BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Charles Ferguson, when did you think you wanted to be a filmmaker?
CHARLES FERGUSON, FILMMAKER, ”NO END IN SIGHT”: I’ve wanted to make films for a very long time – in fact, since I was a child, I would say.
I chose – and to some extent needed – to do other things for a long time. But at a certain point in my life, I had some financial security, and I ran out of excuses for not trying.
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
FERGUSON: San Francisco, California, born and raised.
LAMB: How about school?
FERGUSON: Lowell High School, a very good academic public high school in San Francisco. Undergraduate at UC-Berkeley in mathematics. Ph.D. in political science at MIT. A year in France learning French.
LAMB: You still live in San Francisco?
FERGUSON: Half-time. Half-time in Berkeley and half-time in New York City.
LAMB: ”No End in Sight.” Where did you get the title for your book – I mean, for your film.
FERGUSON: Unfortunately, it just seemed correct.
We thought about the title a lot. I was later told that, in commercial film terms, I made a mistake by choosing that title. It’s not the kind of title that sells movies.
But I think that it does, unfortunately, accurately represent the situation.
LAMB: Where did you get it?
FERGUSON: Just thought of it myself.
LAMB: How long did this process take of creating a film, getting it out, putting it in the theaters?
FERGUSON: Eighteen months, door-to-door.
LAMB: When did you start it?
FERGUSON: I started it in mid, late 2005. And the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January of 2007.
LAMB: How long is it?
FERGUSON: It’s an hour and 42 minutes?
LAMB: How much did it cost you to put it together?
FERGUSON: Two million dollars.
LAMB: Let’s watch a one-minute clip and just give our audience the flavor or what you tried to do in this movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT HUTCHINGS, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL: January 2003 to January 2005, I was chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
We produced the first national estimate on the state of the insurgency in Iraq. The estimate delivered pretty bad news. It basically laid out sort of bad, worse and worst scenarios.
The president called it ”guess work,” and his press spokesman called it ”hand-wringing” and ”nay-saying.”
What was really revealing to me was the president hadn’t read it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: Where did that appear in the documentary?
FERGUSON: That’s about six or seven minutes into the film.
LAMB: Who is Robert Hutchings?
FERGUSON: Robert Hutchings is a very interesting, intelligent man. He’s a professor at Princeton now. He had served in the first Bush administration – Bush the elder. And then, after diplomatic and academic life, he became chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 2003, in the Bush administration.
LAMB: And why did you use him early?
FERGUSON: Well, for a number of reasons. He’s a quiet, soft-spoken man. He’s not an ideological screamer. He’s a life-long Republican, and he had interesting, powerful things to say.
LAMB: Like – what was his point? And what was his involvement in the Iraq war?
FERGUSON: Well, the National Intelligence Council is a powerful committee, a 12-person committee, that sits on top of the entire intelligence community. It used to report to the Director of Central Intelligence. Now it reports to the Director of National Intelligence.
It’s responsible for strategic intelligence for the United States and for senior members of the administration, especially the president.
And when he became chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which was in January of 2003 – three months before the Iraq war – obviously, the most important thing for him to do was to understand that situation and give the administration and the president guidance about it. And he tried his best, but he had a pretty rough time.
LAMB: How would you characterize the political view of your documentary?
FERGUSON: I would say that it’s unideological – in fact, perhaps even anti-ideological and anti-partisan. It’s very much, ”Look. Here’s the facts. Here’s what happened.”
This is not about whether it was a good idea or a bad idea to use military force to remove Saddam. It’s not about whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat. It’s about what actually happened when the Bush administration decided to go to war against Saddam and occupy Iraq.
LAMB: Somewhere I read that you were in favor of the war at the beginning. Is that accurate?
FERGUSON: That is accurate. I was – well, I wouldn’t quite say that I was in favor of ”the war,” of this war. I was in favor of using military force to remove Saddam, half for humanitarian reasons and half for WMD, regional stability – you know, those kinds of considerations.
Do I regret it? I’m not sure that I regret holding that view. I don’t think that I regret holding that view. But in retrospect, I was inexcusably naive in not being far more concerned than I was about how it would actually be done.
I was concerned. I was worried. I had a lot of concerns about the unilateralism of the Bush administration, the arrogance, the kind of aggressive macho-ness of the way Donald Rumsfeld conducted himself.
I didn’t see much evidence of trying to get cooperation and support from other countries in the region. I saw a lot of inattention to international diplomacy with regard to the region, with regard to the rest of the world – Rumsfeld’s comment about ”old Europe.”
But I have to say, in common with many other people, I had no idea how unbelievably incompetent they were going to be.
LAMB: Here’s some more from your documentary. Let’s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq and said, ”In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
Four years later, after over 3,000 American deaths and over 20,000 American wounded, Iraq has disintegrated into chaos.
GERALD BURKE, ADVISOR TO IRAQ MINISTRY OF INTERIOR FOR THE U.S. OCCUPATION FORCES: Baghdad has 10 bombings, 10 to 15 bombings a day and it’s maybe 50 KIA.
