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Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War

(2004) *** 1/2 Unrated
83 min. Cinema Libre. Director: Robert Greenwald. Cast: Robert Baer, Milt Bearden, David Corn, Chas Freeman, Karen Kwiatkowski.

Robert Greenwald's Uncovered: The War on Iraq reconsitutes the filmmaker's 56-minute Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War into a feature-length documentary, just in time for the Republican National Convention. Like Greenwald's Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, Uncovered will be mistaken by no one as a non-partisan look at the motivations of the U.S. government in entering into the Iraq war. Though Greenwald's cogent analysis unabashedly argues that the war was unjustified, the director contrasts the very public accounting by the government with analysis of the facts and professional opinion. As such, this too-rare piece of skeptical journalism may play a significant role in our consideration of this moment in history.

Greenwald has a weakness for overlong montages of talking heads; the one which opens Uncovered finds Greenwald's roster of experts listing their prodigious government service credentials. Many of the participants come from the same organization, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, gives the film a spine by presenting his own counterpoint to Colin Powell's 2003 UN address, in which the Secretary of State made dubious claims about Iraq's imminent threat to the world. Greenwald also frames arguments in favor of the abandoned UN inspections and against the administration's various follies: a reliance on disreputable intelligence sources (Ahmad Chalabi and Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein), the arguably treasonous endangerment of Joseph Wilson's CIA-operative wife, an underestimation of the cost of the war. The experts also point to the longstanding "Project for the New American Century" as a once and future harbinger of sinister things to come.

In picking apart the party line on Iraq, Greenwald raises important questions by annotating official pronouncements like the State of the Union with commentary by his experts. Greenwald also airs doctored intelligence reports to bolster his case that the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public with distorted information. Greenwald's experts are concise and quotable in their responses to the administration: former weapons inspector David Albright characterizes the build-up as "war fever," former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter repeatedly looks ready to blow a gasket while holding Congress and Bush accountable, and former CIA analyst plainly states, "It was the most intrusive inspection regime in history, and it worked...we went to war for nothing."

The homegrown feel of Uncovered detracts little from the film's impact, and Greenwald skillfully employs dramatic music and still images to contrast all the talk with the impact of the war. Like Outfoxed, Uncovered unwinds too slowly, here with a discussion of the true nature of patriotism. Though, at times, Uncovered is darkly funny in its depiction of political fancy footwork, this history is all too tragic.

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