No End in Sight

Iraq's Descent into Chaos


By Charles Ferguson

Formats and Prices




$15.99 CAD




ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 23, 2009. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The first book of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into guerilla war, warlord rule, criminality, and anarchy, No End In Sight is a shocking story of wholesale incompetence, recklessness, and venality.

Culled from over 200 hours of footage collected for the film, the book provides a candid and alarming retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials, Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts. Together, these voices reveal the principal errors of U.S. policy that largely created the insurgency and chaos that engulf Iraq today — and what we could and should do about them now.

No End In Sight marks the first time Americans will be allowed inside the White House, Pentagon, and Baghdad’s Green Zone to understand for themselves the disintegration of Iraq — and how arrogance and ignorance turned a military victory into a seemingly endless and deepening nightmare of a war.


New York Film Critics Circle

Los Angeles Critics Association

2007 Sundance Film Festival

No End in Sight is a coolheaded and devastating exposé of the Bush administration's bungling of the Iraq war—a definitive anatomy of disaster … No End in Sight leaves you furious at an administration of armchair warriors, yet it offers the catharsis of cold, hard truth.

—Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Mr. Ferguson … presents familiar material with impressive concision and impact, offering a clear, temperate and devastating account of high-level arrogance and incompetence. … It's a sober, revelatory, and absolutely vital film.

—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

We need to hear the story again and again, for no amount of rage and disbelief can turn what the Bush Administration did into someone else's problem. The occupation is our problem, a dead eagle hanging around our necks … Modest and attentive and quietly outraged, this collection of interviews, news footage, and narrated history gathers weight and strength and delivers, in chronological order, an overwhelming pattern of folly … No End in Sight is an exposure of the psychopathology of power.

—David Denby, The New Yorker

The script of Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight would certainly be in the hands of prosecutors in the event of impeachment hearings. The documentary is a furious, if quietly stated, indictment of the president and all his men in re the debacle that our adventure in Iraq has turned into. Ferguson builds a compelling case of bad judgment, error, stubbornness, arrogance, all of it adding up to a mess with no end in sight.

—Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

Those who never liked the smell of this war will find urgent, cogent analysis in No End in Sight. Those who, for whatever reason, did believe in it will find the same, while experiencing this beautifully argued film as a tipping point.

—Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

Prepare to be riveted: No End in Sight, Charles Ferguson's first film, is without question the most important movie you are likely to see this year.

—Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine

Two very big thumbs up. It is essential viewing for any patriot. I love this film because I love my country.

—Richard Roeper, Ebert and Roeper

Remember the scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex has his eyes clamped open and is forced to watch a movie? I imagine a similar experience for the architects of our catastrophe in Iraq. I would like them to see No End in Sight.

—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

This powerhouse of a movie should be required viewing for every member of Congress. The executive branch is likely to avert its eyes.


Everyone in this film is competent. Everyone in this film knew how to do their job, and did their job as ordered. And not just in spite of, but because they did what they were ordered to do, thousands of Americans have died, thousands of Iraqis have died, our laws and allies have fallen by the wayside. … Our ability to defend ourselves from true terror and the credit it requires to make such claims is lost. …

Watch this. Get your friends to watch it. Talk about it. Argue about it. And then call someone, anyone who will have to respond: your Congressman, your Senator. It's only the lives of our brothers and sisters at stake. Maybe you’re doing something more important right now.

I hope so.

—George Clooney

Forging better policy towards Iraq requires an understanding of the Bush Administration's devastating policy errors and their consequences. With No End in Sight, we now have a comprehensive, objective analysis of Iraq's descent.

—Congressman Rahm Emanuel

Please send everyone you know to see it … The film convicts the Bush administration more clearly, specifically and forcefully than any previous documentary.

—Stuart Klawans, The Nation

If any movie can rid Americans of “Iraq war fatigue,” it's Charles Ferguson's muscular documentary No End in Sight. It provokes potent new feelings of outrage and catalyzes fresh thoughts about the right way to run a government, especially ours.

—Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun

No End in Sight is a biting critique of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq.

—The Situation Room, CNN

A masterfully assured piece of filmmaking.

—Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

Charles Ferguson's lucid, concise and devastating account of what went wrong in Iraq … a heartbreaking, soul-searching chronicle of how America snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

—Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

A raft of documentaries have come along since the start of the war, some of them accusatory, some investigative, some empathetic, nearly all of them skeptical. None is better argued or more searing than No End in Sight. … The film is tough-minded and essential—a severely galling reality check.

—Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

No End in Sight will leave you floored, agape and enraged anew. … The cumulative, comprehensive body of interviews and images is just completely damning—exhaustive and exhausting, painful to watch but necessary.

—Christy Lemire, Associated Press

No End in Sight, the latest Iraq documentary, is the first to attempt a detailed historical overview and probably the only one with the potential to reach across partisan lines, a true rarity in the sphere of political filmmaking … a model of concision and clarity. Ferguson is less a polemicist than a historian, and the power of his film has much to do with its calm, stark emphasis on facts that speak for themselves.

—Dennis Lim, The Los Angeles Times

No End in Sight is the most coolheaded of the Iraq war documentaries, the most methodical and the least polemical. Yet it's the one that will leave audiences the most shattered, angry and astounded.

—Mike LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle

Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight itemizes the errors, misjudgments and follies that have defined the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq. In his first doc, Ferguson delivers the calm, meticulous survey of U.S. policy that legions of critics of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 have been waiting for.

—Robert Koehler, Variety

The film is a meticulous, thoroughly engrossing lesson in how not to win friends (or wars) and influence people (or potential terrorists) … No End in Sight proves there's nothing more subversive than a somber, lucid recitation of facts.

—David Edelstein, New York Magazine






This book expands upon, and brings up to date, my 2007 documentary No End in Sight. While the film is quite comprehensive and, obviously, conveys many things that words cannot, it did impose limits. At an hour and forty minutes, the film contained less than 1 percent of our research and often astounding interviews. More recently, I also wanted to address the debate over the 2007–2008 military surge and the dilemmas of future Iraq policy. Hence this book.

I must say, however, that making the film was one of the most intense, powerful experiences of my life. I initially had the idea to make No End in Sight, my first film and I very much hope not my last, in 2004, when I first realized that conditions in Iraq were far worse than generally believed. The sharpest stimulus was a dinner in New York with George Packer, whom I had met when I was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). George is not an ideological person and, like me, had initially been sympathetic to the idea of using force to depose Saddam Hussein. Yet over the course of three hours of conversation, it became clear that what he saw in postwar Iraq was very scary.

At the time, George was preparing to write his book, The Assassins’ Gate; he had just returned from his second or third trip to Iraq and had already done a great deal of research. I had no doubt that he would produce an excellent book, and I knew that other books were on the way. Perhaps, however, there was an opportunity for a movie. This idea was the combined product of my love of film, my background in political science and policy analysis, my having made some money, and events in Iraq.

I have loved film since I was a child; in high school, I watched everything I could, even eight-hour Soviet films of the boy-meets-tank variety. My interest in studying political power came more gradually. As an undergraduate, I was a dilettante, eventually a mathematics major. For graduate school, I applied to only one political science department—at MIT. In the end, I went there, and studied defense policy, European politics, political philosophy and political economy, economics, economic history, and international relations.

Meeting my Ph.D. thesis adviser, Carl Kaysen, was a turning point. Carl is ridiculously smart, and his life showed it: OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in World War II, tenured professor at Harvard in his thirties, deputy national security adviser for President Kennedy, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies, et cetera, et cetera. He also has a wicked sense of humor, which he used to keep me in line, while giving me enormous freedom. In the late 1980s, I wrote my Ph.D. thesis on the globalization of the information technology sector, particularly the rise of Japanese and Asian competition therein, and its implications for the United States. I got it about half right, and continued at MIT doing postdoctoral research.

In 1992, I left MIT and became a consultant, doing strategic analysis for the top managements of high-technology firms—Motorola, Xerox, Intel, Apple, Texas Instruments. But in late 1993, after a consulting project for Apple that allowed me to contemplate the lamentable state of what was then called the online services industry (the commercial Internet still being in its infancy), I had an idea for a software product. Someone really should do this, I thought. It would be really cool, and they could make a lot of money. And then I thought, Why not me?

In early 1994, I met Randy Forgaard, a brilliant MIT-trained software technologist. Together, we founded Vermeer Technologies (named after my favorite painter, after other names failed their trademark clearances). We developed the first software product that enabled a mere mortal—a normal person, not a software engineer—to develop and manage Web sites. We worked insanely hard, at a time when the Web was growing 20 percent per month. Netscape and Microsoft threatened to compete, yet simultaneously courted us. We sold the company to Microsoft, and at 5 pm EST on January 13, 1996, while getting slightly drunk on an airplane, I became financially secure for life. I couldn’t afford private planes or private islands, but I would never again have to do anything I didn’t want to do.

