Hidden Wars Of Desert Storm

Journalists Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Brohy's earnest, muckraking documentary is really two films in one: It's both an eye-opening history of the rather cozy relationship the United States has long shared with its designated boogey man, Sadaam Hussein, and a wholehearted plea to end economic sanctions against Iraq. Ungerman and Brohy begin by asking two...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Journalists Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Brohy's earnest, muckraking documentary is really two films in one: It's both an eye-opening history of the rather cozy relationship the United States has long shared with its designated boogey man, Sadaam Hussein, and a wholehearted plea to end economic sanctions against Iraq. Ungerman and Brohy begin by asking two deceptively simple questions: Why was the Gulf War fought? And why, after 10 years, is an embargo so devastating to Iraq's civilian population (and therefore illegal under the terms of the Geneva Convention) still in effect? The answers to both questions, the filmmakers maintain, are rooted in the decades following WWII, when the balance of power and profit in the Middle East shifted away from Western Europe. The U.S., eager to establish its superpower status by controlling Arab oil, threw its support behind such amenable leaders as the Shah of Iran and Sadaam Hussein, whose Ba'ath Party, the film alleges, assumed power after a CIA engineered coup. The shifting fortunes of each country and the volte-faces of its leaders meant that by the time Iraq attacked Iran in the fall of 1980, both sides were armed with stockpiles of US armaments. During the Iraq-Iran War, the filmmakers contend that the Reagan and Bush administrations facilitated the development of Iraq's own weapons of mass destruction (including bacterial and chemical armaments) while testing its own new technologies on the battlefield. Damning stuff. But while the film stops short of justifying Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, it does take pains to explain how Kuwait's refusal to abide by OPEC's production quota had a serious impact on Iraq's war-crippled economy, and wonders how the U.S. managed to respond so quickly. Was the Pentagon prepared for such an invasion all along? And what about that sudden cease-fire that left a "madman" in power? Do we have more to gain through conflict — continued bombings, ten years of crippling sanctions — than peace? It's a conspiracy theory worthy of The X-Files. Which is not to say that much of it couldn't be true, only that the assertions are difficult to dispute (a recurring problem with conspiracy theories). Much of the evidence, culled from Congressional inquiries, state department reports and expert testimony (including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and General Norman Schwarzkopf), whizzes by in a blur, leaving the viewer intrigued, but not entirely convinced.

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