I've just recently watched this film for a second time thanks to a friend of mine who had the presence of mind to buy the DVD in order to show it to anyone willing to watch it. Some people have argued that this film arrived a little too late in the game to be relevant or influential in the Iraq debate, but I find that assertion absolutely ludicrous. This is crucial viewing for anyone who has even the smallest concern for the current situation in Iraq and the American government's role in creating it. It is a vital piece of historical analysis examining the causes of a situation which is ongoing and disastrous in Iraq. It's a clear, amazingly level-headed and devastating account of unnecessary arrogance and incompetence at the highest level of the Bush Administration and its negative impacts on the effectiveness of the American presence in Iraq and, consequently, the world at large.
Evidently Charles Ferguson, the creator of the film, is a former Brookings Institution scholar with a doctorate in political science, as well as a hugely successful software entrepreneur and visiting professor at MIT and Berkeley, who was initially a supporter of the Iraq War. This standing seems to have established a certain trustworthiness toward him as an interviewer in the eyes of many former top officials involved in the initial stages of the Iraq invasion, including one-time Bush loyalists. Part of what elevates this film above more reactionary and slanted views of the situation in Iraq is that Ferguson is talking to many of the people involved in the initial occupation of Iraq, who were not at the time critical of or disloyal to the agenda of the Bush administration, and who were intimately involved in trying to create a successful campaign in Iraq, both for the US and the Iraqi citizens. The accumulated professional standing of everyone interviewed, as well as their sober detailed insistence on the facts, defies any claims to one-sidedness in terms of the film's stance or the natural conclusions that any rational viewer must come to.
Some of the people interviewed include: former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's former chief of staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, US Ambassador to Baghdad Barbara Bodine, Col. Paul Hughes who worked in ORHA (the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance) which was replaced by the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority), former chairman of the National Intelligence Council Robert Hutchings, General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003 before being replaced by L. Paul Bremer), and Omar Fekeiki (an Iraqi citizen and Washington Post reporter/translator who appears in the film with his identity disguised).
The general consensus of the interviews and the arrived-at truth of the film is that the devastating insurgency and virtual civil war in Iraq--still happening by the way--was caused primarily by the inexperience of high-ranking Bush officials, namely Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bremer, and Wolfowitz, and their refusal to pay attention to established and experiential knowledge of Iraq coming from people even nominally outside this core circle. Insufficient initial troop levels and inappropriate or non-existent tactical responses allowed the looting of Baghdad and a loss of confidence in US peacekeeping ability on the part of Iraqi citizens. The purging of professionals from the Iraqi government under the order of "De-Ba'thification" effectively erased a huge pool of skilled, knowledgeable, and essentially apolitical Iraqis. The complete disbanding of the Iraqi military left over 500,000 primarily young men with weapons and military training unemployed and understandably baffled and bitter toward US occupying forces. All the while the expertise and knowledge of diplomatic, technical, and military professionals was being ignored and overridden while republican party operatives, including recent college graduates with no practical experience, were put in charge of complex and highly delicate areas of the American presence in Iraq.
Underneath the concentrated and calm demeanor of many of the interviewees you can definitely sense the frustration and disgust over the complete and unnecessary mismanagement of the entire entry into Iraq on the part of the Bush White House. It'll make you angry watching it, but is definitely worth watching at least once as a piece of historical evidence and a bearing witness to a criminal negligence on the part of certain policy makers and their particular stance in relationship to the world we live in. The very least we can do is inform ourselves about what has caused the current quagmire in Iraq and the related saddling of the American public with inconceivable amounts of debt.
I really think everyone should watch this film. It deserves it. It really burns though that it pertains to real world events in which the lives of millions of people are being destroyed because of the incompetence and general insanity of a relative few with undeserved power. In some alternate dimension where human lives aren't affected, the players involved might make a great template for "Dr. Strangelove 2, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bush Administration." Too bad not even black humor can make this nightmare amusing.
Are you that other who has travelled through a country on a bridge linking two dreams? Are you at night the sun on my back in a corridor of knowledge leading to the gate of tomorrow's laughter? I dreamed of you in the high yellow dunes that record the shape of the wind. I dreamt of a moving, grain by grain, a slipping sensuously on, a landscape in motion. In the blue of noon you are lines curving up/lines curving down, razor edges of definition drawn against a wall of sound. In the light of the moon, dunes become caps of snow pulled from under a sheet of stars and lifted toward heavens by lips of warm consciousness, dreaming. When the sky is smoke-red with dawn, expanding like a prayer, illuminating enormous pagoda clouds, glimmers of understanding may come flitting across our eyesight: We are bigger than we know, and getting stronger, drawing strength from the sky, from the universe's core. You may look up into the lake of dawn and realize that life is light's pilgrimage, glowing with all the unheard music turning in your body. The vast arc of the cosmos is but a diminishing ripple of your expanding song. A smoky laugh swirls through your soul and shapes your landscape, and I can feel the escaping music in the loops of my blood.
