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Monday, December 26, 2011

Film Review | Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2004)

Mass Deceptions

by Thomas Delapa

British statesman Benjamin Disraeli said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. When it comes to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration apparently bamboozled the public with all three.

Further, there are at least two travesties involving the devastating, must-see documentary, Uncovered: The War on Iraq. Only the first has to do with the war itself. The second is that the film is only playing in two theaters in Colorado. If you thought Fahrenheit 9/11 burned the Bush administration, Uncovered pours gasoline on the flames.

Dodging the pitfalls of Michael Moore’s feverish polemic, producer/director Robert Greenwald opts for a reasoned, deliberate approach. At the outset, Greenwald introduces us to his gallery of experts, from ex-security advisor Richard Clarke to former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay. Veteran CIA analysts, ex-military officers, politicians and diplomats round out the interviews.

Though we’ve heard much of the material before over the polarizing last 18 months, Greenwald summarizes it in compelling, if sound-bite, fashion. Uncovered should shock and awe audiences, leaving you infuriated that the U.S. engaged in its first preemptive war against a country that, contrary to the Bush administration claims:

1) Had no weapons of mass destruction.

2) Had no relationship with al-Qaeda.

3) Had no nuclear-weapons program.

In addition, the failure to find any of the above during the American occupation has effectively proven that the U.N. weapons inspection program was working.

Although the Bush administration has now expediently changed its tune for going to war, it behooves us to watch again Secretary of State Colin Powell’s momentous pre-war address before the United Nations. In the words of one sober observer, Powell’s crossing-the-Rubicon speech was "a masterful performance...but none of it was true." Time and time again on TV, Pres. Bush, Vice Pres. Cheney and the White House inner circle insisted that the Hussein regime was a clear and present danger to the United States–thus the decisive reason for going to war.

On that WMD front, today even Kay admits that "We were wrong." During the occupation, Kay’s inspectors were doled a budget of $600 million to seek out the WMDs. Kay sees parallels between the U.S.-led Iraq war and our disastrous 20-year intervention in Vietnam. Both Presidents G.W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson (after the trumped-up Gulf of Tonkin incident) were granted carte-blanche war powers by an acquiescent Congress.

The consensus in the film is the 9/11 attacks presented a convenient excuse for the Pentagon "neo-cons"–like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle–to execute their neo-imperialist, might-makes-right geopolitical plans. These advisors believe that America has no need to justify its foreign policy, not to its so-called allies and certainly not to the U.N. The plan to install a Western-leaning government in Iraq has been on (or under) the table for years, well before the 9/11 attacks, most notably circulated through the hawkish Project for the New American Century think tank.

Throughout the months leading up to the Iraq war, strategic analyses culled from the CIA were either distorted or selectively used by the White House to sell the war to the American public and the media. When Foreign Service veteran Joseph Wilson challenged these conclusions, he was first subjected to a smear campaign. Then someone* in the know leaked the name of his wife Valerie Plame, a CIA officer, to the conservative press, putting her cover–and life–at risk.

Uncovered: The War on Iraq unrolls like an American tragedy, delineating for now and posterity a watershed moment in our history. But perhaps the real tragedy is yet to come. In this critical election season, the damning truth of Greenwald’s exposé may be lost in the blinding fog of war.

Originally published in Boulder Weekly, 9/16/04

POSTSCRIPT: On December 18, 2011, the last U.S. troops left Iraq following nearly nine years of warfare. To date, the war has cost over 4,500 American lives and at least $1 trillion; while estimates of Iraqi deaths vary radically, most surveys count at least 100,000.

*Later determined to be Cheney's top aide "Scooter" Libby.

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