“Control Room” Delivers Some Bitterly Ironic Retrospection
Delivers Some Bitterly Ironic Retrospection
by Henry Edward Hardy
If 2004 was The Year of the Documentary, then Control Room, Jehane Noujaim’s film on the independent Arab News channel, Al-Jazeera, ranks among the best. Control Room tells the story of the network and the early days of the Iraq War through the eyes of Jazeera reporter Hassan Ibrahim, senior producer Samir Khader and U.S. spokesperson Lieutenant Josh Rushing.
Khader makes penetrating points about the climate of fear perpetuated inside the U.S. by the Administration, and both he and Ibrahim express substantial (and warranted) skepticism about Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction.
“Pulverized. Dead bodies en masse — and why? We get these pictures and we show them. Unfortunately we get grief from the Americans who say we are inciting rebellion, instigating anti-American sentiments. They cannot have their cake and eat it,” says Ibrahim.
Lt. Rushing is a surprisingly appealing figure in the film, genuinely troubled by many of the inconsistencies between the war as he is told to present it and the feedback and questions presented by foreign press such as Jazeera.
The film shows powerfully how both Al-Jazeera and western coverage are manipulated by reporters, producers, governments and public opinion. We see how the iconic footage of the statue of Saddam being toppled was the result of a U.S. “Psyops” (psychological operations) battalion’s efforts and not a spontaneous uprising of the Iraqi people.
We see civilian casualties, simple homes of simple people. A woman stands in front of a house with its front blown off and shouts, “Welcome to my house, Mr. Bush. Look at this! Don’t you have any humanity? How can you accept a little girl crying for her mom and dad?”
We then cut to U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, explaining, “What they do is when a bomb goes down, they grab some children, and some women, and pretend that the bomb hit the women and the children,” Rumsfeld continues with a death’s-head, rictus-like grin. “To the extent that people lie, ultimately they are caught lying. They lose their credibility. And one would think that that wouldn’t take long dealing with people like this.”
Viewing the film now is informed by subsequent revelations. One cannot help a bitter smile at the irony and self-serving hypocrisy of Bush when he says he expects Iraq to treat U.S. captives humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, as he asserts, the U.S. treats its captives.
Control Room is available on DVD and VHS and for rental from local video stores.
A version of this article was previously published in Current Magazine and on Electric Current, http://www.eCurrent.com .
Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007 Henry Edward Hardy