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Retailing the case against war

Toward the end of Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, a former CIA analyst named Patrick Eddington says that up to 95 percent of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons were eliminated by UN weapons inspectors during the 1990s. "The inspection regime worked," a grim-faced Eddington tells the unseen interviewer. "It was the most intrusive inspection regime in history, and it worked. And at the end of the day that’s another reason why we went to war for nothing."

Moments later we see George W. Bush holding forth in the Oval Office, smugly insisting, "We found the weapons of mass destruction. Uh, you know, we found biological laboratories."

The juxtaposition is one of many telling moments in Uncovered, a nearly hourlong documentary directed by Robert Greenwald, a veteran producer and director who is perhaps best known for Steal This Movie (2000), a feature film about the late political activist Abbie Hoffman. Funded in part with contributions from the liberal groups MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, which gave $50,000 each, Uncovered made a brief splash last December, when it was shown at some 2600 house parties across the country.

Now Uncovered is coming to a retail outlet near you. On March 30, the Disinformation Company will begin distributing DVDs and videotapes to stores such as Newbury Comics, Borders, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Virgin Megastores, FYE, and Tower Records, according to Anne Sullivan, marketing director at Disinformation. At $9.95, Uncovered is priced to sell, the better to promote its anti-war, anti-Bush message.

Greenwald takes on the Bush administration’s rationales for war one at a time, using a range of former CIA and other government officials to offer rebuttals. The material will be familiar to anyone who’s followed the story closely, but it is nevertheless impressive to see it all gathered in one place: the White House’s deceptive efforts to tie Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein; the "mushroom cloud" invoked by Bush officials (and the president himself) despite an utter lack of evidence that Saddam had a nuclear program; Bush’s misleading January 2003 State of the Union address; and Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations, hailed at the time as proof of Iraq’s weapons capabilities, but later exposed as a disingenuous exercise in diplomatic salesmanship.

We see former ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA operative after he had the temerity to accuse the White House of hyping forged documents from Niger to make it appear that Saddam had tried to acquire uranium. We see chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix disdainfully dismissing the administration for having "100 percent certainty about the weapons of mass destruction’s existence and zero certainty about where they are." And we see Bush in his flight suit, strutting around the USS Abraham Lincoln, while a cacophony of voices criticizes him and his policies.

There is no attempt to offer opposing views, and at times the critique comes across as too cute and contrived — as when former CIA official Ray McGovern, speaking of Powell’s "conservative" claim that Iraq had 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons, says, "My suspicion is that this is not our conservative estimate. This sounds very much to me like our neoconservative estimate." Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Still, Uncovered is rigorously grounded in fact, and it’s something Karl Rove most definitely does not want undecided voters to see.

Kate McArdle, who co-produced Uncovered, says that she has no illusions about converting Bush’s staunchest defenders. After a screening at the University of Southern California, which has a strong conservative presence, McArdle says one of the most frequently heard questions was, "How come you made President Bush look so stupid walking around on the aircraft carrier?" The target audience, she adds, consists of smart people in the middle of the political spectrum who "don’t have a lot of time or take a lot of time to be informed."

Uncovered will be entered in the Cannes Film Festival this spring, and will make its American theatrical debut — where else? — in New York City, during the Republican National Convention, from August 29 through September 4.

To learn more about Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, go to http://www.truthuncovered.com/.

Issue Date: March 26 - April 1, 2004
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