Iraq: Still “No End in Sight”?

No20end20in20sight20poster_2 Iraq seems to be fading from our electoral consciousness, but Charles Ferguson does not want the public to forget.

The director of the Oscar-nominated “No End in Sight,” right, one of the best reviewed of the documentaries on the Iraq war with its singular focus on how the mission and occupation were bungled, has released his film on YouTube, free for all to see.

The goal was to get as many people to watch. “Both they (the distributor) and I view it as an experiment,” he says.

But much has happened since the film left off, including the unexpected success of the troop surge, the calls for a timetable for withdrawal and the current presidential rave.

Ferguson says that he “was somewhat surprised by the degree to which violence came down,” but he still has great reservations about whether it means that the country has stabilized.

“There is more or less a consensus that the decline in violence is real, and there is somewhat of a spectrum of opinion on what this means and what it means to Iraq going forward.”

He notes that while the security situation has improved, there has “not been much in the way of political, economic and social progress.”

Only a small portion of the population, he says, is receiving money from Iraq’s vast oil fields, while such infrastructure as water, sewage and electricity are still in poor shape. Even the security situation is tenuous, because there is a feeling that violence will return if U.S. combat troops withdraw.

“No End in Sight” includes interviews with many of the principals involved in the planning of post-invasion Iraq, chronicling a tale of missed opportunities, feeble preparation and poor judgment. The Iraqi army was disbanded, leaving tens of thousands of men without jobs or livelihoods.

He’s skeptical of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s endorsement of a timetable for withdrawal given the continued reliance on U.S. forces for security.

“It’s one thing to endorse a withdrawal publicly,” he says, “it’s another thing to make it occur.” He suggested that the statement was made to draw “more support from the extreme, anti-American elements of the population.”

And as much as there has been success with the surge, the unanswered question is why Gen. Petreaus’ introduction of proven counter-insurgency tactics were not used earlier, he says.

Ferguson warns about the risks of withdrawal, but he has still endorsed Barack Obama, who has called for a timetable for getting troops out.

“I am not totally comfortable with that, but I think Mr. Obama will be flexible in making decisions based on changing conditions,” he says.

He said that on Iraq and national security, Obama is “more accurate and ethical than the Republicans, including Mr. McCain.” McCain has often highlighted the fact that he was highly critical of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for not altering its strategy in Iraq, but Ferguson says that the GOP nominee was nevertheless supportive of Bush’s Iraq policy “when it was at its worse.”

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