No End in Sight (2007) Poster

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10/10
A Horror Story All Our Own
agmancuso8 August 2007
You may think that Charles Ferguson's documentary is filled with things we already know. That's what I thought. But the truth of the matter is I knew it like a rumor of sorts born and nurtured out of anger and frustration. What this riveting documentary does is to show it to us confirming what we thought we knew.The sadness is unbearable. The clarity of what lays at the center of this absurdity is startling, devastating. There were only five people in the theater. Why? I found out about the existence of "No End In Sight" through a radio interview with the film-maker. The film has been released practically in secrecy. Everyone is flocking to see Chuck and Larry while this masterpiece that concern us directly is practically ignored. I want to thank Charles Ferguson for this enormous contribution to the truth. I believe he put his own livelihood on the line for the privilege. Sir, you've just become a hero of mine.
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9/10
Iraq invasion year one: a devastating analysis
Chris Knipp25 August 2007
It would be nice to think the terrible debacle of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq of 2003 somehow just happened. That it was just a mistake to go there. That things just went wrong. But as this excellent new documentary shows, things went wrong for reasons—because of how the war was planned and executed.

Or how it wasn't planned. How ultimately completely unqualified people were left in charge. Here are some of the mistakes that No End in Sight elucidates for us:

1. Nobody knew anything. Out of a basic US cadre of roughly 130 people first sent in to run things, only 5 knew Arabic. Nobody knew from factions. What a Shiite and a Sunni and a Kurd were they found out later. Instead of realizing what leaders would emerge (such as the most popular man in Iraq now, Muqtada Sadr), the neo-cons sent in Ahmed Chalabi, a corrupt exile without credibility or authority, believing he would be the new leader. They didn't know how many troops were required to maintain order, and Rumsfeld, trying to prove a cockeyed theory he had no knowledge to support, chose too few. (Then Army Chief of Staf General Eric Shinseki had pointed this out to the Senate before the war even began.)

2. Nobody, neither Americans nor Iraqis, was designated to maintain order. Chaos reigned. "Stuff happens," said Rumsfeld. No: "stuff" doesn't just happen: it's allowed to happen. As Seth Moulton, a young Marine officer who is one of Ferguson's voices says, "We were Marines. We could have stopped looting." But they were not directed to do so. The troops, already too few, just stood around and watched as Baghdad was torn apart, the national library burned, the national museum looted. All the ministry buildings were dismantled and looted—tellingly, only the Ministry of Petroleum was guarded. Baghdad's water and electricity fell apart, and links with the rest of the country turned into wild and dangerous interzones. Most important of all for the maintenance of order, large caches of arms were unknown to US troops—and insurgents pillaged them.

Iraq was lost in the first week of the occupation. But worse was yet to come. And worse. And worse. A key moment was the replacement of ORHA, The Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), headed by Jay Garner, which was not allowed to protect any of its sites, by the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by the arrogant Paul Bremer.

3. This is when the US destroyed the country's human infrastructure, and in so doing sowed the seeds of insurgency and civil war. The occupation fired the entire Iraqi standing army, half a million officers and men alike, and dismissed and barred from work 50,000 "Baathist" government officials and employees. Rendering all these people unemployed dealt a huge economic blow to the country in itself. But far worse than that, it led to permanent conflict—ultimately to civil war. It created many enemies, and it left no one to work with. At this point the goodwill the Americans had won by toppling the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein was lost. The violence and lawlessness that had been allowed to proceed unchecked began to become organized. Began to have a cause.

4. Many of the Americans sent in to help with occupation and reconstruction had nothing to work with. Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad in spring 2003) arrived to find offices supplied to her and her staff that were empty rooms with no computers, not even telephones. But as she says on screen, it didn't matter because they had no phone lists—and no one to call.

Nir Rosen is one of the most knowledgeable and independent American journalists in Iraq and a producer and talking head of this film. As he has recently said, Iraq today, four and a half years later, is a region of city-states, a source of instability to the whole area, to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, even perhaps to Egypt. Pacifying and controlling Baghdad no longer means anything because Baghdad doesn't control the country—if you can call it a country. The US forces are just another militia, the most hated but not the most effective.

First-time director Charles Ferguson gives us the various figures, the cold facts, the cost, the numbers of dead and wounded. But what most matters is what people have to say, and Ferguson has assembled some key talking heads. These include former Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Bodine, Colin Powell's former chief of staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Col. James Hodges, soon-replaced Iraq viceroy Jay Garner (who like others strenuously objected to the dismissal of the army and the debathification, but was ignored by his replacement, Paul Bremer), Bremer adviser Walter Slocombe, frustrated ORHA functionary Paul Hughes, and other diplomats, journalists, officers, and enlisted personnel who were there in Iraq after the invasion.

Ferguson has a doctorate from MIT, where he has taught; is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution (he's an insider!); and has authored three books on information technology. His approach is analytical. The basic problem was that the usual suspects—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, & Co.—had spent virtually no time on planning the aftermath of "Shock and Awe"--the occupation. It was all planned, skimpily, at the last minute, deliberately ignoring all the experts' advice.

No End in Sight is not so much an indictment or a polemic or a proposal as a post-mortem. Its aim is to lay out the whole devolution process that took place under US control of Iraq. Never mind the run-up to the war, the justifications, the aims. Here is the story that shows the situation might have been handled better. Things are much worse.

