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.
A great supplement to the film is an interview done by David Brancaccio on PBS with Paul Hughes and Omar Fekeiki. A link to the video can be found here: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows