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Friday, September 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Tom Keogh
"Uncovered: The War on Iraq" is like a trial lawyer's summation during a lengthy case in which allegations are familiar but their full context is not. A documentary partly financed (as a shorter version available on DVD) by MoveOn.org, the pro-Democratic group originally created by Howard Dean supporters, "Uncovered" is one of several 2004 political critiques by filmmaker Robert Greenwald, including the recent "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism."
"Uncovered" overlaps "Fahrenheit 9/11's" criticism of the American press and Congress for unquestioning support of the U.S.-led war on Iraq. But while it eschews Michael Moore's more red-meat accusations, the film also ignores commonplace complaints about occupation chaos. Instead, Greenwald narrowly focuses on an argument that the Bush administration hyped evidence of Iraq's weapons capabilities to justify a predetermined invasion.
Greenwald enlists scores of CIA analysts and operatives, Foreign Service diplomats, weapons inspectors, counterterrorism experts and others to outline charges that the Iraq war was conceived before 9/11 by radical neo-conservatives who believe the U.S. has a superpower's right to reshape the Middle East.
"Uncovered's" thesis stitched together from observations by the likes of Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer; Ray McGovern, longtime CIA analyst and presidential briefer; and Philip Coyle, former assistant secretary of defense is that removing Saddam from power was always a priority for neocons. Al-Qaida's terrorism, the argument goes, provided an invasion rationale despite no apparent Saddam-Osama link. It goes on to say Bush officials championed self-serving Iraqi exiles, and cooked scant intelligence about Saddam's nuclear and chemical weapons to force a war.
There's little new here, but in rehashing the weapons-of-mass-destruction debate, "Uncovered" focuses on interviewees whose résumés give weight to their views. An extensive talk with David Kay, the CIA appointee who led a costly, post-war WMD search and concluded there were none, is Greenwald's editorial coup. Kay's comment that Bush's team became "so fearful of admitting error they defended untruthful things" is devastating.
Which is not to say that Greenwald is objective. Selected images stoke anti-Bush fervor, and no effort is made to explore inevitable ambiguities in perception. Did Bush inflate facts or stumble on faulty intelligence? Should an unpopular case for a regime change been held up by a weak case for finding weapons? "Uncovered" would be stronger if someone made a contrary case.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
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