We get to see a lot of political documentaries now so we have learned to judge them. This is a very fine one—and for Americans an essential one.
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10/10
It is your duty, as an American, to see this movie.
Dubl_A15 August 2007
This was, bar none, the most informative and analytical documentary on the war in Iraq I've seen thus far. Missing is the leftist rhetoric and cleaver edits of Michael Moore (before I get tons of hate mail: I usually agree with everything he says, I just disagree with his method of presentation). In their place are the plain unadulterated cold hard facts (think Frontline), which are more than damning enough. Think of it as exhibit A in the trial of this administration in the court of world opinion. A must see for anyone who still feels that this country is worth living in (although you may find that conviction waning upon exiting the theater).
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10/10
Chilling
sdv30-11 December 2007
This is a movie every American must see. Tens of thousands of Iraqis killed, thousands of brave American soldiers killed or maimed, all for no apparent reason than the arrogance of this administration. Many good people, administrators, military etc. speak out in this movie and give a chilling view of the ineptitude and arrogance of George Bush and co. Unfortunately, these people were not consulted in the beginning of the occupation. Instead, they were pushed aside, as clueless and even malevolent bureaucrats, such as Bremmer, Holcombe, Wolfowitz, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush, mangled every aspect of the American occupation, one after the other, causing in the process an unimaginable loss of human life and resources. The movie's creators do not impose their beliefs on you. Instead, they let the testimonies of the people who were there speak for themselves. The conclusion that comes out of it is inescapable. This has been the largest quagmire in American history, the true cost of which will not be known for decades. It truly is a nightmare with no end in sight.
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10/10
about as important a documentary you'll likely see this year
MisterWhiplash5 August 2007
Sometimes seeing a documentary that has such immense and complex connotations like the war on Iraq can be so staggering that one might be tempted to rate it highly just based on how compelling the subject matter is. That part of it, of whether it's worthy for a documentary, is important. But first-time director Ferguson does an incredible job of amounting crucial interviews with former Generals and government officials, ex-soldiers, enough footage of Iraq destruction for two or more movies, and a mounting sense of dread over the unequivocal fiasco that what went on leading up to-during-and especially after America invaded Iraq, and the film was more than worthy of a special jury prize at Sundance earlier this year.

It's devastating and infuriating enough to get the people you might be with seeing the film into a heated argument (probably with everyone on the side, at least, that it was profoundly stupid to go into the country to start with, without a real plan anyway), because of the layers that can be taken into account. If one watched the news enough, or read what was available at the time, then some of the information may not be all new-news. But a lot of it is, which throws on fuel to the fire for Ferguson's thesis that with all the mounting mistakes, the most crucial ones came in taking for granted what would happen if say, for example, the Iraqi army was disbanded along with the Ba'ath party (if that's how it's spelled). Interestingly, Ferguson doesn't spend too much time on the blunder that was going into Iraq in the first place; that's for other films and he knows it well (namely Fahrenheit 9/11).

We went in. Now 'what to do next' is really where the cards are all layed out: the looting and rioting, which went on for days and ruined many of Iraq's small places of civilization like museums and libraries (which, of course, Rumsfeld and the US didn't mind and practically encouraged), then after that the whole huge f*** up that was the lack of real planning for after we toppled Sadaam's regime (for Germany after WW2 the plan was layed out two years in advance, for Iraq it started 50 days before the invasion), and very notably Walter B. Slocombe (who comes off stumbling through his interview as he can't answer why he wasn't talking to other advisers about the plans of what to do with the Iraq security) and L Paul Bremer, who crafted the three plans for reconstituting Iraq, which basically created the Insurgency. That part, of course, is a big chunk of No End in Sight, with the blunders continuing on and gaining force with the US involvement in Iraq.

So the question comes first to those thinking about the questions Ferguson lays out through his interview, aside from how in the living hell (literally, if you're over in Iraq) we've now spend two *trillion* dollars over there, which is: Why? To get a documentary like that now probably would make a big enough uproar to get people in the streets. But for now, No End in Sight will have to do.
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10/10
A film which should be on Prime Time television
Richard Adams17 September 2007
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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8/10
The Best Iraq-Themed Movie of 2007
evanston_dad17 December 2007
In retrospect, I suppose 2007 will go down as the year in which filmmakers began addressing the problems in Iraq. The number of Iraq-themed films has piled up and disappeared at a breathtaking pace. Maybe it's not a surprise that the best of them so far is the one that doesn't try to turn the conflict into something fictional. All of the other Iraq movies have been well intentioned but limp; you can tell they want to address what's wrong without truly enraging anyone. Well, Charles Ferguson, the writer and director of "No End in Sight," has no such qualms, and his film enrages indeed.

Meticulously crafted, "No End in Sight" proves what everyone has already known for a long time: the Iraq conflict is a complete disaster. The film is certainly biased; anyone who wants to discount it based on that fact is welcome to. But anyone who wants to deny that America's handling of post-invasion Iraq has been anything but a complete "quagmire" (to borrow a word from the film) is hopelessly deluded. "No End in Sight" is not about whether or not the war in Iraq was justified; in fact, the film goes out of its way to affirm that at first many Iraqis were happy that the U.S. had deposed Saddam Hussein. Rather, the film is about what went wrong after the invasion, about how groups that actually had a reconstruction plan were met with indifference at every step by an administration that really cared nothing for the Iraqi people even as they fed the American public a lot of hooey about bringing freedom and democracy to them. This film makes clear that for all of its recent talk about dangerous nations destabilizing the world's peace, the United States is one of the most dangerous countries currently in existence.

