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Life During Wartime

'Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War' includes 29,984 munitions, yellow-cake uranium, and the gone but not forgotten Ari Fleischer

By Richard von Busack

ESSENTIALLY, the terrorists won. Producer/director Robert Greenwald's documentary Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War is a predecessor to his anti-Fox News documentary Outfoxed, currently in release. The documentary retraces the road to Iraq. It charges that because of panic in the wake of Sept. 11, the Bush administration bulldozed its way past the United Nations and into a long-planned pre-emptive war. Misleading evidence of links between Saddam and Bin Laden were revealed by in-the-know office holders: "Saddam cavorts with terrorists," asserted Condoleezza Rice—a whimsical verb to use under the circumstances.

Seventeen months after the war commenced, we've lost hundreds of soldiers, killed countless Iraqi civilians, spent an inconceivable amount of national treasure and weakened our nation and our national prestige for years to come. All in all, it's been a windfall for Al Qaeda.

Maybe the above is a bitter way of looking at the situation, but in Greenwald's review of the sad history of the war, incident after incident, it's hard not to succumb to bitterness. Here it all is again, the intelligence-insulting dog-and-pony shows, meant to scare the bejesus out of the America public. Q: Which administration official said, "The smoking gun may turn out to be a mushroom cloud!"? A: They all did—Rice, Rumsfeld and W., as we see in montage. Twenty-one-year CIA vet Robert Baer describes the Bush administration's methodology as "data-mining"—taking old intelligence and squeezing it for new results. The administration's imperatives to unleash war—all set up for a Oughties Trivial Pursuit game—are retrieved from the public memory hole: the chimerical yellow-cake Niger uranium, the aluminum tubes for breeder reactors, the enormous stockpile of sarin. As the Andy Devine-like chief scientist for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pete Zimmerman, notes, if there'd been sarin in Iraq it would have been about a decade past its shelf life.

Greenwald only succumbs to Michael Moore-style comedy in sequences where two famous speeches are picked apart phrase by phrase by Greenwald's assembly of some 18 career CIA officers and military intelligence analysts. The newspapers went gaga over the manly podium styles of President Bush (at the 2003 State of the Union speech) and Colin Powell (at the U.N., in February of that year). In movie-ad style, Greenwald blurbs rave reviews of these two speeches ("Secretary Powell delivered—and then some!"—USA Today). When Bush asserted the Iraqis had "29, 984 munitions," the press swallowed the bait, the hook and the sinker, despite its supposedly left-of-center proclivities.

Maybe future generations will have a laugh, but here we are stuck in the middle of it. Greenwald's approach—sober, fact-laden, the opposite of the impressionist crowd-rousing in Fahrenheit 9/11—isn't a personal derogation of Bush. Or not quite, until Bush's most indefensible moment, his flight-suited strut down the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Call Uncovered partisan politics, but the official explanation for the events described here are unconvincing. And the sheepish look on Rice's face as she explains that no one really knew the war would cost $87 billion, really says it all.

Uncovered: The War on Iraq (Unrated; 83 min.), a documentary by Robert Greenwald, opens Friday at Camera 12 in San Jose.

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Web extra to the August 25-31, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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