Armando Iannucci’s new film In the Loop, a lampoon of the British-American deceptions and bureaucratic hell leading up to the Iraq War, has everything you’d expect out of a satire of its kind: convoluted debates on government informants, accidental intelligence leaks, aggressively silenced voices of dissent, and plenty of doublespeak.
The parallels between the zany fiction and pre-invasion reality are made abundantly clear: a "rush to war" in the Middle East, a stoic Rumsfeld-esque official manipulating evidence, and, of course, the fresh-out-of-college mid-level staffers influencing hawkish foreign policy (Spencer Ackerman, who was a consultant for the film, has an amusing story about this point).
But the most insightful parts of the movie are the moments when the line between satirical jabs and sad reality are suddenly blurred, almost to devastating effect.
Various excerpts of the movie’s dialogue often read like the perfect summary of reckless Bush-era war policy:
"What’s so brave about doing the right thing?"
"It’s like Bugsy Malone, but with real guns."
"In the land of truth, the man with one fact is king."
This last line is strikingly reminiscent of the baffling "poetry" of Donald Rumsfeld.
And things get uncomfortably real when Lt. Gen. George Miller, a Colin Powell-lite career soldier] played by James Gandolfini, provides a bleak estimate on infantry numbers:
Twelve thousand troops. But that's not enough. That's the amount that are going to die. And at the end of a war you need some soldiers left, really, or else it looks like you've lost.
At a climactic scene at the U.N., the less scrupulous characters demonstrate that selling a case for war can be as easy as hitting the “delete” key on a laptop and then printing copies of a doctored report minutes before a Security Council vote. The quick flash of the farce and cynical tactics of the resulting U.N. presentation (renaming an unreliable source, downplaying the cons of going to war) is almost as painful as watching old footage of Colin Powell’s own 2003 speech in favor of the Iraq War at the United Nations.
All of this makes me wonder if adding a laugh track to C-Span footage of the Bush years would produce a good sequel.