Green Zone Official Movie Poster

“Bush Lied, People Died.”

It’s been an anti-Iraq War picket sign almost from Day One of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003.

Let’s review where I’m coming from before we go any further.

I opposed President George H. W. Bush’s Gulf War on the grounds that no vital interest of the American people were served by it; defending a royal ruler of an emirate wasn’t even a Wilsonian defense of “democracy.”

I opposed President Clinton’s bombing of Iraq on grounds that the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction which kept the infinitely more dangerous Soviet Union from launching its Weapons of Mass Destruction against American targets would surely prevent Saddam Hussein from using any WMD’s he had against us as well.

Then 9/11 happened. Sixteen Jihadis armed only with box-cutters turned four commercial jetliners into WMD’s, and successfully attacked both the chief financial district of the United States and its military headquarters, causing devastation and casualties equivalent to what the naval forces of the Empire of Japan had accomplished in an aircraft-carrier-based attack on Pearl Harbor, six decades earlier.

When George W. Bush — and Colin Powell, speaking to the United Nations — made the case that they were in possession of solid intelligence showing that the reason Saddam Hussein was foiling WMD inspections he’d agreed to in his Gulf War surrender was that he still had chemical WMD’s he’d used against the Kurds, was working to develop nuclear weapons, and might be inclined to hand WMD’s off to Jihadi cells for use against American targets — I saw that as a reasonable casus belli for the United States to use its military forces to knock the totalitarian Saddam Hussein regime from power.

Despite paralogical distractions about whether or not Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy more in Niger, Saddam Hussein already had 550 metric tons of “yellowcake” uranium in Baghdad which was available to him — as long as he was in power — any time he wanted to take off the meaningless IAEA “seal.” The United States removed this yellowcake from Iraq four months after the invasion. If Saddam Hussein had hidden centrifuges like its neighbor Iran was building as well as experts like Abdul Qadeer Khan — the father of the Pakistani A-bomb who was secretly providing his expertise to both Iran and North Korea already — the prospect of Iraq developing a suitcase nuke Saddam could hand off to Jihadis wasn’t necessarily science fiction — not after 9/11.

But when, following the United-States-led coalition invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein and his rape-room sons were either captured or killed, U.S. inspections found no caches of chemical weapons or hidden centrifuges, and George W. Bush stood on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and declared that the United States had prevailed against the Iraqi military, I thought it was time for the United States to hand over control of Iraq to the Saddam-freed Ba’athist bureaucracy and the Saddam-freed Iraqi military, and bring our troops home by the end of 2004, except perhaps some small forces needed to protect the Kurds from both the Ba’athists and the Turks.

Instead, George W. Bush instituted a policy of deBa’athification of Iraq and engaged in a protracted Clintonian nation building that resulted in years of unnecessary insurgency against the occupying U.S. and coalition military forces. Iraq’s borders as a modern nation were a World-War-I carving out from the Ottoman Empire by Britain and France. By the 21st century there was actually no compelling reason the area historically known as Mesopotamia — freed from Saddam Hussein’s iron control — couldn’t have naturally devolved into ethnically autonomous Sunnistan, Shiastan, and Kurdistan.

So we come to the new thriller Green Zone, which opened this past Friday, based on the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Washington Post Bagdhad Bureau Chief, Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The script was by veteran screenwriter Brian Helgeland and directed by Paul Greengrass, best known for directing The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and United 93.

I don’t think Paul Greengrass is capable of making a dull movie. His Bourne movies and United 93 are masterpieces of good storytelling. One can possibly raise esthetic objections to the deliberate visual confusion he creates by hand-held cameras, deliberate degradation of film image, and superfast cutting … but I’m an old fogey raised on Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Otto Preminger, and Alfred Hitchcock, and not conditioned to such devices as is today’s prime 18-to-34 movie demographic by TV commercials, music videos, and video games.

Considered just as an entertainment, Green Zone is a taut and compelling character-driven thriller.

And — speaking personally — I was gratified to see Paul Greengrass make good use of the brilliantly talented Said Faraj in the role of Seyyed Hamza.

Said Faraj as Gamal Hosny in Lady Magdalene's
Said Faraj as Gamal Hosny in Lady Magdalene’s

Said is the second face you see in Green Zone, which tends to justify my casting Said as Gamal Hosny, the first face you see in my movie, Lady Magdalene’s. It’s even possible that Paul Greengrass took notice of Said’s performance in Lady Magdalene’s when fellow-cast member, Alexander Wraith, screened our first 140-minute rough cut of it for Paul Greengrass. (Greengrass’s comment to Alex: “Good movie but Neil needs to cut it.” We did, Paul — thirteen more times!!!!)

