It’s tempting to read the title of No End in Sight, the latest in a string of earnest documentaries about the war in Iraq, as a sort of meta-pun on the genre itself; the steady stream of such films indeed shows no sign of stopping, even as seemingly all angles on the subject have been exhausted. So what sets Ferguson’s film apart? For the most part it’s his thorough, almost dispassionate tone, one reliant on calm experts and former government employees who played instrumental roles in the U.S.-created government of Iraq following the ouster of Saddam Hussein. In this way Ferguson gives his arguments the veil of legitimacy, although it’s one that falls away a few too many times to be entirely convincing.
Ferguson doesn’t spend much time criticizing the justifications for the initial invasion, although he does note the lack of connection between Hussein and al Qaeda; instead he focuses on how the operation was botched once it got under way, and especially after President Bush stood under that “Mission Accomplished” banner. He even implies that, despite its dodgy origins, the war could have been successful in creating a better life for the Iraqi people if only its aftermath were handled properly.
To make this point, Ferguson trots out an army of talking heads, many of whom held positions of power in postwar Iraq, nearly all of whom point to critical errors by people in the Bush administration (especially Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and L. Paul Bremer, none of whom show up to defend themselves) that led to the chaotic situation that exists in Iraq today.
All of the calm, rational, well-dressed people make Ferguson’s points seem valid, even if there’s no real way to prove whether any of the second-guessing would have worked any better than what actually happened. A greater problem comes in the moments when Ferguson can be heard off-camera prodding his subjects in certain directions, or expressing incredulous outrage when the one interviewee not critical of the government’s policies won’t say what Ferguson clearly wants. Suddenly, all that measured analysis seems like a façade, which is troubling since the movie’s larger points are sobering and relevant, no matter how many times they’ve already been made.
No End in Sight
Directed by Charles Ferguson