But I suspect that’s drastically under-reported. We’re probably capturing a third of what’s actually occurring.
NARRATOR: Millions of Iraqis have lost access to drinking water, sewage treatment and electricity since the invasion.
Baghdad, a city of six million, has been under an 8 p.m. curfew since March of 2006.
Over three million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries.
Estimates of the civilian death toll range as high as 600,000.
ALI FADHIL, IRAQI JOURNALIST: People who die, they’re lucky. But people living, they’re dead while they’re alive.
OMAR FEKEIKI, OFFICE MANAGER, BAGHDAD BUREAU, ”THE WASHINGTON POST”: The west part and the north part of Iraq are controlled by insurgents. The rest of Iraq is controlled by militias.
NARRATOR: Iraq’s two major Muslim groups – the Shiite majority and Sunni minority – are increasingly at war.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (ENGLISH SUBTITLES): They executed them for being Sunni. We have been living together until this. This is an Iranian move against us. We are Muslims. How is this possible?
They say they are the Mahdi Army. Is this what the Mahdi Army does? Look at what he’s become. Open the sack; let them see his face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: How long did you spend in Iraq?
FERGUSON: I spent about a month in Iraq, just under a month. I spent two weeks in Baghdad, and then the rest of the time I was primarily in Kurdistan, which is, of course, much different and relatively safe.
I also spent some time in the border zone between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq, which is not safe – Kirkuk for example, a pretty rough place.
LAMB: When did you go?
FERGUSON: This was March and April of 2006.
LAMB: And you at one time had as many as 20 security people around you?
FERGUSON: A dozen was the – well, there were a couple of times when I had larger numbers, yes. My personal security detail in Baghdad was 10 armed men, three armored cars.
LAMB: Where did you get the security people?
FERGUSON: Falcon Security, one of the many private security firms operating in Iraq. They, unusually, they are actually an Iraqi firm. They’re a Kurdish firm.
And I liked very much the fact that most of the guards were Kurds, whose families were still in Kurdistan. You worry about the families of guards getting kidnapped and held in order to force the guards to give up information about where you’re going.
LAMB: What did you do while you were there during that time?
FERGUSON: I talked to a lot of people. And I drove around and took photographs, took film, interviewed a large number of people.
Also, at times, I would go out in what’s called ”low profile,” which is not armored cars – an ordinary, beat-up, old Iraqi car – with a half dozen bodyguards in civilian clothes with concealed weapons, no body armor, pretending not to know me, so that with my interpreter I could walk around on the streets of Baghdad and interview people without appearing to be a Western journalist.
LAMB: How important is the music to your documentary, and where did you get it?
FERGUSON: The music was composed by a remarkable musician and composer for film, Pete Nashel, in New York City. We hired him to do the film. He did it.
Pete makes a lot of money doing commercial films and also television commercials, and things like that. He did this for, you know, not his usual rate. And we’re very grateful to him. I think he did a very good job.
LAMB: What drove you to do this? And what I’m looking for, were you driven by the film aspect of it, or your strong belief that this war isn’t working out well?
LAMB: Which is dominant?
FERGUSON: That’s very hard to say. I would say it’s – they’re both very strong contributors.
I obviously have a very strong interest in foreign affairs. My Ph.D. in political science was done under Carl Kaysen, who was my thesis advisor. He was deputy national security advisor to President Kennedy.
I’ve been involved in policy matters – academically, politically, practically – for a long time, so I certainly care about these kinds of things.
I also – you know, I wanted very much to make films. And I was getting ready in 2003, 2004, I was getting ready to start making films of a totally different kind, and was thinking of a first film in particular to make, which had nothing to do with politics.
But then, Iraq happened. And I began having a series of conversations with friends of mine who were involved in it in one way or another. George Packer, for example, a journalist for ”The New Yorker” wrote one of the early and best books about the Iraq war.
LAMB: ”The Assassins’ Gate.”
FERGUSON: ”The Assassins’ Gate.” George is someone I’ve known for a very long time. I used to play poker with him when I was in graduate school – I usually lost.
And I remember having dinner with him in early, mid-2004. He had just come back from his second or third trip to Iraq, and we had dinner in New York City. And over the course of three hours of conversation, it became extremely clear that things in Iraq were not the way either the administration or the media in general were portraying them as being.
And George made it very clear that things were already much worse than was generally understood, and that they were going to continue to get worse. And he was just getting ready to write his book at the time.
And I thought, you know, someone should make a movie about this.
LAMB: How long were you at Brookings? And what did you do – the Brookings Institution.
FERGUSON: I was there as a residency fellow for, I don’t know, a year or a year-and-a-half. And then I was a non-residency fellow for another year or two. I wrote a book on one of the old subjects that I used to study as a political scientist.
I did a lot of stuff on technology policy, government policy towards high-technology industries. And then I wrote a book about broadband technology and broadband policy.
LAMB: When did you start Vermeer Technologies, Incorporated, your company, and how long did you have it?
