No End in Sight

I just got back from seeing No End in Sight, the new movie about the occupation in Iraq.

Though it won’t tell anything new to any of us who have been appalled by this war and occupation since before it began, this may be an important film–even something of a watershed.

Sure, most of the population of the United States is ready to see the troops come home now, damn the consequences.  But few of us know how bad it really has been–and why argument that the US has to stay in Iraq because the alternatives would be worse holds no water.

There was a fear–which I shared–that No End in Sight would buy in to the argument that the concept of the war was fine, it was only the execution that was excerable.  Fortunately, this does not prove to be the case.  As the run-up to the war is not the topic of the film, little time is spent on it.  Still, it is impossible not to draw the conclusion that the people who handled the aftermath with such incredible incompetence were just as incompetent beforehand.  There are plenty of hints that Charles Ferguson (the film’s director and writer) feels that way–his bits on Ahmed Chalabi, for example, make one shake one’s head at the duplicity in drumming up the war, as does a quick montage of pre-war comments that ends with Condi Rice’s “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” comment.

But that’s not what the movie is about.  Ultimately, it’s a commentary on the arrogance of a small group of Americans (primarily Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz–with Bush and Rice backing them up and Powell reluctantly following suit) hell-bent on following their own beliefs, come hell or facts on the ground.

These people (or their surrogates) are still in power.  If enough people see this movie and start to understand that this government is not capable of improving the situation in Iraq, let alone bringing it to a successful conclusion, maybe we can start getting around this nonsense that we have to stay, otherwise things will only get worse.

As the movie makes dramatically clear, the United States made the situation as bad as it is–and did so willfully.  There is no reason to expect that the people whose astonishing incompetence has destroyed a nation can rebuild it or even hold it in stasis.  The longer the US stays in Iraq, the more our errors are compounded.

The only way we can save anything from the situation is to get out now.  To hell with arguments that it would take too long to get our people out through Kuwait.  There are other possibilities: we could move our troops into Kurdish territory and then out through Turkey (the Turks wouldn’t like it, but we have real leverage there), if it came to that, or (if that could not work), we could come up with another way.  The argument shouldn’t be about logistics, anyway.

All of the arguments about the chaos that would ensue on our departure are spurious.  We created the insurgency or civil war; our departure would make it possible to end it.  Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia will find no virtue in continued war in Iraq without US presence (it will spill over onto them).  Let them work to contain the problems.

God knows, as No End in Sight shows, the US has shown that it is certainly not competent to do so.

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