The question of what I did want to do turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. After Vermeer, I was utterly exhausted, and simply recovering took a couple of years. Then I wrote two more books, which was fun, and started another company, which wasn’t (and which consequently failed). In 2003, I decided that I would finally try filmmaking. I began investigating, speaking with people, doing research. I started thinking about what film to make and came up with several ideas.

And then came Iraq. Although generally moderate or even liberal in my political views, I had thought there was a good case for using military force to remove Saddam. He was a quasi-genocidal, possibly psychopathic dictator who had caused three bloody wars, killed over a million people, developed chemical weapons and used them on civilians, and had come perilously close to developing nuclear weapons before the first Gulf War. He was being held in check only by a draconian sanctions regime that was driving Iraq's population into severe poverty and Islamic fundamentalism. His tenure seemed all too secure, and it appeared that he might be succeeded by either or both of his two sons, one of whom was even more ruthless than Saddam, the other of whom was clinically psychotic. Moreover, the United States bore substantial responsibility for these conditions, having supported Saddam militarily in the 1980s in order to weaken Iran, then allowing Saddam to remain in power after the first Gulf War, and finally imposing the sanctions regime.

I also found the record and arguments of many liberals or Democrats somewhat questionable. Only eight Democratic senators had voted in favor of waging the first Persian Gulf War—Al Gore had been one of those eight; John Kerry had not. Yet, because sanctions didn’t involve American troops, many liberals apparently had no trouble with the sanctions regime, which killed many more Iraqis than the war had.

While I did not completely oppose the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq, I was ambivalent because even before the war, I saw many disquieting signals about how, specifically, the administration would proceed. The administration seemed arrogantly intent on alienating the entire world, rejecting international treaties (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the International Criminal Court) and disdaining alliances. Donald Rumsfeld offensively and publicly dis- missed the objections of “old Europe,” and clearly had no patience for the United Nations, for weapons inspectors, or for criticism from any quarter. A month before the war, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki warned that many more troops would be required, only to have Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz undermine him publicly. And the administration seemed to like and believe Ahmed Chalabi's predictions about Iraq, despite his clearly being a charlatan of the first order.

So I was worried. Yet never even in my wildest nightmares did I imagine that the occupation of Iraq would be conducted with such arrogance, stupidity, and incompetence as it was. Despite all my training and experience, which certainly included lessons in skepticism, I would have laughed if someone had told me before the war, look, it's going to be like this: They won’t start any planning for the occupation at all until two months before the war, and then they’ll start completely from scratch. They’ll exclude the State Department and CIA people who know the most about the country. They won’t have telephones or e-mail for months after they arrive in Iraq. Our troops will stand by as nearly every major building in the country is looted, destroyed, and burned. They will spend the first month preparing to install an Iraqi government, restart the administration of the country, and recall the Iraqi Army for use in security and reconstruction. And then, with no consultation or warning, in a one-week period, a newly appointed head of the U.S. occupation will reverse all those decisions, crippling the administration of the country and throwing half a million armed men into the street, destitute. As an insurgency builds, they will deny its existence and refuse to negotiate, even when leaders of the insurgency signal a desire for compromise. They will airlift $12 billion in hundred-dollar bills into the country, with no accounting controls, and three-quarters of it will remain permanently unaccounted for. In a separate program, Congress will appropriate $18 billion for desperately needed reconstruction, but the occupation will be so incompetent that it will spend only a billion of it in the first year. A twenty-two-year-old college graduate will be placed in charge of Baghdad traffic planning; a twenty-four-year-old will run the Baghdad stock exchange. The head of the civilian occupation will dislike the head of the military occupation, and neither will be clearly in charge, so that the two will have severe coordination problems. It will take more than two years after the invasion to provide adequately armored vehicles to the majority of U.S. forces, resulting in hundreds of avoidable American deaths. After sovereignty is restored, the first Iraqi defense minister will personally steal $1 billion, and nobody will notice; then he will be permitted to fly to London. And so on.

And yet these things, and many more, took place. By 2004, the intelligent, practical people with whom I spoke, and who had spent time in Iraq, all told me the same frightening things and predicted that conditions would get far worse before they got better. Even more surprising, however, was the reaction—or nonreaction—of most of the American media. Coverage by the television networks and many of the nation's largest newspapers remained superficial and uncritical. Some newspapers, magazines, and individual journalists published excellent, honest work—Jim Fallows at The Atlantic, George Packer and several journalists at The New Yorker, Mark Danner in The New York Review of Books, and among newspapers, the Knight-Ridder papers and the Washington Post. Then, in 2004 and 2005, a dozen good books appeared, primarily by journalists. But the average quality of mass-media journalism was poor, and nobody had made a film about the big question of how and why all this had occurred. The closest thing to such a film was a collection of Frontline episodes, several of which did discuss the problems of the Iraqi occupation.