FERGUSON: That was a triple (ph) (INAUDIBLE), very wild ride, that company. I started that company – I had the idea in late 1993. I started the company with Randy Forgaard in early 1994.
I started the company the same month, actually, that Netscape was started. We developed a piece of software for developing Web sites, successfully, and sold the company to Microsoft in January of 1996.
LAMB: The figures that I read in the different articles, $133 million for your company to Microsoft. And you personally realized $14 million.
Are they accurate?
FERGUSON: Yes, that’s accurate.
LAMB: So, when you spent $2 million on this film, is that your money? And do you expect to get it back?
FERGUSON: I did spend $2 million of my money on the film. I don’t think that I expect to get most of it back. That’s a complicated story.
But I think that it’s the best $2 million I’ve ever spent on anything.
LAMB: Why is it a complicated story?
FERGUSON: Oh, film distribution is something of a black art, a black box. There’s a lot of unusual accounting involved.
I think that, in the end, my primary goals with regard to the film will be realized. I care that a considerable number of people see the film.
And I think that by the time the film goes through its normal cycle – which these days is, first, theatrical distribution, then DVD, then television – that by the end of that process, several million people, perhaps as many as five million will have seen the film in the United States.
And it seems clear that a high fraction of the serious policy community will have seen the film – already have, I think. Yesterday there was a screening in Congress.
And I think that – and it’s also generated a book, which will come out in February of next year.
And so, I think that the film will have impact where I wanted it to have impact.
LAMB: Here’s more from your documentary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: A month after September 11th, the United States entered Afghanistan in search of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. But even before the Afghan war, several senior administration officials were looking at another target – one that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
MARC GARLASCO, FORMER SENIOR IRAQ ANALYST, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: When the planes hit the Pentagon, I was in the building. And then, I guess the next big thing that started to happen was, we immediately got tasked to see if we could draw any relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda.
I went right away to the counterterrorism group, to their chief Iraq analyst. The two of us sat down over a few days and looked at all the historical reporting that we could go through.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And what did you conclude?
GARLASCO: Well, we concluded that there was no relationship.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda.
GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: We continue to watch Iraq’s involvement in terrorist activities.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, THEN-NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
JAMES BAMFORD, AUTHOR, ”THE PUZZLE PALACE” AND ”A PRETEXT FOR WAR”: Iraq has drones. And they’re going to take these drones, and they’re going to put them on these ships, and they’re going to arm the drones with chemical and biological weapons, and they’re going to fly these drones off the ships and attack the East Coast of the United States.
You know, this is absolute fantasyland. I don’t know what they were smoking, but it must have been very good.
NARRATOR: George W. Bush’s foreign policy inner circle – Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz – set the administration on course for war with Iraq. Condoleezza Rice sided with them.
Colin Powell and Richard Armitage – the only senior officials with combat experience – expressed concerns privately, but supported the administration in public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: The only one that we saw there on the screen that talked to you was Mr. Armitage.
Did you ask Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell to talk to you for this film?
LAMB: What did they tell you?
FERGUSON: They said no.
FERGUSON: Most of them just said no without giving a reason. When they did give reasons, I have to say, the reasons were disappointingly implausible.
Colin Powell said something about it just not being the kind of thing that he felt comfortable doing. L. Paul Bremer actually had the nerve to say that he wanted to, but he didn’t think he had the time.
LAMB: Two people, though, did talk to you that were around Colin Powell – Colonel Wilkerson and Mr. Armitage. Why did they speak to you? And both of their attitudes were what?
FERGUSON: Well, the answers are different in the two cases, I think. Lawrence Wilkerson – who was a career Army officer and then became chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was secretary of state – Lawrence Wilkerson became tremendously upset at what he saw and began speaking out publicly about the Iraq situation and the administration’s conduct with regard to Iraq in late 2005.
And I think that by the time I sought to interview him – which was, I think, very late 2005 is when I spoke with him – he wanted to speak as loudly as he could to as many people as he could.
Richard Armitage – that’s a little more complicated, and I don’t know the answer, to be honest. Richard Armitage has spoken with very few people since he left the State Department. And, in fact, I believe that the interview that he gave me is the only long interview that he has given to anyone about the Iraq war, and I am not sure why he agreed to speak with me.
We had met a few times before. I certainly had a fairly strong policy background. Maybe that had something to do with why he was willing to speak with me. I’m not quite sure.
LAMB: Now, you produced and directed. Did you interview?
LAMB: Why did you do all of that?
FERGUSON: Well, I’m just a kind of active fellow who likes to be directly involved in the things that I do.
I had good policy training. And by the time I started interviewing people, I knew a lot about what had happened in Iraq. I knew what questions I wanted to ask, and I thought I was the best person to ask them.
LAMB: How many different people did you interview for the film?
FERGUSON: An enormous number – many more than appear in the film. About three dozen people appear in the film at one point or another. We interviewed – I interviewed, I don’t know, 60 or 70 people in the United States, another several dozen in Iraq.