It's terrifying that governments are run like this; if this film is accurate, my office at work is better managed than the project for occupying post-war Iraq. Ferguson can't be blamed if his film seems one sided. None of the key decision makers managing Iraq policy -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Bremer -- agreed to be interviewed for the film. The only consolation the film offers is that Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld now look like complete fools. Either they thought they had a good plan for rebuilding Iraq and proved themselves to be ridiculously incompetent; or (and more likely) they never really cared about what happened to Iraq in the first place and have proved themselves to be downright scary.

Grade: A
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Not rose colored
jdesando3 September 2007
As you may have inferred from my many sardonic comments about the neocons, I oppose the war in Iraq. The documentary No End in Sight confirms my opinion not shared by everyone to be sure. But this documentary, written, directed, and produced by Charles Ferguson, an information technology expert and member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution, shows in a rare non-ideological way, the mistakes made up to and during the Iraq invasion.

This is not an incendiary Michael Moore screed; it puts the left's argument in cool, rational light for the right to see clearly and attack as is its right. Ferguson grimly reminds us that information about the absence of WMD's was ignored to further an agenda that began immediately after 9/11 with the order to confirm a link between Al-Qaeda and Hussein's Ba'athist regime.

If you want more insanity, how about the order to disband the entire Iraqi army and Ba'ath party members from government service. That 2004 brought an insurgency of disaffected Sunni men who could have been serving in the necessary local army was no surprise. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's lack of preparation for post-invasion operations is just another depressing fact brought out by this sober, if not surprising or dramatically compelling documentary.

If you read the New York Times, you won't need the information in No End in Sight, but Ferguson puts it together so carefully and responsibly you might want to refer to it as you debate the neocons who claim the surge is working and the end is in sight. They need glasses, and not rose colored ones. But then retaining political power does mighty strange things to one's vision.
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10/10
Bush Administration - Shoot, Ready, Aim
Tamarast28 August 2007
As a military brat, I wanted to see if it was the military or the Cabinet that was making poor decisions about the Iraqi invasion and the years of occupation. Charles Ferguson presented a well laid out chronological story from 9/11/2001 (the Pentagon scenes were especially tearful, we forget that was hit by a plane as well) to the present. Especially interesting was the history between Iran and Iraqi, and I remember the day in 1979 when we knew of American military families that had to leave in the middle of the night from Tehran. America's backing of Hussein then caught up with us in the 90's. Bush's administration was looking for a connection - WMDs, Al-Qada, something.

I was impressed with the candor of Richard Armitage, Col Paul Hughes, and even with Walter Slocombe. The interviews were interesting, honest, and true.

Last week I watched "Saving Private Ryan" for the first time, and understood that we sent in 350,000 troops to Normandy during and after D-Day. Our ability to have that kind of troop deployment is over, as is the Cold War. Instead we are creating a ticking time bomb (much like we did in backing Hussein against Khomeini in 1980) that I hope will not create instability world wide.

I'm planning on buying multiple copies of this DVD - it is that important, not only for now, but in campaign issues in the next year.
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10/10
Credible eye-opener
ehzimmerman15 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The news that stunned me most, in this film, was that the Iraqi army were waiting to be given orders, i.e., put to good use, by the USA, and instead were ordered to disband. It's obvious they could have helped the USA, in terms of maintaining a temporary martial law in Iraq. Instead, with nothing else to do and no way to feed their families, Iraqi ex-soldiers spurred and armed the insurgency against the USA. There's so much in this film that's revelatory and shocking, reported by insiders who were there -- many of whom speak with integrity and conscience.

As an indictment of the Bush Administration's colossal botch job in Iraq this film has 10 times the impact of, say, Michael Moore's "Farenheit 911" (which I also liked). I ended up wondering if the Bushies actually AIM to destroy the United States for some reason (by bankrupting the government, trashing our international reputation, and killing our armed forces for nothing). After all, they're not accountable to the American electorate or the Constitution -- they answer to their elite buddies who own Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater, and so on.
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7/10
Nice cinematography and presentation
tomq5p6 February 2008
First let me comment on the film's presentation. It was well-crafted from an editing/cinematography/graphics point of view. It looked far better than, for example, a Robert Greenwald documentary. It was woven together well and easy to watch.

The content was decent, but I felt that the reasons for invading Iraq were ignored while the film focused on individual people's mistakes as far as military strategy was concerned. If certain companies didn't have an economic interest in that region, the war never would have occurred in the first place, so motivations, to me, are a pretty important detail that many movies about the war seem to be leaving out.

While this film did provide an inside look at the lead-up to the war and Paul Bremer's atrocious handling of the occupation, I felt that it completely glossed over the massive profits that have been made in Iraq by U.S. companies (see the Iraq chapters in Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine").

Halliburton and a host of other U.S. companies have made a killing there while the Iraqi people continue to suffer. The true story of the war (and the hidden rationale for the war), which this movie hardly discussed, is the fact that it was a coordinated attempt to give U.S. companies access to a massive, untapped economic market. Oil reserves, reconstruction projects, and privatized warfare have the potential to be incredibly profitable.