In the aching arms of my body I hold myself; I descend to the depths as if to escape myself. I let myself slip into a wrinkle; I love the smell of that valley. I startle at the cry of the mare sent by the absent one. She's white and I cover my eyes. Slowly my body opens to my desire. I take it by the hand. It resists. The mare gallops off. I fall asleep, entwined in my arms. Is it the sea that murmurs like this in the ear of a dead horse? Is it a horse or a siren? What ritual of shipwreck is dragged down by the sea's hair? I'm shut up in an image and an attitude, and the tall waves pursue me. I fall, I faint. Is it possible to faint in sleep, to lose consciousness and no longer recognize the feel of familiar objects? I'm not playing; I'm trying not to die. I have at least the whole of my life to answer a question: who am I? And who is the Other? A gust of wind through the tree at dawn? A motionless landscape? A trembling leaf? A coil of white smoke above a mountain? I write all these words and I hear the wind, not outside, but inside my head. A strong wind, it rattles the shutters through which I enter the dream. I see that one is leaning to the side. Will it fall where I rest my head to welcome other lives, to stroke other faces? They are gloomy faces and happy ones, but I love them because I invent them. I make them quite different from my own, whether distorted or sublime, snatched from the light of day and stuck on the branches of the tree like a witch's conquests. Sometimes the winter of those faces chills my blood. I leave them and go to look elsewhere. I take hands. I choose large delicate ones. I shake them, kiss them, suck them. I become intoxicated. Hands resist me less. They can't make grimaces. Faces take revenge on my freedom by grimacing the whole time. That's why I set them aside. Not violently, but I do set them aside. I pile them up. They are crushed. They suffer. Some even cry out, hooting like owls, mewling, gnashing their teeth. In different faces. Neither men's nor women's, but faces of absolute beauty. The hands betray me too, especially when I try to match them with the faces. The main thing is to avoid shipwreck. The ritual of shipwreck obsesses me. I constantly run the risk of losing everything, and I have no desire to find myself outside again, with the others. My nakedness is my sublime privilege. I'm the only one to observe it. I'm the only one to curse it. I dance. I turn and turn. I clap my hands and strike the ground with my feet. I lean toward the trapdoor behind which I keep my creatures. I'm afraid of falling and confuse myself with one of those unsmiling faces. I dance and turn until I'm dizzy. The sweat beads on my forehead. My body dances to some African rhythm....I'm in the bush and mingle ceremoniously with naked men. I forget to ask myself who I am. I aspire to the silence of the heart. I'm tracked down and give my mouth to a flame in the forest. I'm not in Africa, but in a cemetery by the sea. I feel cold. All the graves have been emptied, abandoned. The wind that whistles through is their prisoner. A horse painted with the blues of night gallops through this cemetery. My eyes fall out and are stuck in the horse's head. The darkness swallows me up. But I feel safe. I'm caught by warm hands. They stroke my back. I guess at whose they are. They're not mine. I lack eveything and recoil. Is it tiredness or the idea of going back to myself? I want to laugh, because I know that, condemned to isolation, I won't be able to overcome fear. They say that's what anxiety is. I've spent years adapting to my solitude. My reclusion is willed, chosen, loved. Moreover, I'll get faces and hands from it, journeys and poems. Out of suffering, everyone's, I'm building a palace in which death will have no place. Though I won't repulse it, it'll be forbidden entry. But suffering is sufficient unto itself; there's no need to deliver a mighty blow. This body is made up of fibers that accumulate pain and intimidate death. That's my freedom. Anxiety withdraws, and I'm left alone to fight until dawn. At daybreak I drop with exhaustion and joy. The others understand nothing. They're unworthy of my madness. Such are my nights--enchanted. I like to set them high on the rocks and wait for the wind to shake them, wash them, separate them from sleep, shake the darkness from them, undress them, and bring them to me wrapped in nothing but a cloud of dreams. Then everything becomes limpid. I forget. I sink gently into the other's open body. I no longer ask anybody anything. I drink wine and live. Neither good nor evil. I ask nobody anything: my questions have no answers. I know this, 'cause I can see both sides of the mirror. I'm not really very serious. I like to play, even if I have to hurt people. I've been above evil for a long time now, looking at all that from afar, from the heights of my solitude. It's strange--my sternness, my harshness opens up doors for me. I don't ask so much. I jostle everybody. I ask for love. I don't ask for love, but for abandonment. They don't understand. Hence the need to live my condition in all it's hilarity and fog. I'm not depressed, I'm exasperated. I'm not sad, I'm desperate. My night has given me nothing. It has passed, unperceived, calm, empty, dark...
So many people brought their hurt, frustration, insecurity and confusion to me over this past year, like I've got the answer, like I'm supposed to transform it for them. Just 15 minutes ago I got off the phone with a friend who was breaking down. This friend knows virtually nothing about me. Things seem a bit fucked up this year, especially lately. I've been fumbling through the obstacle course of life, taking my knocks, getting hurt, and yes I'm well aware, hurting others. Everyone I know seems to be wading into chaos. What's to be done about all this? Here's what I do: I breathe deep. I close the windows, open my heart, and appeal to my reason. I lift my arms, palms outward in a gesture of protection and refuge, pulling warm energy up through the earth and into my core. I exhale. I feel the energy pushing through me and out into the world in an ever-expanding sphere the color of the setting sun. The layers of frustration and unfullfiled longing burn off my frame and fade into the landscape. I inhale, leeching pain from those closest to me and from the environment around me. I exhale, pushing concentric spheres of healing and strength further than the furthest reaches of my imagination. I inhale, accepting criticism and accusation. Inhaling a bit deeper I forgive all and apologize for every hurt my existence has inevitably engendered. I exhale, pushing out from myself slowly, like a glassblower working a vase, like a globe of light in the fog, in the dark. I push out a little further, a single note striving to harmonize with the limitless multitudes of human experience. I pause. I breathe in and out. I mix the music of the spheres over big beats and bass lines flowing like the rivers of eternity. I reach through human history and into our limitless futures, pulling strength and positivity into the present and onto our potential. I dance. I cry. I laugh. I shiver. I buzz with the expansion of the universe. I wipe the slate clean and offer it up to your mind's eye. I focus and push forward. I love you. I promise. I look to the horizon and smile.