January 11, 2008 -- This is a very well-constructed and well-researched documentary which methodically lays out the groundwork for what went wrong in Iraq. I saw this when it was already out on DVD, so it wasn't fresh, by any means, but already outdated, with nothing about the “surge” or the new tactics implemented by General David Petraus, which have stabilized some areas of Iraq. The surge strategy has already prolonged the U.S. occupation of Iraq, probably well past the tenure of President George Bush. Whether or not the Iraq government will be able to unite the various warring factions in the country and bring about stability is another matter. Most Iraq experts have long acknowledged that the problem in Iraq is more political than military following the initial military victory.
This documentary hits most of the points that most informed people already know (except, perhaps for those who get their information on Iraq largely from television). It does a particularly good job of highlighting exactly what went wrong and when. For instance, the U.S. planning for the occupation of Germany went on for two years during World War II. The planning for the occupation of Iraq went on for 50 days prior to implementation of the strategy. The key decisions made by President George Bush's envoy, L. Paul Bremmer, stopping the formation of an interim Iraqi government, disbanding the Iraqi army and “De-Ba'thification” of the Iraqi government led to massive unemployment, discontent and the perception that American forces were the enemy of Iraq. These decisions essentially created and fueled the deadly Iraqi insurgency for years.
Of course there were many mistakes made before and after those key blunders by Bremmer, including the decision to attack Iraq itself, and the lack of sufficient military and law enforcement forces to occupy the country and to maintain law and order. The low numbers of troops also resulted in a failure to secure the country's stores of weapons and the country's basic infrastructure in the early days of the war. Probably this film's place in history is to document some of the steps leading up to the war and the mistakes made during the first few years of the war. If you happen to look at some of the extras on the DVD, it also mentions that the “containment” strategy of the first Bush administration, and later, the Clinton administration (along with the U.N.) didn't work either. The rich in Iraq got richer, while the poor starved. Nevertheless, a lot of people in Iraq now think of the rule of Sadam Hussein as the good old days, and they may be right. This film rates a B.
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