In the past, U.S. companies had no access to these markets, due, in part, to the strict U.N. sanctions on Iraq. The companies that stood to benefit from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the destabilization of Iraq (a.k.a. the opening of an untouched new market) used their money and influence to produce think tank policy papers and talking heads that supported the invasion of Iraq. In fact, many members of the Bush administration, who are (or were) on the government's payroll, refused to divest themselves of their shares in the very companies that would go on to make outrageous profits in Iraq. They were well aware that this constituted a conflict of interest, but when asked to choose between their government posts and their money, they simply refused (or engaged in some "fuzzy math" shenanigans). So, the people who created the war directly benefited from it and it is in their interest to perpetuate it as long as there is money to be made.

From "The Shock Doctrine":

"The fact that Cheney still maintains such a quantity of Halliburton shares means that, throughout his term as vice president, he has collected millions every year in dividends from his stocks and has also been paid an annual deferred income by Halliburton of $211,000— roughly equivalent to his government salary. When he leaves office in 2009 and is able to cash in his Halliburton holdings, Cheney will have the opportunity to profit extravagantly from the stunning improvement in Halliburton's fortunes. The company's stock price rose from $10 before the war in Iraq to $41 three years later—a 300 percent jump, thanks to a combination of soaring energy prices and Iraq contracts, both of which flow directly from Cheney's steering the country into war with Iraq. "

Or, put more simply by Boots Riley of The Coup: "War ain't about one land against the next; it's poor people dying so the rich cash checks."
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10/10
Everyone must watch this movie
tnrcooper1 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie serves an important function by detailing the early mistakes made in Iraq once the US went in. Charles Ferguson, a computer entrepreneur and journalist-nearly a public intellectual....if the public actually knew about him...helms his first film with this movie. Ferguson recognizes, as reflected by the title of his movie, that this war is irreparably lost. Whether people wish to assert otherwise is beside the point. This is not a political point or a demagogic point, but our soldiers and our mission are incidental at this point.

If one takes that as a starting point, the important thing that Ferguson should do, is examine HOW things got the way they are. He takes that as his mission and focuses primarily on key decisions made during the first year and three months of the war and their irreversible effect on the direction the war would go. He highlights three key decisions which he claims (and I think quite correctly) ensured that the US effort would be in vain. He also cites some experts who believe that had better decisions been made that the US occupation might have been more organized. I don't know about that. I think reasonable people can disagree about that and that is a topic for study somewhere else, but regardless, his points that the de- Ba'athification of the civil service in Iraq-meaning that many lower level civil servants who may have signed up with the Ba'ath party in order to avoid Saddam's wrath, largely middle- class "technocrats" as Ferguson appropriately terms them, I think-was an unexpected boon to resistance toward the US' presence in Iraq, that the dissolution of the Iraqi army-which suddenly put 150,000 Iraqi men out of work and made them susceptible to the overtures of those resisting the US, and other decisions which ensured the alienation and impoverishment of Iraqi families, were the greatest mistakes made by the US occupation government in Iraq.

Ferguson engages many figures who had key roles in the burgeoning occupation, including former diplomat Barbara Bodine, who was fired after she made clear that she thought that Iraqis should have a stronger voice in the reconstruction of their country, Jay Garner, the first head of the US who the Cheney administration found would not be a usable toy, and interestingly, Richard Armitage who seems thoughtful but admits that while he doubted the Cheney administrations claims that 150,000 troops would be sufficient to manage Iraq, did not publicly challenge these claims.

Also squirming in his seat is Walter Slocombe who was the Senior Adviser for National Security and was instrumental in offering advice about the direction of the US' role in Iraq. He seems very squirrelly when attempting not to admit blame, while also being honest, about whether or not he was comfortable with the de-commissioning of the Iraqi army and the rather unilateral leadership of Paul Bremer. Credit to him for being interviewed on camera (which Condoleeza Rice, Paul Bremer, and Donald Rumsfeld refused to do in this project), but his awkwardness and terseness spoke volumes about his role in facilitating, or at least not speaking out against, the increasingly out-of-touch leadership of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer. Very insightful too are Paul Hughes, the man in charge of training Iraqi troops in 2003 and 2004, whose pain and confusion are writ clear when he speaks of Iraqi soldiers asking him why the Iraqi army had been disbanded. His forthrightness and reserve also seem to speak to his reluctance to criticize government leaders. However, his account of his experiences and the comments of former Iraqi soldiers to him, make clear his feelings. Jay Garner's bluntness seem to make clear the reasons why the Bush administration would have been uneasy with his presence in Iraq. He comes across as blunt and not suave, but as a man whose greatest interest was the clearest transfer of power to Iraqis and a clear and reasonable role for Americans. Another compelling figure is Robert Hutchings, the head of the National Intelligence Committee which devoted much time to handicapping the future prospects in Iraq in late 2004 and offered a dire forecast, particularly if the US did not change course, only to have Monkey Boy dismiss their findings in his own inimitable manner, as saying that some things were going well, and others were not. An entire NIE, which Hutchings confirms the President did not read, and the President dismisses it by summarizing its findings so simply. He offers no more comment, and indeed, by his tone and his demeanor, no more is needed. That NIE was dismissed by Cheney and Rumsfeld as nay-saying and unwarranted negativity.

The movie is spare and cool. Ferguson declines to focus on the chaos and disaster which have characterized much of the last 2.75 or 3 years but instead, focuses tightly and accordingly, searingly, on the early days of the war, when the White House showed its hand toward its course in Iraq. It is a bracing, clear-headed indictment of some early mistakes made by the Cheney administration which seem to have doomed, from the earliest stages, the US mission there. Everyone should see this movie.
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7/10
Well done, but slow.
tomcardello9 September 2007
Good film, a well done documentary. Most outstanding achievement was its balance- this is no Mikey Moore ultra-leftist propaganda "mockumentary". It makes salient points and lets the audience draw its own intellectual conclusions. It was the final nail in the coffin for me- i have no faith left in gov't. I recommend this to anybody who's politically involved. It's a bit slow, you have to have a solid attention span to stay involved. I wonder why several key people declined to be interviewed? Pres Bush was cited as not having read numerous key reports, i wonder why not? Why do so many people defend this absolutely unwarranted (and illegal) war? When did Congress declare war on Iraq? How could we have legally invaded without this declaration?
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8/10
Getting to the bottom of it.
EXodus25X4 September 2008
One of the most honest documentaries I have ever seen, I never feel the documentaries personal politics or beliefs bleeding through in anyway, are multiple news channels and mediums around the country could really take notes from this honest and truthful reporting. It's unfortunate that some of the key players in this story refused to be interviewed, I wouldn't expect the president but if anyone involved in this quagmire really believed that they handled it correctly you would think they would step forward to defend it. No one does so I would assume no one believes this is the case. Sure, to be fair some of this was reported by our news channels but it was done in such an anti-Bush administration way that it just felt like more bashing and blowing things out of proportion as had been done for years. If they would have put that aside as these documenters have in this film and just report the story and get first hand accounts then maybe more Americans would truly understand what went wrong in Iraq and what we have done since to begin to fix it. Sure as the commander and chief ultimately Bush is to be held accountable, but he is just one man and as anyone who has worked with people under them, there are times when you have to delegate authority to people under you, and you chose the best people you can and sometimes they screw it up, and it comes back on you. That's the way it is, but that doesn't mean that Bush ever wanted all this, he made a bad choice in putting his faith in people who made bad decision. Also to be fair this was like no other war we had fought before and a rebuilding effort like we had never seen. Now choosing to go to war that's another issue for another time. Anyway, this was a very fair uninteresting look into why and how things went so wrong in Iraq.
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10/10
Many Anti-Bush Documentaries out there and this one is the best
machngunjoe5 August 2008
There are so many negative Documentires out there about the 2nd Iraq invasion and this one is the best. No End in Sight breaks down exactly, step by step, how the Iraq war went wrong...well...terribly wrong. But as this excellent new documentary shows, things went wrong for reasons—because of how the war was planned and executed.

Or how it wasn't planned. How ultimately, completely unqualified people were left in charge. Here are some of the mistakes that No End in Sight elucidates for us: 1. Nobody knew anything. Out of a basic US cadre of roughly 130 people first sent in to run things, only 5 knew Arabic. Nobody knew from factions. What a Shiite and a Sunni and a Kurd were they found out later. Instead of realizing what leaders would emerge (such as the most popular man in Iraq now, Muqtada Sadr), the neo-cons sent in Ahmed Chalabi, a corrupt exile without credibility or authority, believing he would be the new leader. They didn't know how many troops were required to maintain order, and Rumsfeld, trying to prove a cockeyed theory he had no knowledge to support, chose too few. (Then Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki had pointed this out to the Senate before the war even began.) 2. Nobody, neither Americans nor Iraqis, was designated to maintain order. Chaos reigned. "Stuff happens," said Rumsfeld. No: "stuff" doesn't just happen: it's allowed to happen. As Seth Moulton, a young Marine officer who is one of Ferguson's voices says, "We were Marines. We could have stopped looting." But they were not directed to do so. The troops, already too few, just stood around and watched as Baghdad was torn apart, the national library burned, the national museum looted. All the ministry buildings were dismantled and looted—tellingly, only the Ministry of Petroleum was guarded. Baghdad's water and electricity fell apart, and links with the rest of the country turned into wild and dangerous interzones. Most important of all for the maintenance of order, large caches of arms were unknown to US troops—and insurgents pillaged them.

Iraq was lost in the first week of the occupation. But worse was yet to come. And worse. And worse. A key moment was the replacement of ORHA, The Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), headed by Jay Garner, which was not allowed to protect any of its sites, by the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by the arrogant Paul Bremer.

3. This is when the US destroyed the country's human infrastructure, and in so doing sowed the seeds of insurgency and civil war. The occupation fired the entire Iraqi standing army, half a million officers and men alike, and dismissed and barred from work 50,000 "Baathist" government officials and employees. Rendering all these people unemployed dealt a huge economic blow to the country in itself. But far worse than that, it led to permanent conflict—ultimately to civil war. It created many enemies, and it left no one to work with. At this point the goodwill the Americans had won by toppling the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein was lost. The violence and lawlessness that had been allowed to proceed unchecked began to become organized. Began to have a cause.

