When Dick Cheney told Rush Limbaugh that things in Iraq are going "remarkably well," he must have been speaking not as the vice president (not even Cheney is that delusional) but as a man with an ongoing financial interest in Halliburton, which continues to profit from the otherwise disastrous war.
Halliburton and its fellow war profiteers are the focus of Iraq for Sale, Robert Greenwald's devastating exposé of how the Bush administration and the GOP-led Congress have allowed American corporations in Iraq to turn the quagmire into a goldmine.
When I first saw the hard-hitting documentary, I suggested that "Democrats looking for another way to nationalize the midterm elections need look no further than their movie multiplexes and DVD players" because the film's "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."
A growing number of Democratic leaders have had the same reaction and are using the film to call attention to the GOP's failure to rein in the contractor abuse and fraud that have been the hallmark of the Iraq war privatization fiasco. It's also allowed them to go on the offensive and reframe the national security debate -- showing how the Republicans sacrificed the well-being of our troops and the Iraqi people on the altar of rewarding their corporate backers.
"The idea," wrote John Kerry in an email about the film he sent to his supporters, "that American troops were sent into battle without the body armor they needed, and that American tax dollars meant to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi's instead lined the pockets of contractors and big corporations while the insurgency grew, is an outrage of historic proportions... Once I saw this film, I knew we had to do something about it."
So did Rep. James Clyburn, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who sees the corruption highlighted in the film as a 'moral values' issue: "Iraq for Sale illustrates that this country needs true morality in our leaders, not the imposition of religion into politics."
Kerry and Clyburn, along with Senators Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Evan Bayh, Byron Dorgan, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and former Senator John Edwards have all embraced the film and are encouraging people -- through their email lists, speaking out about the film and by hosting screenings -- to see Iraq for Sale, to discuss the issues it raises, and to spread the word among friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. Senate candidates Sherrod Brown in Ohio and James Webb in Virginia, and Congressional candidate Francine Busby in California are also holding screenings of the film as part of their campaigns, and have taken up war profiteering and the need for greater accountability as key issues in their races.
In addition, Kerry and Clyburn have taken part in national conference calls discussing the film, and Dorgan, the sponsor of a bill aimed at reigning in war profiteering, had some of the people involved with the film speak at a recent Democratic Policy Committee hearing on the issue.
And, as Robert Greenwald blogged about earlier this week, organizations like MoveOn, Democracy for America, Amnesty International, Campaign for America's Future, and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility have all held screenings -- followed by a discussion of what people can do to help stop the war profiteers. Following the MoveOn house parties, people use their personal cell phones to reach out to voters in key districts. This weekend, over 200,000 calls were made after screenings of Iraq for Sale.
In my mind, I can't help but picture these newly emboldened Dems and their grassroots counterparts as campaign ninjas, but instead of throwing deadly pointed stars, they are flinging Iraq for Sale DVDs -- carving up the idea that the GOP is more patriotic, more concerned about America's soldiers, and more able to keep us safe.
With thousands more screenings scheduled in the 20 days before the election, Iraq for Sale could prove to be the DVD that leaves the GOP RIP.