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Documenting Dissent: An Interview with Director Robert Greenwalt

by Rene Tony Donnes, staff writer


Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War was directed and produced by Robert Greenwald, who most recently produced the documentary Unprecedented: The Story of the 2000 Florida Election Scandal (2002).

Since beginning his career in the ‘70s, Greenwald’s films have received 25 Emmy nominations, four Cable ACE Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, the Peabody Award, the Robert Johnson Award, and eight Awards of Excellence from the Film Advisory Board. In November 2002, he received AFI’s “Producer of the Year” Award.

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Kalamalama: With Uncovered you’ve done something that is potentially damaging to the Bush administration. Did you receive any resistance?

Greenwald: Bush himself, and Cheney, and Rumsfeld refused to be interviewed.

Kalamalama: Oh, so you had contacted them?

Greenwald: Oh, sure. We had sent them an interview [query], and they answered back that they weren’t going to participate, but we certainly . . . felt that this is such an important issue—the way information was misused and distorted that . . . it was their obligation as citizens in a democracy to speak out.

Kalamalama: Who else refused to be interviewed?

Greenwald: Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Richard Pearle, Paul Wolfowitz.

Kalamalama: Were you surprised by the reaction you received from your interviewees?

Greenwald: I was very surprised at how articulate, passionate, and patriotic I found—particularly the CIA folks—to be. I had a little bit of a cliché in my mind about CIA guys being bad, and I met some wonderful human beings who really defined patriotism in a very personal and very important manner, and they flipped my prejudices on their heads.

Kalamalama: In your DVD interview you say that you had two shifts of workers, working 24/7, and that you are telling two stories side by side: one of the changes in rhetoric of the Bush administration, and the other of the analyst’s stories. Someone not knowing a lot about how a film is made could say, “Oh, I see what’s going on: They took footage X, and spliced it with footage Y.”

[Mr. Greenwald laughs]

Kalamalama: What was so time or labor intensive that required this 24/7 production schedule?

Greenwald: Well, first of all, as in any documentary, selection is part of the process. If you look back at the number of hours that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Powell were on television, and recorded, there’re probably hundreds or thousands of hours. We had to cull through their public statements and their being recorded by television, and on top of that, all the interviews, to narrow the story down to 30 minutes.

That’s a huge amount of searching, and looking, and reading, and viewing, to figure out what are the key points, and once we decided what are the key points, which is the best footage that tells the story of the Bush administration’s reason for war.

Having found that, then we needed to cull through the interviews and juxtapose [footage of the administration] with [what our] interviewees had said. I might have had a brilliant interview, but I couldn’t put it up if it didn’t relate to something that one of the Bushies said.

Kalamalama: How did you originally get the idea to contact these people for the interviews?

Greenwald: Well, I had heard about [former CIA analyst] Ray McGovern and his group (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity), and the CIA guys, and I thought it was just fascinating that these CIA guys were coming out against the misuse of information, and I wanted to talk to these people. I was curious, and I thought if some of them would agree to talk, they would make a wonderful counterpoint because—as always in these things—you’re looking for credibility, and professionalism, and expertise.

So that was the beginning, and then I had read about Ambassador Wilson, and heard about some of those people who had resigned. So I was only going after people who had experience with the corridors of power, and then through some people I’d read about in the newspaper—Ray McGovern gave me a bunch of names. Ambassador Wilson gave me a bunch of names—one name would lead to another.

Kalamalama: Mel Goodman (of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) frames the movie quite specifically by saying, “The Bush administration made up its mind to go to war on Sept. 11, 2001.” Was there any footage that you didn’t use (for whatever reason) that suggested that the Bush administration wanted to go into Iraq prior to Sept. 11th? I’m thinking of things like the NeoCon document “Project for a New American Century,” or some of the recent revelations by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil, who claims that Bush had his eyes set on Hussein from the beginning of his presidency.

Greenwald: There was no smoking gun, but the experts were all in agreement that [the war with Iraq] was a function of Neo-Conservative philosophy (i.e., “Project For a New American Century”) and that they had a policy, and that they went looking for evidence to support that policy.


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