Galbraith's connection with Iraq predates the March 2003 U.S. invasion by more than a decade. As a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he worked on behalf of the Kurds of northern Iraq following Operation Desert Storm. Later, he helped broker the Dayton Peace Accords after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and he served as U.S. ambassador to Croatia during the Clinton administration. So it's perhaps not surprising that Galbraith -- son of eminent economist John Kenneth Galbraith -- sees as inevitable the breakup of Iraq into three confederated states: a pro-Western Kurdistan in the north, a Shiite south that leans toward Iran and a Sunni center.
''It's not a problem if a country breaks up, only if it breaks up violently,'' Galbraith told conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks last year. ''Iraq wasn't created by God. It was created by Winston Churchill.''
Some reviewers have critiqued Galbraith for promoting a pro-Kurdish agenda. But given the violence between Shiites and Sunnis, others agree that a breakup is already underway. Galbraith advocates a U.S. withdrawal from Sunni and Shiite sectors and favors U.S. diplomacy to "facilitate an amicable divorce."
-- ANN M. COLFORD
by Thomas Ricks
Ricks is the long-time Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post, and he draws upon his strong relationships with military insiders to paint a scathing picture of what he calls "the worst war plan in American history."
According to Slate reviewer Michael O'Hanlon, Ricks' is the first Iraq critique to take on the American military establishment along with the civilian decision makers in the Bush administration. In efforts to steer clear of Vietnam memories, Ricks suggests, military leaders ignored the lessons of guerilla warfare and counterinsurgency learned in Southeast Asia more than three decades ago. He argues passionately that U.S. officials "would obstinately refuse to learn from the past as they sought to run Iraq" in a recent article in the Post.
Ricks offers plenty of critiques of the administration officials who masterminded the invasion, most of which have been heard before. Still, there's enough blame for everyone involved, for as Ricks notes, "it takes more than one person to make a mess as big as Iraq."
Ricks isn't optimistic about the possible outcomes in Iraq, and he offers little hope for a clean exit, according to reviews. His sympathies rest with the soldiers on the ground, those charged with carrying out an ill-defined mission. His dedication reads simply, "For the war dead."
-- ANN M. COLFORD
DVD Iraq for Sale
Director Robert Greenwald previously tackled corporate America in Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price; Rupert Murdoch's media empire in Outfoxed; and the lead-up to the Iraq war in Uncovered. Now he's combining two of those subjects and going after American corporations that take advantage of the chaos in Iraq to reap huge profits. His newest film, Iraq for Sale, has just been released on DVD; much like his earlier films, the 75-minute documentary is available for purchase through a Web site (www.iraqforsale.org) after receiving a very limited theatrical release.
The film focuses on the use of private contractors in Iraq, people commanding large salaries -- far larger than most U.S. military personnel -- who work as armed bodyguards, prison guards and suppliers of everything from fuel to toilet paper. Greenwald's thesis is that the contracting companies overcharge American taxpayers for their services while endangering their employees and American troops.
Greenwald is not subtle in his technique; New York Times reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis says his films are "like sledgehammers of rage against everything he finds wrong with America." But he finds a lot of support at the grassroots: Thanks to a direct plea on the Internet, more than 3,000 people collectively donated more than $350,000 toward the making of Iraq for Sale.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
DVD The Ground Truth
Far from being just one more among a recent plethora of documentaries whose makers wish to expose alternative truths about the war in Iraq, Patricia Foulkrod's film instead airs some of the hard-won truths learned by American soldiers from experience.
The Ground Truth is recommended for anyone considering a stint in any military branch. The film focuses more on the U.S. military's disingenuousness during the enlistment and reintegration phases of volunteers' service. Its subjects are all gung-ho enlistees, who truly wanted to "be all that they can be," get college scholarship money, learn a trade, see the world, or serve their country. Their aims were all true, which makes the letdowns they experience that much more tragic.
Several points are made about how the word "kill" is never used by recruiting officers and how no one ever warns of the dehumanization process that factors into the boot-camp training or the difficulties of returning to civilian life. They learn too late that good soldiers generally make bad civilians because the survival instincts required for each are incompatible.
The first-person testimonies are powerful and affecting, and even more distressing are the voices of returning veterans who feel betrayed by a government that unleashes them on their families and society to reintegrate without equipping them with the necessary tools to succeed. "Psychological injury is this war's Agent Orange," says one, as reports mount of the Veteran Administration's treatment of soldiers suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite the stark power of these veterans' words, The Ground Truth (released this week on DVD) is rather scattered in its presentation, never elucidating a continuous narrative line or argument. Still, the accumulation of testimony here is overwhelming. It would be a good idea to show Foulkrod's movie nationwide on high school career days.
-- MARJORIE BAUMGARTEN