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May 13, 2006 |

By Miscellaneous | Film | May 13, 2006 |

George W. Bush is a liar. This is not to say that he doesn’t believe in what he and his administration are doing; this is to say that George W. Bush and his administration manipulated evidence, distorted information released to the media, and used the 2003 State of the Union Address as an opportunity to lie to a good deal of the citizens of the United States and their elected representatives, telling his audience that “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

The first two charges will doubtless be filtered through political lenses — you either love George W. Bush or you hate him, which is odd since this man claimed during his 2000 campaign that he’d reunite a country that had been axed in two by Republican vendetta. He didn’t point out that Republicans were the ax, of course — not that he needed to.

But I digress. The third charge levied against George W. Bush is that he lied in order to persuade the public and Congress to allow him to go to war on Iraq. Congress handed the reigns of war over to the cowboy from Texas, and as of today, August 21, 2004, 950 U.S. Soldiers have died since the beginning of the cowboy’s war, the last five deaths having been confirmed yesterday.

The fact of Bush’s lying is clearly and convincingly presented in Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Unlike the director/producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, with which critics will readily attempt to lump his film, the director/producer of Uncovered doesn’t have any grand scheme to expose; Robert Greenwald wants only to show that the citizens and Congress of the United States were manipulated into an unnecessary war. Greenwald allows Bush to implicate himself, aided by the often humorous assistance of his top aides — notably his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Rather than presenting the leaders of the United States during unscripted and ludicrously awkward moments, as did Michael Moore in his aforementioned “documentary,” Greenwald uses footage from news programs and televised addresses. By showing Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice repeating in speech after terrorizing speech that Iraq had huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and that we couldn’t wait for evidence of the stockpiles to arrive in the form of “a mushroom cloud,” Greenwald doesn’t need to comment on what this administration was attempting to do — by placing these performances one after another, he allows the Bush administration to show for itself that it prefers its public terrified, its “intelligence” unquestioned.

The failure of the film is that it presents little new information. Many people, myself among them, learned from Fahrenheit 9/11 that several Representatives challenged the outcome of the 2000 election but that no senator was willing to examine the dishearteningly suspicious circumstances of that long-ago November. I felt more comfortable with the later information Moore presented because he grabbed my attention with something that all news-reading U.S. citizens should already have known. Because Greenwald’s film is not just a critique of Bush — it takes a swing at the media for its failures in the lead-up to war — it would have been useful to present something that hasn’t been made readily available before.

This is forgivable, though. The 27 experts Greenwald presents are the core of the film, not the media critique. Among these experts are former C.I.A. analysts, a former U.N. Weapons Inspector, and various key players in the saga of the United States’ war on Iraq. Notably, there is a long interview with David Kay, who was sent by Bush to find Iraq’s non-existent WMD. For his part, Kay seems to have taken on his responsibilities in an unbiased, scientific manner. He explains that when he went into Iraq he set up two teams — one operating with the hypothesis that the WMD were there to be found, the other working under the assumption that the WMD were, in fact, non-existent. Dr. Kay resigned in January after concluding that Iraq’s WMD programs had long ago been discontinued.

The former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter offered the interesting information that anthrax has a shelf-life of three years and that the last known batch of anthrax to be produced by Iraq was from 1991. The film juxtaposes this information with footage of Secretary of State Colin Powell holding up a vial of simulated anthrax in front of the U.N. assembly, stating that Saddam Hussein had not proven that he was no longer hiding chemical weapons. As that day is now widely accepted as the most disappointing, embarrassing day of Powell’s long, distinguished career, one must wonder if Powell considers himself a casualty of the neoconservatives’ war.

The New York Times reported on August 19th that Bush stated that he would have gone forward with the invasion of Iraq even had he known that no WMD would be found. This isn’t news at all because we know that Bush would have invaded regardless of the existence of WMD. He did.

Again, though — political lenses. The clear proof of George W. Bush the liar: the 2003 State of the Union Address. The best part of Uncovered is its presentation of that address, particularly the Iraq/Niger/uranium bit. In February 2002, Cheney asked the C.I.A. to investigate claims of the transaction. The C.I.A. sent Joseph Wilson to Niger. Wilson found the legitimacy of the claim to be highly unlikely. Bush delivered a speech in Cincinnati in October of 2002 in which he planned to publicize the British claim that Iraq had sought the uranium, which was in a September 2002 British dossier. George Tenet, the former director of the C.I.A., suggested the reference be removed and it was. Three months later, though, when his audience was considerably larger than in Cincinnati (the State of the Union Address is the most widely viewed political speech of the year, after all), Bush decided that the information should be included.

After the chief U.N. weapons inspector made public the illegitimacy of the documents on which the Iraq/Niger claim had been based, the White House explained that it was not their fault that the information had been included but rather a mistake of the C.I.A. Being made to address the fact that Tenet had asked that the claim be removed from the Cincinnati speech, Condoleezza Rice explained the problem away by telling the “Meet the Press” audience that no one in the White House had recalled that occurrence.

All that talk of weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, and we’re expected to believe that one of the most ominous claims made in the build-up to the war on Iraq was a simple mistake? And one that the Bush people shouldn’t be blamed for anyway because it was actually George Tenet’s fault? And furthermore, really, that it wasn’t technically a lie because the British did, in fact, come to that conclusion? Did somebody cough, “Liar”?

The great success of Uncovered is that in 56 minutes it presents a large amount of information — speech excerpts, expert opinions, Sunday-morning talk show appearances by Bush’s closest aides, and a thorough timeline of the events that eventually made the United States the occupier of Iraq — from an extended period of time. Because too few voters and potential voters are too busy or disinterested to follow the politics of our nation, Greenwald’s film is a thankful contribution.

Ryan Lindsey previously wrote political commentary and the occasional movie review for Pajiba.

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