While popular documentary films like Fahrenheit 9/11 and No End In Sight explored the consequences of the disastrous policies of the Bush 41 presidency, the ideas that shaped the foreign policy thinking of the Bush Administration, and people promoting those ideas, have received considerably less attention.
With the notable exception of the wonderful Adam Curtis series The Power of Nightmares, films on the the 2003 Iraq War and post-9/11 security paradigm have focused on policymakers and particularly on the public speaking pratfalls of President George W. Bush.
This deficit in more substantive ideological investigation is not a mystery. In the first instance, President Bush makes for an easy foil – it is hard to imagine a better example of a man of mediocre talents gaining position due to unearned privilege. Bush is not just an unexceptional presidential specimen, he is well below average – who ever heard of a politician who could not effectively speak in public? Bush’s communication failings alone were enough to keep Comedy Central in business for eight years. Everyone loves to hate a spoiled brat.
Combine President Bush’s laughable persona with his blunders abroad and the script writes itself – trust-fund dumbass given the keys to dad’s old imperial war machine which he then stupidly swerves and crashes into the Middle East. It is a story people can understand and one not without its fun in telling.
The second reason complements the first: policy and philosophy are painfully boring to a mass audience. It is not a coincidence that every TV show or movie about Washington DC – even ones with more sophisticated ambitions – throws in generous portions of superfluous violence, intrigue, and romance. Policy is dry and policy wonks are exceedingly uninteresting people.
And yet, understanding the Bush presidency and even our current circumstances requires at least a basic understanding of the ideas framing some of the agendas in DC and beyond. Enter Robbie Martin’s film series A Very Heavy Agenda.
The three-part series begins in the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when neoconservative thought leaders opportunistically used the country’s anxiety about another attack to push their agenda. A Very Heavy Agenda Part 1: “A Catalyzing Event,” details how Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan and others shaped the policy response to the 9/11 attacks utilizing a playbook written at The Project For A New American Century (PNAC) well before the attacks .
Part 2: “How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The New Neocons,” picks up at the end of the Bush presidency, when the neoconservatives largely discredited by the Iraq War re-brand themselves and seek to resurrect past Reaganite glory by instigating conflict with Russia. PNAC is re-branded as The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), which pursues the same agenda with new lines of attack and operatives who make up for their lack of intellectual rigor with a savvier understanding of media manipulation.
In Part 2, the audience gets a look at the new “Information War,” where US state media, Russian state media, and those with various contradicting and corresponding interests battle it out on a host of platforms to control the narrative of the crisis in Ukraine and other world events.
Part 3: “Maintaining the World Order,” is set to be released in February and will provide an in-depth look at the role of the Kagan family and other neoconservative actors, who are still influencing and implementing US foreign policy. What are the ultimate ends and motivations for their very heavy agenda?
The series goes beyond simply broadening the understanding of the ideological dimension of the Bush years. It shows both the surprising continuity of neoconservative influence between the Bush and Obama Administrations, as well as how the neoconservatives adapted in the wake of their stunning policy failures in the Middle East.
Those responsible for the millions of deaths and trillions of dollars wasted on the failed War on Terror have quickly dismissed their own responsibility. They are marching forward with a new generation of neocons, who appear as equally determined as their predecessors to spill American blood and treasure in the quest for Western dominance of the world. Truly, a very heavy agenda.