Dispatch from Sundance: Bodine and Gen. Garner Weigh In On New Iraq Movie, “No End In Sight”


On Monday, two car bombs in a Baghdad market killed 88 and wounded 160 others. Saturday was the third deadliest day for U.S. troops since the start of the war. Things are dire and only getting worse. Two weeks ago, after watching the President’s less than illuminating speech on escalation, I swore off writing about Iraq for awhile. What more was there to write? I found myself flip-flopping between sending 150,000 troops to the country or pulling out completely, a flip-flop many others do. But neither of these seem like such great ideas, so, after listening to Bush’s plan to send 20,000 (I definitely don’t think this is a good idea), I decided I couldn’t add anything more to the debate.

So, where did I find the inspiration today to write about Iraq? The Sundance Film Festival. This morning I attended a live televised panel discussion about the Iraq War and the new movie about it, “No End In Sight,” which is a product of over 75 interviews with key players. (Keep an eye out for a doc review from Mother Jones, it’s on its way.) The panel included, among others, General Jay Garner, Marine Corps Lt. Seth Moulton and Ambassador Barbara Bodine. The discussion was mediated and many of the same questions we always hear were asked and many of the same answers given. Here’s my paraphrase of the discussion:

“We made mistakes, no one had a plan, no one admitted there was an insurgency, the administration did not listen to its military leaders, military leaders didn’t stand up to the administration, and disbanding the army as well as not stopping the looting were the gravest errors made over the past four years.”

(For more details on the mistakes made before and during the Iraq war, check out the Mother Jones timeline here.)

Yes, hearing all of this still makes my blood boil, but I was left wanting more. For instance, what are we going to do now? What answers do these experts have for us regarding the future? I got the chance after the discussion to sit down with both Moulton and Bodine. Here’s what the two had to say (paraphrased).

•We need to define what victory means: staving off regional war, securing the country…?

•It is essential when fighting a counterinsurgency to build the support of the people. It is not just about “killing bad guys.”

•We don’t have enough troops to effectively fight a counterinsurgency.

•We would need a draft to effectively fight a counterinsurgency, but the country would have to decide if it is ready. (It’s not.)

•The war needs to be fought with policy and General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency document is full of policy.

•Hiring General Petraeus was the best decision the President has made so far.

•It may be too little too late and the General might not be given enough resources to do what needs to be done.

•The administration may have set Petraeus up to fail.

•Hopefully we are not just postponing the inevitable and in the process losing even more lives.

So, solutions, they were not, but I got to thinking, if these people, who have been wronged by the course of this war more so than any of us, are still engaging in a dialogue, then I think we have to too. Ambassador Bodine said that “we are only down to a few dozen people that aren’t listening.” They are the same dozen that haven’t been listening all along. What has changed, though, is the number of people talking.

— Leigh Ferrara

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