In this week’s issue of New York, David Edelstein raves that Charles Ferguson’s Iraq documentary, No End in Sight, is “incendiary a meticulous, thoroughly engrossing lesson.” Logan Hill spoke with Ferguson about voting for president, the continuing coyness of Paul Bremer, and Iraq's best hope: turning into Northern Ireland.
Personally, what was the most shocking fact you discovered?
When I learned that the 400 people who entered Iraq in mid-April to become occupational authority didn’t have Internet access, e-mail, or telephones — and didn’t for weeks and, in some cases, months That was pretty amazing. Or when I learned that the decision to disband the Iraqi army was made by Bremer in his second week on the job before he’d gone to Iraq and without speaking to anyone on the ground in Iraq, or anyone in the Cabinet, that was pretty shocking
What piece of information do you still feel as if you’re missing?
I wish I could see inside the heads and into the outlooks and opinions and emotions of George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. Bush seems to have been remarkably passive throughout all of this. They’d be briefing him or the Cabinet or Security Council, delivering some briefing made by Rumsfeld or Cheney, and Bush would just nod his head up and down — until well into the occupation.
Is there really anything like a best-case scenario for when the American military leaves Iraq?
So many people are increasing domestic and political pressure to reduce American military pressure in Iraq that I think it’s now inevitable that this will happen and it’s probably a good thing. But it’s not like this is going to solve anything. It’s certainly too late for there to be a good outcome. Still, I think it’s very clear that there’s a big difference between a bad outcome and a horrific outcome. So I think that there is still some possibility that Iraq can—and it’s somewhat weird to say this — become nearly something like Northern Ireland: a place where there’s a low-grade civil war that goes on for a long time and eventually there’s peace.
And if things continue to get worse?
It’s very possible we’ll see something really horrific: genocide, a regional war with Iran and Saudi Arabia involved.
Iraq is front-and-center in the presidential campaign. What advice would you give voters trying to make up their minds?
First of all, anybody who tries to maintain now that this was anything but a monumental disaster should be dismissed out of hand. Secondly, the film is an argument for being open-minded and listening to expertise — other opinions — and it’s an argument for experience, and not academic abstract experience but direct personal experience. Have you run an organization? Served in the military? Served overseas? Do you have some experience related to these problems?
Aside from Cheney and Bush, who did you most want to interview that you couldn’t?
Paul Bremer. I tried extremely hard to get Mr. Bremer. Directly, indirectly, through his publicist — I even got his personal e-mail. I tried for months. Initially he said yes, then he backed out.
He gave this completely absurd reason: His schedule did not permit. I wrote him back saying, "If that’s the issue, I’ll pay any amount to save you three hours of your time so I can sit down and speak with you."
I never heard back.
Related: The No-Spin Zone [NYM]