4. Many of the Americans sent in to help with occupation and reconstruction had nothing to work with. Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad in spring 2003) arrived to find offices supplied to her and her staff that were empty rooms with no computers, not even telephones. But as she says on screen, it didn't matter because they had no phone lists—and no one to call.

Nir Rosen is one of the most knowledgeable and independent American journalists in Iraq and a producer and talking head of this film. As he has recently said, Iraq today, four and a half years later, is a region of city-states, a source of instability to the whole area, to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, even perhaps to Egypt. Pacifying and controlling Baghdad no longer means anything because Baghdad doesn't control the country—if you can call it a country. The US forces are just another militia, the most hated but not the most effective.

First-time director Charles Ferguson gives us the various figures, the cold facts, the cost, the numbers of dead and wounded. But what most matters is what people have to say, and Ferguson has assembled some key talking heads. These include former Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Bodine, Colin Powell's former chief of staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Col. James Hodges, soon-replaced Iraq viceroy Jay Garner (who like others strenuously objected to the dismissal of the army and the debathification, but was ignored by his replacement, Paul Bremer), Bremer adviser Walter Slocombe, frustrated ORHA functionary Paul Hughes, and other diplomats, journalists, officers, and enlisted personnel who were there in Iraq after the invasion.

Ferguson has a doctorate from MIT, where he has taught; is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution (he's an insider!); and has authored three books on information technology. His approach is analytical. The basic problem was that the usual suspects—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, & Co.—had spent virtually no time on planning the aftermath of "Shock and Awe"--the occupation. It was all planned, skimpily, at the last minute, deliberately ignoring all the experts' advice.

The entire movie essentially proves that carelessness is the true axis of evil. This was the only Bush/War Documentary to be nominated for an Oscar. ( not that means anything). It didn't get a wide viewing so most people don't know about it, which makes it even more important to see.

We get to see a lot of political documentaries now so we have learned to judge them. This is a very fine one—and for Americans an essential one.

This is the best Iraq War documentary I've seen yet and I've seen a lot
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8/10
A documentary with a point of view
bandw31 March 2008
It cannot be disputed that all that is presented here is factual, being that it consists of interviews and documentary footage. There may be some debate as to the truth of what some of the interviewees say, but the interviews did take place and those being interviewed are clearly identified. The material is edited to conclusively establish that the U.S. Iraq adventure is a monument to incompetence. The fact that most of the interviewees were high ranking officials in the Bush administration lends credence to the point of view.

To those who have diligently tried to follow the events of the Iraq war, this film will confirm suspicions as well as add some new insights as to how we have wound up in the mess we are in. To those who have not paid attention, this film should provide groundwork for further investigation. The film avoids sensationalism - it does not dwell on maimed bodies, casualties, troop morale, and so forth. It does not even cite things like Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech or Wolfowitz's estimate the the cost of the war would be two billion dollars tops.

It is not surprising that all of the principal players declined to be interviewed, but it would have been good to have had interviews with officials who supported going to war and continue to defend it.

What I was left with after viewing this was a great sadness that after well over a year since this film was released, and after over five years of the war, there is still no end in sight.
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10/10
Required Viewing for All Americans or Anyone who Cares About the World
Kate_Dammit_Run2 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film should be viewed by everyone who has any concern at all for what is happening in Iraq. It is a level headed and searing indictment of the American bungling of Iraq. No End In Sight demonstrates how the debacle which is current Iraq was not inevitable. It was the result of specific planning failures, and poor decisions.

The film showcases a series of people, most of whom were involved with ORHA, the first American administration of post-Saddam Iraq. These were dedicated professionals, with the best of intentions, but they were critically short on time, resources, and manpower. The bungling of planning on display here is inexcusable.

As the film goes on they lay out several reasons for why Iraq fell apart. These can be boiled down to essentially three major mistakes, all of which were compounded by poor planning and lack of resources: 1. Allowing order to break down. After the war the US allowed looters to tear apart the country. According to Donald Rumsfeld this was because "free people are free to commit crimes." The outcome of this, however, was to send a message to the Iraqi people that the US didn't care about maintaining order and protecting Iraqis and that they were unable to do so. Moreover many of the weapons which would later be used against American troops were looted from supply depots during this period.

2. The De-Bathification of Iraq. Lack of American knowledge of Iraq, and an obsession with outdated paradigms, led to the De-Baathification movement. Paul Bremer fired everyone who was a member of Saddam's Baath party and forbid them from being hired again by the government. The problem with this policy was that the Baathists were not all evil monsters. In fact the over whelming majority were simply civil servants who joined the Baath party because they needed to do so for their jobs. By firing the Baathists they removed just about anyone who knew how to run the country. They also angered tens of thousands of influential people who were now unemployed and unemployable.

3. The big mistake was refusing to recall the Iraqi Military. The film makes the point that, in many ways, the Iraqi Military was not defeated. They collapsed and melted back into society as the Americans advanced. The Iraqi Army was made up of ordinary Iraqis, not monsters. They fully expected to be recalled to make up the military of post-Saddam Iraq. Indeed, various American officials were in negotiations with officers to come back to work. These soldiers would have helped the Americans maintain order and would have removed the need for the US to train an army from scratch. Instead the Americans fired them all. Suddenly you had tens of thousands of men who were out of work, who had been trained to fight, and who, in many cases, still had their weapons. Almost immediately after the disbanding of the Army the attacks began on American soldiers. This was the fundamental mistake which gave birth to the insurgency.