We have 3,000 pages of interview transcripts. Only one percent of that material, roughly, appears in the film. In the book, about five or 10 percent of that material will appear. We hope at some point we’ll put the entire body of interview material up on the Web. A lot of it is extremely interesting.
LAMB: How many different people did you have involved in making the film? In other words, not who you interviewed, but who worked on it with you.
FERGUSON: Over time, there were three different line producers. Alex Gibney, who is a very experienced, eminent, documentary filmmaker, was kind of a consultant. He’s credited as the executive producer of the film. He kind of looked over my shoulder and gave me advice, because I was a first-time filmmaker. He was very valuable, very helpful.
And then we had a crew for normal interviews in the United States, a cinematographer, sound engineer, a couple of assistants.
And then for Iraq, that was different. For Iraq, I took with me to Iraq to journalists, one of whom was also a former Kurdish intelligence agent – a good person to have in a dark alley – was with me as my personal bodyguard 24 hours a day, carried a weapon all that time.
The other journalist I took with me, Nir Rosen, speaks good Arabic, had spent the previous three years in Iraq, knew the place extremely well. Because he’s half Persian, he can pass for an Arab physically, and he can go many places I couldn’t.
He filmed – for example, he filmed a sermon given by Muqtada al-Sadr in a mosque. My life expectancy in that mosque would have been very short.
So, Nir and Jaaf (ph) and my bodyguards and my interpreters, who were Iraqi, were invaluable to being able to get around Iraq.
LAMB: Did you meet a man named Chalabi?
FERGUSON: I did not meet Ahmed Chalabi.
LAMB: Did you ask to meet him?
FERGUSON: Yes. I did ask to meet Mr. Chalabi.
Things were complicated when I was in Iraq. It was a very difficult time. It was a month after the Samarra bombing.
The Iraqi leadership was trying to form a new government with a lot of strong advice, shall we say, from the United States government, and that process was paralyzed and was dragging on. And the leadership of the country, for good reasons and bad, were not interested in speaking with reporters at the time, not just me.
I haven’t asked since to speak with Chalabi, and maybe I will now for the book. I tend to doubt that Mr. Chalabi is going to be interested in speaking with me, but we’ll see.
LAMB: Here’s a clip where you see him, from your documentary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE PACKER, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR, ”THE ASSASSINS’ GATE”: If you want to date the beginning of the disaster of post-war Iraq, it would be January 20, 2003, when Bush signed, without – as far as I can tell – any real discussion within the White House or the administration, National Security Presidential Directive No. 24, which gave control of post-war Iraq to the Pentagon.
That document essentially made Donald Rumsfeld the main actor on post-war Iraq.
JOOST HILTERMANN, MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: This war was conceived by a very small group of people inside the Bush administration. They had an entirely naive vision of what Iraq was and what Iraqis would do once the regime fell.
NARRATOR: In formulating its views on post-Saddam Iraq, the administration relied heavily on a man named Ahmed Chalabi. Since 1992, Chalabi had been president of the Iraqi National Congress, or INC.
Widely viewed with suspicion, Chalabi had been convicted in Jordan of a huge bank fraud. The intelligence community found his information unreliable, or even fraudulent.
GARLASCO: At best, I think, they were liars. And at worst, they were provocateurs. If it’s an NCI source, it was always looked at very, very skeptically by the analysts. But that wasn’t the case with the policymakers.
NARRATOR: Chalabi asserted that post-war Iraq would be pro-American and easily stabilized, particularly if Chalabi himself was in charge.
PARKER: And so, the plan was, essentially, we’ll stay for three or four months. We will install a government made up of exiles and led by Ahmed Chalabi. And then, in August or September of 2003, we will begin a drastic reduction of troops.
COL. PAUL HUGHES, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC POLICY FOR THE U.S. OCCUPATION FORCE IN IRAQ: Larry DiRita addressed us in one forum and said, by the end of August of 2003, we will have all but 25,000 to 30,000 troops out of Iraq. I heard him say that in a room full of people.
And I turned to my colleagues and I said, ”This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s physically impossible.”
NARRATOR: The State Department’s ”Future of Iraq” project – a 13-volume study on post-war Iraq – was ignored by the Pentagon.
BARRY POSEN, PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, MIT: There was an awful lot of thinking at State Department. There were board-feet of volumes on how we should do this. And almost none of this was integrated into the Pentagon’s thinking.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, CHIEF OF STAFF FOR SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL, 2002-2005: The secretary’s frustration, along with my own, grew as we watched our careful planning, our detailed planning, essentially discarded, and the people who had been involved in it essentially discarded, so that more loyal, in line with the Republican Party’s views, and so forth, people could be appointed to key positions in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: Paul Hughes, who is featured throughout your entire documentary, is who?
FERGUSON: Colonel Paul Hughes is a career Army officer, who in early 2003 was appointed to be director of strategic policy for the first organization to run the American occupation of Iraq, which is called ORHA. He worked directly for General Jay Garner, who was in charge of ORHA, who also appears in the film.
