I have a feeling that a lot of trouble could have been avoided if our current president had just asked his father one simple question. “Dad,” he could have asked, “exactly why did you leave a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein in power after the 1991 Gulf War?” Bush 41 could have gone on to explain how they foresaw that power vacuum in Iraq could leave the country in a state of sectarian chaos and Iran as the sole regional power.
We wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?
Seriously, do you think it’s a coincidence that we are having renewed problems with Iran now that their longtime enemy, Iraq, is on its knees? I mean there was a reason why the Reagan and first Bush Administrations made nice with that psychotic nutjob in Baghdad, which was to provide a check on the ambitions of the psychotic nutjobs next door. In hindsight, it’s no wonder that Tehran gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003. We had taken care of its sole reason for existence, which was the possibility that Hussein would get there first.
All of which makes No End in Sight a thoroughly aggravating viewing experience. Without resorting to any of Michael Moore’s self-aggrandizing antics, the producers of this documentary have done a far more effective job of damning the current administration’s foreign policy errors than that fat tub of goo could dream of doing. They make it utterly clear that, even if you buy into the dubious premise that the war was necessary and unavoidable, the problems we now face there are neither of those things.
By interviewing many of those who served at ground zero of the decision-making that led to the war, the film shows that, even before the first Special Forces hit the ground in Afghanistan, the administration was looking for a fight in Iraq. I think it’s informative to recognize that George W. Bush surrounded himself with a foreign policy team made up mostly of hawks from his father’s administration, people who probably thought the decision to leave Hussein in power was the one mistake they now had the chance to rectify. The leading voice of moderation, Secretary of State Colin Powell, appears to have been marginalized when it came to planning the war.
However, the real outrage is not how the war got started but how the nation of Iraq was allowed to slip into lawless chaos in the wake of Hussein’s downfall, as undermanned U.S. forces watch helplessly as the country is looted, including the massive armories that would go on to supply the insurgency for years to come. Some of President Bush’s critics may pooh-pooh the current “surge” strategy despite the fact that it appears to be working, but its apparent success begs an obvious question that damns the very people who proposed the policy. If more troops in Iraq were the answer, why were they not there in 2003 and 2004, when they could have done far more good?
Two figures take a merciless beating in this film and, surprisingly, neither of them is George W. Bush, although the president is shown as disturbingly disengaged from the decision making regarding the war. The film’s main targets are Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority that ran Iraq until its government could be reconstituted. Rumsfeld is largely damned with his own words, as he is shown in public statements being condescending and arrogant and, by all appearances, willfully in denial of the reality of the situation. When questioned about the insurgency, he splits hairs with the reporters about what the word means and quips, “I don’t do insurgencies.”
Bremer’s role is even more crucial to what followed, as it was two of his decisions that really sowed the seeds of insurgency. It was he who, over the objection of virtually everyone else, including the leading U.S. generals in Iraq, disbanded the Iraqi army at a time when tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers were willing and able to return to duty, step into the void and take a lot of pressure off the U.S. forces. Instead, they were out of work, disillusioned and ripe for recruitment by the people who were now blowing up under-armored Humvees in the streets of Baghdad. Bremer also launched a program of “de-Ba’ath-ifcation,” purging the Iraqi government of any remnants of Hussein’s party but also marginalizing the country’s most experienced civil servants, with the same result as before.
Another point that may get your blood boiling is the comparison between the Allied policies toward Germany after World War II, which were in the planning stages for two years before V-E Day, which is exactly two year more planning than was done for Iraq when the Hussein government fell. Since this war was in the works almost from September 12, 2001 until March of 2003, you would have thought that, short of raising George C. Marshall from the dead, someone would have would have at least peaked at his notes.
Don’t get the idea that I’m some kind of a tinfoil-hat-wearing 9/11 Truther or just another MoveOn.org whack job. I’m a libertarian conservative who’s chagrined that Ron Paul, the only anti-war alternative on the Republican side of the fence for 2008, is chuckled at by his own part like he was the village idiot. The rest of the Republican candidates seem willing to do the Slim Pickens Dr. Strangelove routine and ride the bomb all the way to the ground. Support of the war has become some kind of party litmus test.
The Republican Party is in for a rough ride as long they continue to back a foreign policy that appears to have been slapped together by Deputy Barney while Andy was out fishin’ with Opie.