One of the major criticisms of Charles Ferguson’s Academy Award nominated documentary No End in Sight is that it presents facts about the Iraq war that news savvy viewers already know but the tragedy is, in the increasingly busy lives of American citizens, most seldom have the time to gather all of the data on their own and instead we must glean what we can through newspapers and network news channels owned by the very corporations that are in league with the current administration. Yes, those who stayed up on the war will know the facts presented in No End in Sight but this aside, they’ve never been presented together in quite this way, with this many insiders who worked in close quarters with the Bush administration, the war itself or in the humanitarian effort and the film offers various viewpoints straight from the sources without it being filtered or spun into sound bytes.
In No End in Sight, we meet some truly compassionate, noble and intellectual professionals who tried to help with the best of intentions but often whose goodness was left at the wayside in the agenda to get us in the war and they had to witness firsthand the devastation and chaos that followed. As one official notes, he hopes that his speaking out will be considered criticism that counts since he can’t hold his peace any longer and the film, which should be required viewing for American citizens and one that’s all the more urgent given our upcoming election, underlines the importance of citizens to understand just why our country is overseas and to honor all of our servicemen and women fighting whose suffering and loss must have a meaning as noted in the documentary.
Software millionaire turned MIT and Berkeley visiting professor Ferguson, a one-time senior fellow of the Brookings Institute who was initially supportive of the war years earlier (Ebert) and holds a doctorate in political science (NY Times) chronicles the war in Iraq all the way back to the unspeakable attacks of September 11, 2001 where, officials note, they were told immediately by Bush and his advisors “to go looking” for a link—any link—between al Qaeda and Iraq, indicating there was an agenda from the start. With sometimes only a few months of planning the strategy and reconstruction efforts, as those hired explain, American troops entered Iraq and after Saddam and his cohorts were driven out of Baghdad, horrific looting destroyed the city as our soldiers (who as they confide with the right orders would have been more than competent to step in) had to instead stand around and watch nearly as helplessly as we did glued to our televisions. The chaotic “free for all” of lawlessness that ensued left the city and historical sites including the National Archives, library and museum ruined and/or burned to the ground, causing not only Iraqis to state in the film that “now we have no heritage” but the entire globe to be shocked at the loss of history that charted 7,000 years of civilization. From this of course, as you surely know, the sectarian militias and burgeoning Anti-American sentiment began to increase as the Iraqi military was disbanded, against the better judgment of a few of our top experts interviewed in the film, and citizens (including a percentage of former Iraqi soldiers) joined the insurgency against us rather than being utilized to assist us in our efforts, leading to the “near anarchy” described in late 2006.
Despite the catastrophic loss of life on both sides including the overwhelming number of our brave soldiers returning with lost limbs or disabled which is the most upsetting factor, our livelihood, safety and indeed economy has been severely jeopardized by the ill planning of a vast majority of members of the administration who did not speak Arabic and rule with little or no foreign policy, military, combat or Middle Eastern experience who, as the 2007 Harvard Study cited in the film estimates that the total cost of the war will be 1.860 trillion dollars. As mentioned earlier, these facts (which are just a fraction of the appalling details included in Ferguson’s film) are not new to viewers who have been following the war from the start but where Ferguson succeeds and others who decide to paint a more sensationalized or propagandist picture fails, is that he uses actual firsthand accounts, documents and offers a truly devastating assessment of the events. Instead of us feeling separated from the truth as we sometimes do by the media, he reminds us of the humanity of everyone involved and how those who share their details aren’t being Anti-American but in fact even more patriotic since they were admirable people who genuinely tried to help, selflessly without worried about their legacy or what history books would say about them down the road, but in wanting to do what is just and their willingness to admit flaws and errors and take credit for mistakes. Despite its title it's not a doomsday cautionary tale—it’s an assessment of what went wrong and given the information, hopefully citizens will feel more connected to the events and decide to do what is right, making it the timeliest of documentaries given the 2008 election.