And Colonel Paul Hughes found himself in charge of dealing with the Iraqi army when the Department of Defense advisory team that was supposed to be dealing with the Iraqi military, headed by a man named Walter Slocum, failed to come to Iraq in time and stayed behind in Washington, D.C.
LAMB: Is Walter Slocum, who is in your documentary, the only person that still sticks by the whole Iraqi war situation?
FERGUSON: That’s probably true, yes. Among the people who appear in the film – who I interviewed and who appear in the film – I think he’s the only one who still thinks that any of the major decisions that were made in 2003 were reasonable, good decisions.
LAMB: If you were Mr. Wolfowitz or Mr. Rumsfeld or a number of these people, and knew anything about you and your background and where you were headed in this film, do you think you would have participated and been interviewed?
FERGUSON: Given how they actually conducted themselves and what actually occurred, I think that it was probably an intelligent decision on their part to refuse to be interviewed, because by the time I asked them, I knew what I was talking about, and their interview would have been very uncomfortable.
LAMB: When did you not know what you were talking about?
FERGUSON: Well, I would say that, when I started in mid-2005, I kind of half knew what I was talking about. By which I mean I had already spoken with a lot of people. I had already read all the books that had been written about the subject. And so, I was certainly far more educated than the average reader of the ”New York Times,” or whatever.
But did I really know in great detail what happened between April 23rd and May 23rd of 2003? No, I didn’t yet.
But by the time I got around to especially the second interview with Walt Slocum, I did know.
LAMB: Where did you interview him?
FERGUSON: I interviewed him, if I recall correctly, he came to my hotel in Washington, D.C. It was in Washington, D.C.
LAMB: What’s he doing now?
FERGUSON: He’s a lawyer practicing law in Washington, D.C., being comfortable.
LAMB: We’re going to jump way ahead in the documentary just so folks can see what he looks like, and then you can explain the circumstances of this interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL JAY GARNER, FORMER ORHA DIRECTOR: John Abizaid and Dave McKiernan were constantly telling me, ”How about hurrying up? Let’s get the army back. Let’s get their army back.”
LT. GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN, COMMANDER OF ALLIED LAND FORCES: There is a large number of former Iraqi soldiers that are unemployed now. That is a huge concern, not only from a security standpoint, but from an economic standpoint. They’re not earning an income right now.
HUGHES: And there’s the announcement that the Iraqi army has been disbanded. And I was floored.
And at this particular point in time, Walt Slocum and his team still were not in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Colonel Hughes was the person who was in charge of dealing with the Iraqi army, because none of the people from your advisory group had yet showed up in Iraq, including you.
Didn’t you think that maybe you should speak with him about this?
WALTER SLOCUM, ADVISOR TO PAUL BREMER: Well, I talked with him a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That’s funny. He says that the order disbanding the army came as a complete surprise to him, and that he learned of it by watching it on television in an airport.
SLOCUM: That’s – well, if that’s so, that’s surprising to me, but it’s possible.
I mean, I talked to him – we worked together on a daily basis during the time I was there.
HUGHES: He came on the 16th of May …
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sixteenth of May.
HUGHES: … for a four-day, whirlwind tour of the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh.
HUGHES: And then he left. And he didn’t come back until the middle of June.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Really.
He didn’t tell you that?
RICHARD ARMITAGE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE, 2001-2005: This idea to disband the entire army was one that came as quite a surprise to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I see. What was your reaction when you learned of it?
ARMITAGE: I thought we had just created a problem, and we had a lot of out-of-work soldiers.
The president had already made a different decision, which was to keep battalion and below in force.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Earlier, yes. But …
ARMITAGE: Well, within, I mean, a couple of days’ proximity. I think most of us were caught relatively unaware or completely unaware by this disbanding of the army.
Secretary Powell found out about it as I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Which was how?
ARMITAGE: Just as we found out one day, Jerry announced that he disbanded the army.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How about Condoleezza Rice?
ARMITAGE: She’ll have to speak for herself.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Do you have any idea how much the president knew about these decisions in advance, whether he …
ARMITAGE: I’ve said before, I don’t know if he was informed by Mr. Rumsfeld or not – no idea.
HUGHES: I wasn’t in my office but two hours. A young (ph) M.P. (ph) comes to see me, and he goes, ”Colonel Hughes, I’ve got some Iraqi officers that want to meet with you.”
And I was thinking to myself, ”Holy cow. What do I tell these guys?”
So I finally came downstairs and met with them in the rotunda of the Republican Palace. Colonel Meijan (ph) says, ”Colonel Paul, what happened?”
And I said to him, ”I don’t know what happened. I have no idea how this came about.”
And he said, ”All these soldiers. They now have no recourse. They have no money coming to them. What are they supposed to do?”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: You can tell in there, you know, between Colonel Hughes and Walter Slocum, there’s a lot behind all that.
Tell us more. I mean – and you’re very quiet about this. You’re very low-key. Is the stomach tense about this? I mean, do you feel very strongly about this war?
