In November 2003, producer/director Robert Greenwald, in cooperation
with MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, came
out with their documentary Uncovered: The Whole Truth about
the Iraq War. The movie has caused quite a sensation in Democratic
circles, yet despite its success, has yet to be noticed by
the mainstream press.
Since its release, this documentary which has become a progressive
zeitgeist, has sold more than 50,000 copies on DVD and VHS—all
without the luxury of a having a major distributor. Interest
has so far peaked since Dec. 3 when, in a coordinated effort
by MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, Uncovered
was shown nationwide, through a series of “house parties” in
more than 2,000 homes, churches, and community centers. The
movie continues to be screened locally in scattered locations.
Greenwald’s documentary impresses and persuades because
it uses the Bush administration’s own words against them,
and purposely avoids using “talking head” commentators
to spin their words to the Left. Furthermore, Greenwald and
his producers have taken the difficult route of interviewing
key people involved, from analysts who know the research firsthand,
to the people who briefed the administration on policy decisions.
Greenwald has woven two stories into one: The first is footage
chronicling the changing rhetoric that the Bush administration—including
the president, vice president, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz,
and Donald Rumsfeld—used to justify the invasion and
subsequent occupation of Iraq to America and the world. Some
examples include the change from the search for actual weapons
of mass destruction, to a search for evidence of programs for
WMDs, and from estimates of what the Iraqi War would cost to
later learning those were gross underestimates.
The second story, woven in with the first, consists of highly
credible experts commenting on the arguments of Bush officials.
Sources include former CIA analysts, Pentagon officials, and
members of the diplomatic corps. Uncovered’s thesis is
that the intelligence agencies did their job correctly, but
that it was the administration that manipulated the intelligence
to suit its own agenda—thereby deceiving us all.
This film is powerful for two reasons. First is the compressed
time in which you hear members of the Bush administration make
their points and then later double back, or waffle. Greenwald
and his crew have compressed the various minute, semantic changes
that happened over the course of a year, into about 30 minutes
of footage separated by commentary. Archival footage was taken
from public speeches, Congressional hearings, stump speeches,
and Sunday morning talk shows.
The movie and its “experts,” as they are called,
waste no time in making their points. In the span of about
one hour, Uncovered takes the audience methodically from one
topic to another, including:
The quality of the intelligence, including testimony of Iraqi
Iraq’s “reconstitution” of weapons programs,
Iraq’s “imminent” nuclear capabilities,
Links between Iraq and Al Qaeda,
The 16 Words: Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address,
referencing the Niger uranium deal, and
Powell’s UN speech.
Second is the quality of the interviewees.
The people Greenwald has assembled are 1) articulate, 2) intelligent,
and 3) speak with conviction.
Interviewees are not mouthpieces who come and go every
four or eight years as fashion (or votes) dictate.
These are career
diplomats, State Department officials, and CIA
officers and analysts. They have been affiliated with their
respective organizations for decades and feel betrayed
by the Bush
Most impressive is Ambassador Joe Wilson, who negotiated
with Saddam Hussein in the days preceding the first
Gulf War, and
who more recently was asked by Vice President Cheney
to investigate the now famous Niger documents.
These are the
President Bush used as support for his claim that
Saddam Hussein was actively developing WMDs. Wilson
I spent eight days [in Niger] drinking mint tea and talking
to everybody there was to talk to who knew anything about the
subject matter… and I came back persuaded that it could
not have happened. One, from a business perspective, because
of the way the consortium was structured, you just couldn’t
do it without a lot of people knowing. And two, the way the
government bureaucracy was structured, you could not make the
decision without a lot of people knowing. And if you made the
decision, the decision would be reflected in a series of documents,
uh, signatures on the documents, and if the documents did not
contain those signatures, they could not be authentic, government
of Niger documents.”
The problem with Uncovered, and any movie like
it, is that only “true believers” will see it, which is ironic
because it’s power lies in its ability to persuade people
who may have originally supported the war. Uncovered must be
shown to a wider audience, if not to convince people that the
war with Iraq was wrong, and its rationales irrational, then
at least, to stimulate dialog.
This shortcoming is no fault of its own and can
be overcome. In my interview with Greenwald,
that a cable
deal for the movie is in the works, and that
it has been submitted
to several film festivals. Both of these actions
give the movie additional legs on which to stand,
that people who may not have otherwise seen it
sad that a documentary such as this, on a topic so vital to
democracy, does not have a mainstream avenue of distribution.
Uncovered can be purchased online for $14.95,
postage included, from www.truthuncovered.org.