DVD Review

by Mick Lloyd-Owen & r & & r & Iraq for Sale & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & D & lt;/span & on't expect any comic relief from the sense of outrage engendered by Robert Greenwald's documentary about unscrupulous defense contractors and their political bedfellows in Washington, D.C. Intensely personal and deftly probing, Iraq for Sale examines the ever-increasing role of giant corporations in "the most privatized war in history," and asks serious questions about their responsibility and accountability. It's basically a 75-minute litany of sins committed by the rich and powerful as they profit obscenely from a costly, ravaging war. Let the viewer beware: This film is calculated to piss you off.

Greenwald's latest production consists of a series of interviews with military personnel, former employees of defense contractors, family members of the deceased and prisoners released from the infamous Abu Ghraib detention facility. Interspersed is an assortment of unsettling facts and figures derived from independent research. Expect to hear harrowing tales of civilians being put in harm's way, accusations of negligence and incompetence, and accounts of intentional and gratuitous fraud and waste.

Has Halliburton really charged the U.S. government $45 per six-pack of locally produced soda? Do they systematically destroy perfectly good equipment so they can bill the government to replace it? What exactly is a "no bid" contract, and what does "cost plus" mean? Is L3 Titan, Inc. providing unqualified translators? Are civilian employees of CACI International torturing and interrogating prisoners of war? To whom are they accountable? Is Blackwater really providing mercenary combatants? Under what circumstances have civilians been killed? Who is scratching whose back on Capitol Hill, and for how much?

The viewer will have to decide based on the testimony of Greenwald's sources. Conspicuously absent from the documentary are any representatives of the primary targets of criticism, but the reason is provided during the closing credits. The producer makes a respectable attempt, at least, to be transparent about his research on the film's Web site.

Iraq for Sale was released in the fall of 2006 by Brave New Films, an independent company financed primarily by DVD sales and private contributions. It follows a series of expos & eacute;s including Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, among others.