FERGUSON: I do. I think that the decisions made by the administration in May of 2003 will go down in American history as perhaps the most grotesque and damaging and horrific policymaking that has ever occurred in this country.
And prime among those was the decision made by a very small number of people who did not have the faintest idea what they were doing, to disband the Iraqi army and throw a half-million armed men into the street – unemployed, penniless, often on the brink of starvation.
They hadn’t been paid for months. Often men who were the sole support for large, extended families. Equivalent to firing over five million people in the United States.
A disastrous, horrific decision made by Walt Slocum and L. Paul Bremer in Washington, D.C., on May 9, 2003, before any of them had set foot in Iraq for a single day, and made either without the knowledge of, or in the few cases that they talked to anybody, over the objections of everybody who knew anything about this question.
LAMB: What is your goal now with this film? You say you’ve shown it to members of Congress. This, when we record this, is in the middle of October. It’s still at one theater left, that I could find, in Washington, and it’s been here for two-and-a-half months.
Is there any evidence that that many people are going to this?
FERGUSON: Well, so far, about 300,000 people have seen it in theaters in the United States.
LAMB: How many cities?
FERGUSON: Total of about 100 cities. And if there’s some indication of what the level of interest is going to be in the DVD, which is going to be released, I think, November 1st, I believe. And if normal processes work as they usually do, then another million to two million people will watch it on DVD.
And that’s what I want. I want people to understand what happened here.
LAMB: What did you do in this documentary that no one else has done? And as you know, there are lots of documentaries that are out about the Iraq war.
FERGUSON: There are many documentaries about the Iraq war. For some reason, I find it quite mysterious, actually. Nobody else had made – still has yet made – a documentary that is a comprehensive examination of the policy decisions that led to Iraq being in this condition.
The other documentaries about Iraq, some of which are very good, are very specific, individual examinations of a specific military unit, a specific Iraqi family, a very immediate, specific personal experience. And that can tell you a lot, but it doesn’t tell you, you know, why are we here? How did all this happen?
LAMB: For those in the audience watching this who don’t buy your argument on this, and they’re very much for what we’re doing over there, let me just ask a couple of questions.
LAMB: They say, well, this guy made a lot of money, and he feels strongly about this. And he’s able to spend $2 million on this. And this is nothing more or less than propaganda.
What do you say to that?
FERGUSON: Watch the film and I think you’ll see that it’s exactly the opposite of propaganda. I frequently encountered that kind of question when I was making the film.
And what I told people then is that, look. I’ve got a Ph.D. in political science. My thesis advisor was in charge of nuclear policy for the Kennedy administration. I’m a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. I was in favor of using military force to remove Saddam initially.
Most of the people who appear in the film are Republicans and/or career military officers. It’s not a film that’s full of, you know, screaming left-wingers, at all. In fact, I don’t think there are any screaming left-wingers in the film.
LAMB: But then I would say, if I were – if I thought this was propaganda, well, you’re getting – you’re having your cake and eating it, too.
You found people that are upset about the way this war was fought, inside the administration. But we don’t see anybody, other than Walter Slocum, who still to this day, like a Bill Kristol, thinks that this was the right thing to do.
FERGUSON: That’s a fair question, and there is a two-part answer to it.
Part one is, I asked a lot of people – including Mr. Kristol, by the way – who refused to be interviewed, who refused to appear in the film.
A couple of people who defend the war were interviewed. I interviewed Christopher Hitchens, for example. And I didn’t include him, because, frankly, he had nothing intelligent to say.
Now, the other part of the answer is, I thought very hard about whether to put into the film an extended and detailed defense of the war by someone who was in favor of it. And there is footage of that kind of available, even without my interviewing somebody directly.
But I decided not to, because, if I had done that, I would have had to take another hour to pick apart everything that they say and put it where it deserves. And that, by this point, I found to be a waste of time relative to simply telling the story of what actually occurred. And so, I decided that that was what I was going to do.
In the book, there’s going to be much more detail about all of this. And I think that anybody who has any lingering doubts about the accuracy of what’s in the film – and nobody, by the way, has criticized the accuracy of the film.
There’s been one criticism, because there’s one factual error in the film. In the segment that you showed a little while ago, Paul Hughes says that Walt Slocum left on the 20th of May. He actually left on the 23rd. He was in Iraq for three days longer than Paul Hughes said. That’s the only factual error that anybody has pointed out in the film.
LAMB: Did you have to pay to have your film shown in theaters?
FERGUSON: No, no. No, no, no. No. I made …
LAMB: I mean, some people have told us here – not for this one, but other films where they do. They rent the theater as a way of showing it.
FERGUSON: No. No, no, no. I’m very happy to say that my film won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, attracted a lot of interest there. Several distributors bid on it. Magnolia Pictures purchased it, and they have distributed it as a commercial endeavor. And they’re going to make money on it.
LAMB: But wouldn’t you also say that the people that are making these decisions, whether they’re often the theater owners or the people at the Sundance operation, are liberal and anti-war?
