Movie Review: 'Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers'

     Usually, spotting inconsistencies in the left’s arguments is fun. But in the case of Robert Greenwald’s new propagandumentary, “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers,” it’s serious business.

     Greenwald, who also made “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” (covered by BMI here), was on hand to discuss the film with its Washington, D.C., premiere audience on September 18. He said he had wanted to “put a personal face on profiteering” – something he accomplished in more ways than he likely intended.

     “Iraq for Sale” is a mishmash of allegations against four main companies: CACI International Inc., Titan (now L-3 Communications Titan Group), Blackwater USA and KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Their alleged crimes, according to the film, include aiding and abetting prisoner humiliation at Abu Ghraib; failing to train translators properly; and failing to provide proper security for contractors.

     Greenwald mines the fertile documentary fields of former employees and grieving family members. For all his decrying of the “profiteering” of others, he apparently has no shame in using people’s tragedies to further his own agenda.

     In the September 18 Newsweek, the filmmaker answered the question, “Would you say your films are balanced?” Greenwald replied: “No.” He added: “Do I have to show a side that isn’t truthful – that doesn’t have the facts behind it – in order to create balance? I argue no.” Unfortunately, he actually does leave vital facts out of the film, going primarily on emotion and political posturing.

     The movie’s spotlight falls on the families and co-workers of KBR truck drivers and Blackwater security personnel who were killed in the “red zones” of Iraq.

     “You sacrificed our loved ones for your profit,” accuses a truck driver’s family member.

     “They killed my friends … and they tried to kill me,” one of the drivers says.

     “It was about the contracts … It’s nothin’ but the money,” another driver says.

     Despite the emotional weight of the accusations, no actual evidence is produced to convict the company of wrongdoing. The companies featured in the film are involved in investigations and lawsuits, which may eventually clarify things. For now, the audience is left confused about which allegations are actually being investigated.

     KBR said in an online press statement that “Not one of our employees leaves the United States for Iraq without thorough and repeated briefings on the dangers in Iraq. In fact, during the training process, we spend most of our time giving recruits all the reasons they should NOT accept this job.”

     In the film, KBR’s truck drivers talk about how they wanted the job to secure their families’ financial futures, look out for their families, etc. The high pay is of course tied to working in dangerous areas … but no one accuses the truck drivers of “profiteering” from the situation. 

     KBR also stated that “the U.S. military has command and control of all KBR convoys in Iraq, such as supplying pre-trip threat assessments and determining routes, and is required to provide security for KBR’s employees through the company’s contract with the Army.” In the film, the drivers and families accuse the company of knowingly sending some drivers to their deaths.

     In addition to painting the corporations as heartless murderers, Greenwald & Co. take it for granted that nearly everyone involved in the administration and the military seems to be corrupt.

     For example, Greenwald takes issue with retired military personnel working for private security firms, portraying that as certain wink-wink-nod corruption. Who better to do those jobs?

     He also attacks no-bid contracts. Such contracts definitely beg the question of why there was no competition; however, Greenwald doesn’t even try to add facts and answers to the equation. He gives no reason for the no-bid situation except to assume a corrupt process.

     His “I tried to be balanced” end to the film shows Greenwald and his staff attempting to contact the companies they were attacking. He reports that the companies declined to be included. Of course, if he had really wanted to include the other side, the companies themselves were not the only sources available. He certainly found plenty of organizations willing to speak out on his side: the film is a parade of left-wingers including CorpWatch and the Center for Corporate Policy.

     But Greenwald’s films aren’t about balance – he already said he was quite open about that. At the D.C. premiere, he made it clear that the film’s agenda is to affect the 2006 election. In a Q&A following the film, Greenwald and Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, talked about producing the film in time for the election.

     As one audience member phrased it during the discussion, “One of the biggest things we fight is disinformation.” “Iraq for Sale” raises some one-sided questions about how the government does business in wartime. The disservice it does, however, is attempting to lead the audience to conclusions without vital information.

     In his quest to “put a personal face on profiteering,” Greenwald shows audiences the faces of those who lost loved ones and manipulates their pain into allegations of murder, all to his political delight. It is unsettling to see grieving families used as human shields for a political activist. He ultimately reveals another “personal face” of profiting from war: his own.