Is American foreign policy dominated by the idea of military supremacy? Has the military become too important in American life? Jarecki's shrewd and intelligent polemic would seem to give an affirmative answer to each of these questions.
Chronological look at the fiasco in Iraq, especially decisions made in the spring of 2003 - and the backgrounds of those making decisions - immediately following the overthrow of Saddam: no occupation plan, an inadequate team to run the country, insufficient troops to keep order, and three edicts from the White House announced by Bremmer when he took over: no provisional Iraqi government, de-Ba'athification, and disbanding the Iraqi armed services. The film has chapters (from History to Consequences), and the talking heads are reporters, academics, soldiers, military brass, and former Bush-administration officials, including several who were in Baghdad in 2003. Written by
Summed up in this documentary film are the decisions and consequences of invading Iraq. It is presented in a factual and nonhumourous manner, without apparent axe to grind.
Iraq was invaded for what were certainly dubious reasons, which have each come to light and been discredited in turn since the invasion, including the Joseph Wilson/Valerie Plame affair. Eventually President George W. Bush would distance himself from the original WMD and terrorism claims used to justify invasion of this country and would be somewhere along the lines of it being a justifiable thing to depose a dictator who killed his own countrymen.
Present are interviews with people on the ground or deeply involved in Iraq from former administration people such as Richard Armitage to Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), United Nations, soldiers and Iraqi people. The tally is grim as each tells of of the arrogance, mismanagement or blind stupidity which contributes to the situation in Iraq.
As a student of World War II I was utterly flummoxed by the decision to route the Ba'athists from their jobs and to disband a military of 500,000 professional soldiers, leaving them no way to support their families. Following the tide of the allies across Germany, local police, politicians and government workers were largely left in place to maintain order and services so as not to encumber the allied effort. After victory was achieved came the search for and punishment of the guilty.
But in Iraq the failure to follow a successful lesson from the past led to looting (while marines without orders to prevent it, stood by) and destruction of the institutions the people of Iraq would need to depend upon. In two fell swoops L. Paul Bremmer declared over half a million Iraqis guilty and condemned them for being members of the Ba'athist Party or Saddam's military. How utterly blind and foolish this shows when the viewer can see compressed into the span of a film how missteps contributed to the worsening of conditions and the mounting cost of operations. Small wonder Iraqis despise Americans when the viewer sees a segment of film made by a contractor, shooting innocent Iraqis from the back of a truck with impunity.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld comes across as a glib conductor of public relations as things descend into chaos and the viewer will be left with the impression he was not merely inept, but a blithering idiot. I'm not convinced Rumsfeld was a fool, but clearly a lot of things were done wrong and it all smells like a Bay of Pigs mentality.
Everyone should see this and were it within my means I would sponsor its screening on prime time television so all people have the means to see the path of errors and the will to turn blind eyes which lead to this humanitarian disaster.
As of today, Iraq is a fractured nation of religious parties and warlords vying for power. Militias are large, well armed and ruthless. Pulling out will certainly mean a bloodbath, but remaining in Iraq will only hold off the inevitable. Pandoras box is truly emptied and there's very little hope left. Tragically a few intelligent decisions here and there which could have made the difference were not made. For want of a nail the kingdom was lost.
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