FERGUSON: I haven’t the faintest idea, actually, who owns most of the theaters that the film has been shown in. It’s been shown in normal commercial theaters. I have no idea who owns them.
LAMB: What about the Sundance Group, Robert Redford?
FERGUSON: The Sundance Group – that’s probably a fair statement. That’s probably a fair statement. Yes, I would say it’s a relatively liberal group.
But, you know, the film has been reviewed at this point over 100 times. If you look at a Web site like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, or other Web sites that aggregate film reviews, you can look at many dozens of people who have reviewed the film. And I don’t think that anyone has found the film to be inaccurate in any way.
LAMB: Has this been worth it for you so far? Is it what you expected?
FERGUSON: I didn’t have strong expectations, having never made a film before. But has it been worth it? Yes, unconditionally. First of all, just in a purely personal way, making this film was a remarkable experience, and it completely hooked me on filmmaking and documentaries. And also on making a feature film, which I would like to do next.
But beyond the personal experience, yes. If this film has – and the book and so forth – has a noticeable effect on the way several million people think about this war and this administration, then I will have done something good for my country.
LAMB: Are you a Democrat?
FERGUSON: I guess I would say yes. I’m not a strongly partisan person. I don’t think of myself in those terms. But when I have supported candidates, and when I have given money to candidates or campaigns, it has usually been to Democrats.
LAMB: And are you involved at all in the presidential campaign?
FERGUSON: At the moment, no. At some point perhaps I’ll become so, but perhaps not. I’ll see.
LAMB: By the way, we’re going to show another clip in a second. Who is the moderator – or not the moderator – the announcer, and where did you get him?
FERGUSON: The narrator of the film, Campbell Scott, is a professional actor who had a good voice, and who we paid a fee to narrate the film.
LAMB: He wasn’t involved politically at all in this?
FERGUSON: No. No political involvement of any kind.
LAMB: Here’s another clip from your documentary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGHES: These guys all knew where those munitions were. They knew how to get to those weapons and how to use them. And you’ve just sent them away and said they don’t exist? Common sense tells me you don’t do that.
LT. SETH MOULTON, U.S. MARINES: I mean, you had huge ammunition dumps that weren’t guarded until several weeks, if not a couple of months, after major combat actions ended.
GARLASCO: I’m standing there watching these insurgents pull out rockets and mortars and bombs from these weapons caches that the Iraqis had stashed everywhere.
And you go to the British or to the U.S., whoever’s there, with your little GPS receiver and say, hey, guys. We found like 18,000 million tons of bombs, and there are a bunch of Iraqis there with AK-47s taking it away. Probably not the best idea. Here’s where it’s located.
And they say to you, we just don’t have enough people to cover it. And it just – I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t the right answer.
Go there and take care of it, for your security, for the civilians’ security – for everybody. It’s just a bad idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: How hard is it to find the video that you’ve used? Stuff that you didn’t do yourself. I assume you – did you record that vehicle being blown up? Or did you buy that?
FERGUSON: That was footage that we purchased. We combed through an enormous quantity of footage that had been taken in Iraq for all kinds of purposes. It took a long time. It wasn’t difficult; it was time-consuming.
LAMB: And of the $2 million you spent on this, how does that divide up? What were the big hits in that?
FERGUSON: Well, staying in Baghdad and using a personal security detail of 10 people and three armored cars is expensive.
LAMB: Can you give us an idea of how expensive?
FERGUSON: Six thousand dollars a day.
LAMB: And how many days did you do that?
So, all told, everything together, going to Iraq cost a quarter-million dollars.
LAMB: How many people did you have in your entourage, besides the security people?
FERGUSON: Two reporters and two interpreters.
LAMB: Camera people?
FERGUSON: No. We trained the journalists to use our cameras, and they did their own camera work. And I did some myself, also.
LAMB: Small camera?
FERGUSON: Yes. Small digital cameras. Small digital, high-definition cameras.
LAMB: What else did you spend money on?
FERGUSON: Well, the normal things you spend money on in making a film. We used a good cinematographer, and we used a good sound engineer. We had a full-time producer. And then editing the film – two very good editors for six months, very – which is, that’s short. The editors, the editing facility, the music, online engineering.
It adds up.
LAMB: The next clip is going to have General Shinseki. And did you try to – I mean, he’s not spoken since this all – since he left the military.
Have you tried to get hold of him?
FERGUSON: Yes. And actually, we corresponded briefly, but the substance, the communication was simply that he didn’t feel comfortable speaking about this to anybody. And, in fact, he has not spoken about this …
LAMB: Do you think he’ll ever speak, by the way?
FERGUSON: I don’t know. I understand that he has health problems. He must – given what happened – he must have very strong, deep emotions about it and about the situation.
I don’t know whether he’ll ever speak …
LAMB: And why is he even of interest in all this?
FERGUSON: He was, first of all, the Army chief of staff before and during the Iraq war. And in common with many other senior members of the professional military, he felt that the troop levels that Secretary Rumsfeld was planning to use for the war were vastly inadequate.
