The movie is just great!
August 23, 2007 All Things Considered National
Millionaire-Turned-Filmmaker Traces Iraq War
Charles Ferguson made his fortune as a software developer, then made an unlikely move to filmmaking.
His documentary on the Iraq war, No End In Sight, tracks the process in
Washington that led to the current situation in Iraq, and it breaks some new
ground: Key decision-makers talk for the first time about the war and its
ROBERT SIEGEL, host: A new documentary about the war in Iraq breaks some
new ground. It’s called “No End In Sight,” and in it, some key decision-makers
talk about the war and its aftermath for the first time.
JOHN McCHESNEY: Charles Ferguson made his fortune in software. His
company developed a program that made it possible for just about anyone to
create a Web page. And soon the big guys – Microsoft – were knocking on his
door and he sold the company.
Mr. CHARLES FERGUSON (Director, “No End In Sight”): For a tidy sum of
Microsoft stock, which was even better than money at the time.
McCHESNEY: But Ferguson’s first love was political science, in which he
had a PhD from MIT. After Silicon Valley, he went back to Washington’s
Brookings Institution and decided to make his first movie when friends there
told him the war was going wrong.
Mr. FERGUSON: And we drove in a convoy of four armored pickup trucks
with machine gun towards in the back. About – a convoy of about 20 armed men in
those four trucks. And we drove overnight from Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan to
Baghdad. That was quite a drive.
McCHESNEY: Ferguson says at times, he dressed as an Iraqi to move about
in Baghdad. Almost all of the architects of the war – Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz,
Paul Bremer, Condoleezza Rice – declined to be interviewed for his film. And in
any case, Ferguson didn’t set out to prove that the war was a mistake. He had
supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, although he had his doubts.
Mr. FERGUSON: I probably underestimated the inherent difficulties of
doing that, of removing Saddam by force even under the best of conditions.
McCHESNEY: But he had another reason for not taking on the right or the
wrong of starting the war.
Mr. FERGUSON: I wanted the film to have as wide an appeal as possible
and to be of interest and accessible to and credible to people who are for the
war as well as people who are against it.
McCHESNEY: The film has a strong point of view, that the Bush
administration botched the war in nearly every way possible.
Ambassador BARBARA BODINE (Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen): When we
were first starting the reconstruction, we would sort of joke that there were
500 ways to do it wrong and two or three ways to do it right. And what we
didn’t understand is that we were going to go through all 500.
McCHESNEY: This documentary is not a Michael Moore satire. The ironies
are painful, not laughable, and nearly all those interviewed were not outsiders
but part of the administration’s early team.
Mr. RICHARD ARMITAGE (Deputy Secretary of State): I think most of us
were caught relatively unaware of or completely of unaware by this disbanding
of the army. Secretary Paul found out about it as I did.
Mr. FERGUSON: Which was how?
Mr. ARMITAGE: Just as we found out one day, Gary announced that he
disbanded the army.
Mr. FERGUSON: How about Condoleezza Rice?
Mr. ARMITAGE: Oh, she ought to speak for herself.
McCHESNEY: Colonel Paul Hughes, now with the Institute for Peace, was
arranging for the Iraqi army to come in from the cold in the early days of the
war. He says he had 137,000 troops lined up. His effort was abruptly cut off by
Bremer’s disbandment order. Hughes is a major figure in Ferguson’s film.
Colonel PAUL HUGHES (Senior Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace):
He treated the subject matter with a great deal of balance. And the artistry
that went into the film itself is just phenomenal.
McCHESNEY: The film does have its critics, though. Harlan Ullman, a
senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses thinks it doesn’t go far
Mr. HARLAN ULLMAN (Senior Fellow, Center for Naval Analyses): What I was
disappointed by is that when you take a look and really ask the question, how
did this happen? How do we manage to do what we’ve done in Iraq? How we made so
many mistakes? Why have we made so many mistakes? I would have liked to have
seen a moving picture that really got in to the how and rather than the
McCHESNEY: Ferguson says copies of the film were sent to the White
Mr. SETH MOULTON (Marine Lieutenant): And are you telling me that’s the
best America can do? No. Don’t tell me that. Don’t tell the Marines who fought
for a month in Najaf that. Don’t tell the Marines who, who are still fighting
every day in Fallujah that that’s the best America can do.
McCHESNEY: And as yet, he’s received no response. John McChesney, NPR News.
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