Spoiler alert!

Unlike the nonfiction book to which it gives writing credit, Green Zone classifies itself as fiction. There is an unambiguous statement in the movie’s end credits saying that it’s completely fiction.

Yet, this movie tells a fictitious story about the origins of a real war.

Green Zone‘s central plot portrays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (played by Matt Damon) discovering that bad intelligence is leading his men to fight their way to supposed WMD sites that obviously never had any.

With the help of a local Iraqi patriot nicknamed Freddy (played by Khalid Abdalla) and CIA Station Chief Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) — yes, in this Paul Greengrass movie the CIA are the good guys — Miller uncovers a conspiracy to falsify the intelligence about WMD’s in Iraq, used to justify the invasion.

Leading this conspiracy is a high-ranking Pentagon official with White House access — in the movie given the name Clark Poundstone (Gred Kinnear) — who obtains knowledge two months prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in a secret meeting in Jordan with the real-life Iraqi Republican Guard Chief of Staff Hasan Taha al-Rawi (Igal Naor) — the “Jack of Clubs” on the deck of playing cards U.S. troops were given to ID high-value-targets. In this meeting al-Rawi point-blank tells Poundstone that Iraq dismantled all its WMD’s back in the early 90’s. Poundstone then lies about what he was told — stating that an intelligence source named “Magellan” confirmed the existence of Iraqi WMD’s — and criminally falsifies the casus belli for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Poundstone is also portrayed as having made official assurances to al-Rawi in this secret pre-war meeting that upon Saddam’s removal from power the United States would leave al-Rawi and the Republican Guard in positions of post-invasion power.

“Bush Lied, People Died.”

If such a meeting was ever documented in real life, I would be in favor of putting any American official who knew about it on trial for treason, and if convicted execute them.

But, according to Paul Greengrass’s principal military advisor for the film, retired Chief Warrant Officer Richard L. “Monty” Gonzales — writing on the Fox News website — “[T]he most important role I played as an adviser was to push the plot as far away from reality as possible. After receiving assurances from Paul Greengrass, the Director of Green Zone, that he would not allow the film to be turned into an exploitive polemic, I agreed to participate.”

I haven’t read Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book. If Paul Greengrass is in possession of any actual evidence that a Pentagon official received assurances from al-Rawi prior to the U.S. invasion — even if it was regarded as unreliable intelligence by the Pentagon prior to March 20, 2003 — I wish he’d come forward with it. That would make Green Zone a political thriller on a par with 1975’s Three Days of the Condor, based on Daniel Ellsberg’s 1971 release of “The Pentagon Papers” to The New York Times, or 1976’s All the President’s Men, based on Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein’s book about how their investigation forced President Nixon to resign.

But if there’s no evidence to support this fiction — a charge which is taken seriously by a major element in the debate on the origins of the Iraq War — then Green Zone has to be seen as blatant propaganda as false to history as 1943’s Mission to Moscow, where instead of famines, totalitarian brutality, and mass exterminations in the Ukraine, the Soviet Union is portrayed as a benevolent workers’ paradise.

Look. I have zero problem with using real-life characters mixed with fictional ones, to tell an obviously fictional story.

I first did it in a 1983 comedy I wrote for Vista Films titled “All The King’s Horses,” in which I had the Princess of Wales file for divorce and child custody in an American court room.

I did it in my 1986 Twilight Zone episode “Profile in Silver” where I put President Kennedy in a room with an historian visiting from the future.

But there’s a difference between using real characters in Twilight Zone and in Green Zone. Nobody confuses the Twilight Zone for real history.

Without evidence drawn from the real world, Green Zone is baseless propaganda on the level of me writing a “fictional” movie about Al Gore having a secret meeting years ago with climate scientists who tell him they have no actual data confirming the existence of man-made global warming, or a “fictional” movie in which I invent an al-Qaeda conspiracy to take a baby born in Kenya, raise him as a Jihadi, fake a Hawai’ian birth certificate, then get him elected as the first black President of the United States.

If it would be wrong of me to make these two movies, it was wrong to make a conspiracy movie about the origins of the War in Iraq.

Even fiction and drama — no, especially fiction and drama — need to build on real-world evidence.

And the evidence we have today is that it was Saddam Hussein — not any “Clark Poundstone” at the Pentagon — who worked hard to spread disinformation so his own people and the leaders of his hostile next-door-neighbor Iran would believe he was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Saddam Hussein just made the fatal error of not considering that George W. Bush — with the best intelligence sources a superpower could buy — could also be tricked into believing it.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share