This film should be viewed by every American, and if you come to it with an open mind you will go away enraged at the incompetence behind the Iraq War.
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8/10
Kind of like watching a slow motion train wreck
revere-724 May 2009
What this movie is NOT about: The decisions that led to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the twists and turns America took on the path to war - if that's what you want, seek out something else, such as the outstanding Frontline documentary "Bush's War".

What this movie IS about: The film begins with the ending of "major hostilities" in Iraq, and carefully step-by-step examines the mishandling of the post-war occupation. Through interviews with people connected to the occupation at many different levels, it paints a picture of terrible mishandling and astounding arrogance on the part of few who held sway over so many.

Kind of like if the events in a disastrous train wreck were caught in slow motion - viewing the film would be informative, horrible, and fascinating all at the same time.
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9/10
A Fundamentally Irrefutable Look at the Chilling Signals We're Sending Iraqis
jzappa14 February 2009
The documentary offers a social service in dealing with problems and issues of national importance. This is not only a documentary at a time when there is an unusually high degree of consensus about what is important, but also a documentary about what makes this time indeed so significant. And luckily, it is a fundamentally irrefutable one.

Software entrepreneur Charles Ferguson makes his debut as a filmmaker here, an impressive one, and not just owing to the tremendously ambitious feel of the graphics, such as the title cards. The amount of dizzying information condensed into such a tightly composed 102 minutes results in a greater understanding of it all. He gets to the root of the fast deterioration of U.S.-occupied Iraq into pure madness, as L. Paul Bremer's disbanding of all of Iraq's military entities, "De-Ba'athification," and not providing enough troops resulted in no authority, no order. It was the Islamic fundamentalists that moved to fill this void, so their ranks ballooned with many disillusioned Iraqi people.

We are making a haven for terrorists out of Iraq. Yes, we got rid of Saddam, but what we put in his place is far, far worse. Not only for Iraq, but for us and our allies, or what we have left of them. With no police force or national army to maintain order, ministries and buildings were looted. What hit me the hardest while watching this film was that among them were Iraqi museums, holding precious artifacts from some of the earliest human civilizations.

Ferguson's film shows us just how chilling those signals were to most Iraqis. Did American forces even intend to maintain law and order? The destruction of libraries and records ruined the bureaucracy that existed before our invasion. They had to start from scratch to reassemble the government infrastructure. And Rumsfeld rejected the looting as no worse than rioting in an American city.

Does Bush read? He doesn't seem to have read anything vital to his intentions. Over 30 people are interviewed here, most of them former Bush followers who have since come down to earth and become embittered by what they experienced. So many of them claim that the inexperience of the pivotal representatives of the Bush administration, and their dissent to investigate, recognize or receive input from more experienced participants was at the core of the devastating invasion effort. And those who voted for them would later protest that Obama had too little experience to be President.

The social impact of cinema is reinforced by the documentary, which pushes aesthetics to one side in the face of social movements and upheavals. It might be argued that since Bremer, Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz refused to be interviewed for the film, Ferguson only gives us one side of the story. But the assembled qualified footing of the people he did interview, and their composed, comprehensive emphasis on fact, makes such an argument puzzling.
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10/10
Unbelievable
stodruza5 April 2008
The rage this doc. ennobles is real. These facts are unbelievable. It is up to us, you and I to put a stop to this (through peaceful means.)

The next time you think of or meet any of the idiots who voted for Bush just remember this film.

And the election after this one when the Republicans win again, and the people forget everything that transpired, be sure to remind them. What else is there to say? Just unbelievable. All of it. Crazy. Unbellivable.

Unbelievable.

Any more words are superfluous. Unbelievable.
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10/10
Gracias Por Nada, Fuhrer George II
Seamus282916 September 2007
When I heard about this film on one of my local college radio stations, I figured "I have to see this when/if it plays at one of my local cinemas". Of course, I never for a microsecond expected it to play at a mainstream cinema (heavens forbid that the masses would forsake their precious Adam Sandler piece of s**t instead of an insightful documentary about where our country has gone). I did get to see it (at one of my fave art cinemas), I knew it would be an eye opener,but not to the extent that I actually got (I exited the cinema feeling like the Alex character in 'Clockwork Orange' who had his eyes clamped open to watch all of that horrible violence---in short, I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach for nearly two hours). This is a well made doc about how the Bush Administration (or as I prefer to call it, The Fourth Reich)has managed to destroy a country,it's people & it's culture. And now that retarded Nazi wants to set his sights on Iran? It's clear that something has to be done about this dangerous spawn of Satan, before any more damage can be done. If you give a rats crap for our country,or for that matter,our world, see this crucial film (and prepare to walk out feeling angry & disillusioned at our so called leaders).
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8/10
Unsettling and mostly undeniable
D A31 October 2007
I'm not going to sit here and say that patriotic first-timer Charles Ferguson's massively compelling, strongly watchable, but fact/detail heavy US Iraqi occupation analysis ends up feeling completely objective, but at a time when documentary film-making has clearly branched off into manipulated agenda pushing, it is reassuring to see American work like this addressing America's elected government in action during this progressively unjust occupation.

