Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers

"Very Good"

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers Review


The advantage that agitprop documentarian Robert Greenwald has in choosing the subjects he does -- Fox News, Wal-Mart, and now, Halliburton -- is that a certain segment of his audience is already ready to fly into a rage at their mere mention. And that's before he even gets to the dirt. Another advantage for Greenwald is that for some of his targets, there's almost no end of dirt to find.

The charges leveled by Greenwald in Iraq for Sale seem to come from another time in our nation's history, but they're serious enough: war profiteering. It wasn't that long ago in American history that the very idea of a business making a profit from war was thought to be unseemly at best and illegal and unpatriotic at the worst. What the film shows in stark terms is that companies aren't just profiting obscenely from the Iraq War, but there's no outrage about it in the corridors of power because far too many of those in power are also the ones profiting from the arrangement.

Greenwald chooses four of the biggest contractors working in Iraq -- Blackwater, Halliburton, CACI, and Titan -- and aims to show how each is not only bilking the military out of untold billions, but providing shoddy services that not only cost the government more than if the military was doing it, but are also endangering lives. Although he has an amateur's weakness for schmaltz, feeling the need to bluntly shoehorn in a grieving widow or family member whenever possible, Greenwald has a master's feel for the killer quote and the telling detail which helps make the film just a little more than the usual recitation of left-wing truisms. Again, there's plenty of dirt.

Least effective is the film's section on Blackwater -- a glorified mercenary temp agency -- charging them with cutting corners to maximize profits, and unduly risking the lives of their employees. Poor business practices, even fatal ones, are just not going to set many audience members' blood to boiling. The film moves into surer territory when dealing with CACI and Titan, who provided, respectively, interrogators and translators who proved to be either grossly incompetent or torturers who would later be unaccountable by law.

As with his last film on Wal-Mart, Greenwald buttresses his barn-burning allegations with stacks of solid informants, including this time, not only soldiers (including a couple who also provided anti-war testimony in another current documentary, The Ground Truth) who witnessed CACI's role at Abu Ghraib but also plenty of former employees for corroboration. The list of whistleblowers starts to hit phone-book length when the film gets to Halliburton, of course, the Big Bad Wolf of this story. It's here, also, that Iraq for Sale really hits its stride, providing a dirty laundry list of the company's misdeeds, ranging from insane overbilling ($45 for a six-pack of Iraqi soda, $100 for a load of laundry) to lying (running convoys of empty trucks on dangerous highways) to simple, foul greed (billing the Pentagon for brand-new and unused executive Escalades with chrome rims). The array of targets is so broad that Greenwald even brings on a token right-winger (hawkish columnist and veteran Ralph Peters) to explain in pungent terms how Halliburton's receipt of no-bid contracts is resolutely uncompetitive and thusly against everything conservatives should stand for: "It's cartels and monopolies!"

All of this ties neatly into the great conspiracy theory of our time: the military-industrial complex. Judging by the number of former Pentagon and government officials now working at places like Halliburton (Greenwald provides handy charts with blood-red arrows to illustrate), the film doesn't have to go far to convince viewers that the fix is in: Political contributions equals no-bid contracts equals millions in profits for all the right (i.e., connected) people. And the war goes on.

There's nothing in Iraq for Sale that approaches the righteous indignation of a documentary like The War Tapes, which gives a much more personal and devastating view of the same problem. But for all its scuffed edges and bullhorn bellowing, there's an undeniable rage at work here which one has to hope would influence somebody of importance somewhere. There's always hope.



Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 1st September 2006

Distributed by: Brave New Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 19

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Sarah Feely, Jim Gilliam,

Starring: Shereef Akeel as Himself

Also starring:

Contactmusic


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