporter has come out with a film that’s getting rave reviews at film festivals around the world. The only problem for the Bush administration is, well, it seems they look even more buffoonish in this war-friendly remake.
The filmmaker, Dr. Charles Ferguson, is a political scientist and former fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank once labeled by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting as “the establishment’s think tank” due to its domination by Republican former White House officials.
Ferguson’s beef isn’t that we went to war. It’s that we’re losing the war. And nobody likes a loser. His film, No End in Sight, includes interviews with well known beltway and military insiders—hawks such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson; former occupation Ambassador to Iraq Barbara Bodine; former occupation military czar General Jay Garner; and Army General Paul Eaton. Ferguson approached other Iraq war heavies such as Paul Bremer, who he contacted through a “mutual friend.” (Ferguson is obviously packing a different Rolodex than Moore.) Bremer refused to go on camera.
A perfect apocalyptic storm
This crew provides damning evidence of a botched war, with the recurring message being that we fucked up. Nearly 4,000 American service personnel and possibly 2,000 “contractors” are dead. Well upwards of 20,000 service personnel are wounded. Perhaps a half million or more Iraqis have been killed. Iran is now a player in the territory that once constituted Iraq—a nation that realistically no longer exists. And parts of New Orleans no longer exist, due in part to the $2 trillion worth of US tax dollars that economist Joseph Stiglitz says might be incinerated in Iraq before it’s over. I can go on and on and on. We fucked up in so many ways.
No End in Sight is about incompetence. But a fuckup like this, a perfect apocalyptic storm, almost can’t occur by chance. Incompetence alone can’t line so many dominos up so perfectly.
Early in the war American troops found warehouses of weaponry—then were ordered to leave them unguarded, essentially locked down with paperclips and “do not disturb” signs. These weapons went on to be the core components of early roadside bombs and other munitions used to kill Americans and terrorize Iraqis. They’re weapons the US basically handed over to the Iraqi insurgency.
The Bush administration then decided to rain billions of dollars in cash down upon Iraq, with little or no accountability. A report published by the McClatchy newspaper chain last week documents how much of this money has, and continues to, flow into the hands of the insurgency—what the White House spinmeisters call “al Qaeda in Iraq.” It seems the insurgency gets a cut on, for example, rebuilding projects. In much of Iraq, only contractors who pay off the insurgents remain alive long enough to begin projects.
Subsidizing the enemy
By some accounts much of the insurgency would not be able to function effectively without this subsidy. So we fund the “enemy” and the war drags on. This is nothing new. Back in May, Seymour Hersh, one of the United States’ most respected journalists, published an earthshaking exposé in the New Yorker alleging that the Bush administration has been covertly funding an array of militant Sunni extremist groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda (see “Getting a Grip,” Artvoice 3/15/07). On the not-so-covert level, a US panel of retired police and military leaders headed by General James Jones recently recommended to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Iraqi national police force be disbanded since it has been infiltrated by Shiite militias and is operating sectarian death squads. The force is trained, funded and armed by the US. Arming and funding all sides of a conflict is a good way to keep a war going indefinitely.
Paying reverence to the exulted powers of hindsight, military honchos are now telling us the war was doomed from the start. Again, not because attacking a country without justification or the backing of law or international support was a bad idea, but because this plunder was badly executed. On the “covering their butts” front, the generals tell us Bush and Rumsfeld were warned that they didn’t have enough troops to secure Baghdad. Then there was the administration’s policy of torturing prisoners—which guaranteed that no one would want to surrender to American forces. Photos from Abu Ghraib did more to energize anti-US fighting forces than a thousand Jihadist pep talks. And there was the great plan to fight the war with National Guard troops who never really signed up to invade another country—and then send them out with equipment intended to survive mud and snow, not roadside bombs.
Then there are recent reports that the CIA informed Bush before the war that Iraq, unlike our pals in India and Pakistan, didn’t seem to have a weapons of mass destruction program. One more of many nails in this coffin of truth. The list goes on and on. You can’t fuck up this bad just by chance.
So why did we go into Iraq, ill equipped, leaving American troops out to dry while we armed their opponents?
And if they’re not morons?
These are the tough questions—not were there WMDs or how did the invasion go awry? As with questions about the mysterious collapse of the third World Trade Center building (#7 WTC), there are no easily digestible answers here. In earlier columns I’ve pointed out that everything the Bush family, both the father and the son, have done in the Middle East has benefited the authoritarian religious extremists running Iran. Without the “Great Satan” they would have succumbed to their own lively internal democracy movement and the wants of their pro-Western population long ago. And without help from the US they never could have destroyed their greatest enemy—secular Iraq.
Then there’s acclaimed journalist and former White House Press Secretary Bill Moyers, who, in his 2006 book, Welcome to Doomsday, documents the influence of radical religious extremists on the Bush White House and its foreign and environmental policies. The Iraq War, it appears, like the endless Israeli-Palestinian struggle, is a necessary precursor to the rapture—the end of time as we know it—which is a “good” thing. The worthy will be raptured to eternal paradise—along with all those suicide bombers. The rest of us will just have to deal with global warming, radioactive wastes, rising sea levels, extreme weather, wars and televangelists. Former New York Times international correspondent and Harvard Divinity School graduate Chris Hedges outlines a similar well researched warning in his 2007 book, American Fascists.
Spooky as these arguments about the Bush administration trying to bring on the apocalypse or aid the Iranian mullahs seem, they’re among the only explanations for their behavior that make sense—that is, unless you believe this whole mess is the result of unabashed hubris, stupidity, incompetence and greed. But that’s hard to buy. A Connecticut Yankee who so effectively reinvented himself as a good ol’ Texas boy is not a stupid man. And his handlers—Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the whole Project for a New American Century posse—are anything but stupid. You don’t take over the American government by being stupid, no matter how much cash you have behind you.
What other explanations are left?
Dr. Michael I. Niman’s previous Artvoice columns are available at artvoice.com and archived at mediastudy.com.
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v6n37: Northern Lights (9/13/07) > Apocalypse Now?
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