What this man does so effectively is one, get many low ranking officials amongst this high stanking administration to open up about their experiences in the enormous, almost unbelievably ignorant takeover hell which ensued and escalated years into George's ridiculous mission accomplished ploy and two, mix all this cluttered, respectable fact-finding, interviewing, and archiving into a nervous, unmistakable shame on the U.S.oA's collective psyche we will still be reeling from decades to come. You want a real horror movie? Happy Halloween.
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8/10
Bush's utter failure
djray653 June 2010
This is an amazing conformation of the Bush administrations utter failure in the handling of the Iraq war. A girl scoot troop could have made better and more informed decisions. Perhaps even a troop of monkeys would have done a better job then Bush's henchmen?

The errors in judgment and lack of military experience within the administration are both appalling and telling of the Bush white house. Every military expert was systematically ignored or sidelined. It's as if the Bush administration's primary and sole interest or concern was the protection and acquisition of Iraq's oil provisions.

This film is a testament to the complete and absolute failure of the Bush presidency.
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8/10
A checklist of bad decision making, but WHY those decisions???
bobm550825 November 2009
This is an important documentary, that deserves a wide spread viewing by all Americans. It is an informative history lesson of the POST WAR missteps that sadly have our soldiers AND the IRAQI nation leading a frightening existence. The interviews with Iraqi citizens, their heartfelt loss of country pride and loss of any liveable civilization were heartbreaking to me.

The director's take here is as on balance as it can get, knowing where we now stand. History is on his side. He has assembled the "usual suspects" of culpable parties - Rumsfeld, Cheney, the always distant George Bush and their dispatched diplomats. He chronicles the mind bogging, bad decisions, decisions made by woefully under qualified participants. The interviews of replaced diplomats are naturally the most damning, but do not seem like their agenda are misguided. The "Usual Suspects", as expected, refused to be interviewed.

Many reviews here, and by major critics, depict those decisions and their devastating consequences. I will not rehash them here, and hope you watch this powerful movie.

But, I have one nagging question. The "ousted" participants interviewed here seem to have had a good grasp on what needed to be done. Working against all odds (looted buildings, collapsed intrastucture, poor planning prior to their arrival) they speak about their slow but sure steps to reconstruction. Rumsford, Cheney et al picked them and put them in place!! What happened to shift them out of the picture so quickly?? Why did the administration feel the need to remove Jay Gardner (retired General with experience and in place) with an elitist, ex-CEO, armed with 2 devastatingly bad edicts??? I would have liked a bit more back story on how the change from humanitarian organization to the CPA came to be. With 200 hours of footage (I read somewhere), maybe that info can be addressed!?

All in all, a must see. It is also a very valuable reminder that we have to pick our future leaders much better than this self serving mess of an administration!
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10/10
How to Spread Democracy.
Robert J. Maxwell15 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
One of the interviewees muses that rebuilding Iraq would be difficult, that there were 500 ways we could go wrong and only 2 or 3 in which we could go right. "We didn't realize," she concludes, "that we were going to go through all 500." Is this a Bush-bashing propaganda piece? Not really. Bush rarely comes up, partly because he was out of the loop on most of the important decisions, such as disbanding the Iraqi army, de-Ba'athifying the nation, and so forth. He'd evidently turned all of that over to the people who really get clobbered here, namely Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, and especially Rumsfeld.

The film lays out for us things that generally most of us already know about. It's not about combat, except insofar as combat appears as a consequence of mismanagement at higher levels. It doesn't jerk easy tears. A few soldiers tell us what it's like to be blown up. A few Iraqis describe kidnappings of their friends, neighbors, and children. But nobody breaks into sobs and shows us his wounds, and the anecdotes aren't detailed. The justification for the war is barely touched on, and Constitutional issues aren't raised. There's hardly any musical score and it's not melodramatic. The appeal is to logic and perception, not emotion, although nobody would call the film dull in any way.

The interviewees we meet are sober and convincing, even as they confess their own misjudgments. Rumsfeld and the rest refused to be interviewed for obvious reasons. Their decision is understandable but it leaves the field open for critics of the war. The interviewer is not especially hostile, even to subjects who believe the reconstruction was handled well, like Walter Slocumbe. But the critics are not rabid left-wingers either, just military people, diplomats, and cogs in the wheel of nation rebuilding.

What a tragic waste this has been. Never mind the physical and mental suffering of everyone involved -- except, evidently, those who are ultimately responsible for the tragedy. As of the time this film was released in 2007, the eventual cost of the war in Iraq was estimated by two highly respected economists (one a Nobelist) at $1.86 trillion. Think of what we could do with that amount domestically. And, ironically, who has benefited the most from this ill-conceived and hasty invasion? Our adversary for the past 30 years, Iran. We eliminated their greatest enemy.

The film prompts considerations that go beyond Iraq. Maybe some nations simply don't have the infrastructure for the kind of Jeffersonian democracy that we enjoy. Maybe at some level, communities are best suited for a kind of benign totalitarianism. In city neighborhoods dominated by the Mafia, corruption is endemic but there are only occasional outbursts of violence. And the neighborhood runs smoothly when everyone knows what's expected of him. It's unjust but within its limitations it works. During the chaos of 2007, one of the Iraqis interviewed on the street shouts, "If this is democracy, we don't want it. Give us a strong man and bring us order." Something like that.
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