So in mid-2004, I began to explore the possibility of making a documentary about American policy in Iraq. I spoke to a number of well-placed, experienced friends in the film world and in journalism. Somewhat to my surprise, they advised me not to do it, for three reasons. First, they said that this would be a difficult first film to make; I should practice on something easier. A serious documentary about Iraq would involve a lot of research, many interviews, and, above all, filming in Iraq, which would raise a host of security, insurance, and logistical concerns, as well as being expensive. Second, my friends said, you’ll have tough competition and probably lots of it. This subject is so important and so obvious that there will be ten films about it, made by experienced documentary filmmakers and financed by the BBC, CNN, wealthy individuals, and independent distributors. And third, access will be a problem, because you have no record as a filmmaker and no organization backing you.

At first I took this advice seriously and decided not to proceed. I had started writing a suspense novel and resumed thinking about other, quite different film ideas. Nearly a year passed. And then one day in early 2005, I realized that it was still true that nobody had made a serious film about American policy in Iraq. Many Iraq documentaries had been released— some of them very good—but they had very specific, personal, individual subjects: following a group of GIs, profiling an Iraqi family. Nobody had tackled the essential, large question. So in mid-2005, I went back to my media and journalistic friends and said, Don’t tell me about all the problems I’ll face or about all the people who will make this film in the future. Just tell me if anyone is making this film now. They replied that, to the best of their knowledge, nobody was. So I decided that I would.

Getting Started

A decade earlier, when I started my software company, I had stumbled upon the essential secret of doing something well—or at least avoiding the worst, when you’ve never done it before. It's very simple: If you hire good people, your employees will teach you your job. At my software company, my engineers taught me software project management and, sometimes, how to deal with venture capitalists as well. In the case of No End in Sight, I learned how to make a film from everybody around me. The hard part was persuading good people to take the chance that I was educable.

My friend Tom Luddy, the director of the Telluride Film Festival, referred me to a number of film professionals, some of whom were very helpful and generous with their time. But in the end, it was a random encounter that proved most valuable. I had seen two documentaries by Alex Gibney that I liked very much: Enron and Lightning in a Bottle. By bothering Alex enough, I persuaded him to meet with me. We liked each other and eventually agreed on a consulting arrangement whereby Alex would look over my shoulder, comment on my work, and help me hire the people I needed. In the end, Alex proved to be not only extraordinarily helpful, but also quite generous, even when he was making another documentary on a related subject, which placed us, to some degree, in competition. (His film Taxi to the Dark Side is about the use of torture by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo.) Alex opened his Rolodex, commented on my documents, and watched our rough cuts. He helped find me office space and instructed me on budgets, lawyers, film crews, distributors, film deals, and much else. I owe him an enormous debt.

My then personal assistant, Audrey Marrs, who had proved to be enormously gifted and competent, expressed interest in becoming involved in the film's production. But like me, she had no prior experience. Alex told me that I therefore needed to find (a) a full-time producer and (b) a film crew. He referred me to several producers, and in late 2005, I hired Jennie Amias, who worked on the film for our entire production period and for the first two or three months of postproduction (i.e., editing). I told Jennie that part of her job was to train Audrey, who eventually became the film's principal producer. Maryse Alberti, a cinematographer who had filmed Enron, referred me to Antonio Rossi, who became our principal cinematographer, and to David Hocs, who handled our audio.

The next problem was content. In mid-2005, few people were willing to speak on the record, much less in front of a camera. George Packer, Anthony Shadid, David Phillips, Larry Diamond, and others were able to write their books because (a) they had been there and (b) they could rely on off-the-record interviews. But would anybody talk to me?

Well, George Packer would, and so would Yaroslav Trofimov, a Wall Street Journal


On Sale
Feb 23, 2009
Page Count
672 pages

Charles Ferguson

About the Author

Charles Ferguson is director and producer of No End in Sight: The American Occupation of Iraq, which is his first film. A political scientist and strategic consultant, Ferguson co-founded one of the earliest Internet software companies, Vermeer Technologies, which he eventually sold to Microsoft. Ferguson is a visiting scholar of political science at MIT and UC Berkeley, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a director of the French-American Foundation. He is the author of three books on information technology.

Learn more about this author