What made him unique was that he was willing to say so publicly.
LAMB: At the end of the documentary, ”No End in Sight,” here’s another clip. We will see General Shinseki.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: In the months leading up to the invasion, a debate over troop levels required in Iraq had been privately brewing between the military leadership and Donald Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, believed that a force of under 100,000 troops would be sufficient for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
A month before the invasion, the fight over troop levels became public, as the chief of staff of the Army, Eric Shinseki, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, ignoring pressure from Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.
SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICHIGAN: General Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army’s force requirement for an occupation of Iraq?
GEN. ERIC SHINSEKI, RETIRED, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: What is, I think, reasonably certain is, the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces, I think is far from the mark.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces in his army.
Hard to imagine.
PARKER: ”Hard to imagine.” Anyone who had any experience in the interventions of the ’90s knew that the opposite was true. You need X numbers of soldiers per 1,000 citizens, simply to provide a modicum of security.
But Paul Wolfowitz couldn’t imagine it.
SHINSEKI: We’re talking about post hostilities, control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so, it takes significant ground force presence.
MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON, IN CHARGE OF TRAINING NEW IRAQI ARMY, 2003-2004: Did General Shinseki get it right? He was asked for his best military opinion. And his experience exceeds mine.
He commanded our forces in Bosnia. He did it for a year-plus. He knows what he’s talking about.
ARMITAGE: Secretary Powell and, to the same extent, myself, we argued for more and more troops. And we made some difference. But ultimately, it didn’t seem that we made enough of a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: What do you think – you know, taking your point of view on this – what do you think the motivation was on the part of the people that won’t talk to you – not about talking to you, but about getting into the Iraq war, the Rumsfelds, the Wolfowitzes and others?
And President Bush.
FERGUSON: To a certain extent, we may never know. I came to believe – I have come to believe, that ideology alone does not completely explain – cannot completely explain – the decisions that were made here, and that, to a certain extent it’s necessary to fall back on individual, personal psychology.
There was a kind of perfect storm here of the fact of 9/11 giving this group of people an enormous amount of political power and freedom to do whatever they chose, and of some kind of coincidence – or maybe it wasn’t a coincidence – that a small number of people with very little relevant experience and with very strong personal emotions and personal beliefs, came to be in control of the country.
We may never know exactly what was going on in their heads.
LAMB: What is next for you? What’s the next film?
FERGUSON: I’m not sure yet. I love thrillers and suspense films, and I’d love to try to make one at some point. Maybe I’ll try that next.
But I also like making documentaries that explore intellectual and emotional subjects. I’d at some point like to make a film that’s about our current, contemporary romantic, marital, erotic, emotional, sexual condition as a society, as a generation.
I haven’t decided what’s going to be next.
LAMB: The biggest surprise of this whole project for you?
FERGUSON: I think that two things surprised me – one positive, one negative.
The positive surprise was personal. It was that making films is just the most extraordinary, amazing experience, a deeply fulfilling experience.
The other surprise was just how unbelievably stupid and incompetent the conduct of this war and occupation have been.
I mean, when I was told that many of the people in charge of the occupation did not have telephones, e-mail or Internet access for two and, in some cases, three or four months after they started the occupation of Iraq, my jaw was on the floor. And I was told things like that on a very regular basis. Things you just could not believe.
When Ray Jennings told me that this 22-year-old student had been placed in charge of Baghdad traffic planning, that a 24-year-old Yale graduate was placed in charge of setting up the Baghdad stock exchange – you know, on and on and on, just insane things.
LAMB: Charles Ferguson, thank you. And here’s the way you close your documentary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: And it just was Henny Penny, the sky is falling.
BREMER: General Garner and I are pledged to working very closely together.
MCKIERNAN: There is a large number of former Iraqi soldiers that are unemployed now.
RUMSFELD: One was guerrilla war, another was insurgency. Another was unconventional war.
No, that’s someone else’s business, quagmires. I don’t do quagmires.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I’m listening. I’m listening to political leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Someday, my life in the future, I’ve got to look back to Iraq, and I’ve got to see something done in there, so I can look back and say, I was part of this, and my suffering and my loss have a meaning.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If the situation gets better, I am going to leave (ph) Iraq. I will leave Iraq. But, no. I’m a fighter (ph). I mean, all my life. I won’t (ph) see Iraq, no.
FEKEIKI: From here we can’t change anything, because it’s out of control now. I don’t have future plans for being in Iraq. I don’t see the bit of light at the end of the tunnel yet.
FADHIL: This is what it is. This is how we live it. This is how we see it. This is how we smell it and feel it. It’s not a situation that you can say, ”Let’s try this. It will help. Let’s try this, it will help.”
No, it’s not.
MOULTON: And are you telling me that’s the best America can do?
No. Don’t tell me that. Don’t tell the Marines who fought for a month in Najaf that. Don’t tell the Marines who are still fighting every day in Fallujah that that’s the best America can do.
That makes me angry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)