Can a Movie Fuel a Democratic Return to Power?

Democrats looking for another way to nationalize the midterm elections need look no further than their movie multiplexes and DVD players.

Robert Greenwald's latest film, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (coming soon to a theater -- and a living room -- near you) is a devastating expose of how the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress have allowed private corporations free rein in Iraq, leading to billions of dollars in profits at the expense of American troops, American taxpayers, and the people of Iraq.

Along with being a resounding condemnation of these war profiteers and their political enablers, the hits-you-in-the-gut documentary also highlights their shocking incompetence -- and makes a mockery of the GOP's "we can keep you safer" 2006 framing. How, by privatizing not just the rebuilding of Iraq but many vital operations such as training Iraqi police, providing security for U.S. officials, and interrogating prisoners?

The Republicans have turned Iraq into a corporate welfare gravy train, funneling billions to corporations that think nothing of cutting corners by sending their own employees onto the mean streets of Iraq without properly armored vehicles or supplying contaminated water to U.S. soldiers or charging $45 for a six-pack of soda -- all while leaving the people of Iraq dealing with wide-scale food, gasoline, and electrical shortages (to say nothing of a security situation so bad, people are having to change their names to avoid being killed).

Greenwald, the master of the issue-doc (Uncovered, Outfoxed, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price), has delivered a film that connects on both an emotional and an intellectual level. And, most importantly, it does so by letting the facts -- and the victims of the war's privatization -- speak for themselves.

Its measured tone -- in conjunction with the corruption, cronyism, and cynicism it shines a spotlight on -- make it a perfect tool for Democrats looking to turn the tide in red states. No one likes a war profiteer. Except, apparently, the Congressional Republicans who have been the recipients of the lion's share of the profiteers' largess. (For instance, the political action committee of Halliburton, the king of the Iraq profiteers, has given 91 percent of its donations in the current election cycle to Republican candidates.)

True conservatives should be particularly outraged by the no-competition-orgy of fraud, malfeasance, and ineptitude the lack of Congressional oversight has engendered.

And, make no mistake, this lack of oversight has been the work of Republicans who have held only a handful of hearings into the historic levels of contractor abuse and fraud that have been the hallmark of the Iraq war privatization debacle. What's more, the GOP has repeatedly derailed Democratic proposals to increase competition for government contracts, create a new criminal penalty for war profiteering, put limits on the kinds of jobs (such as interrogations) private contractors can do, and establish a Truman-style committee to investigate the companies making a killing in Iraq and Afghanistan while young Americans make the ultimate sacrifice.

The condemnation of war profiteering should be a bipartisan no-brainer. But since the GOP seems committed to protecting the obscene profits of companies such as Blackwater Security, CACI International, Bechtel, Fluor, and, of course, Halliburton, the Democratic National Committee should immediately fashion a TV campaign targeting all Republicans who have voted against contractor accountability and accepted contributions from the war profiteers.

Like Greenwald's other documentaries, Iraq for Sale will have a limited theatrical release and will get its widest play at screening parties held in homes or meeting halls across the country, starting the first week of October. Remember how in 2004 a DVD presenting Bush as having "the moral clarity of an old-fashioned biblical prophet" was distributed to tens of thousands of American churches? Well, Democrats should get a hold of that mailing list and make sure those same faithful viewers see Iraq for Sale before Election Day.

Moral clarity doesn't come any clearer.

P.S. Another powerful, must-see Iraq war documentary, The Ground Truth, will be released later this month. Along with gut-wrenching footage from Iraq, the film features emotional interviews with young Americans recounting the horrors they faced while serving in Iraq, as well as their often more difficult struggles upon returning home -- many with severe injuries. The film provides a compelling platform for Iraq war vets, a group too infrequently heard from.


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