6/3/2010: EDITORIAL – FRESH NEW SCENARIOS ON WMDS TO FIRE UP AUSSIE MOVIES
In the wake of a couple of UK films with predigested plotlines, two new and
different scenarios about Iraq’s WMDs can make high profile, high impact
Australian films. They would have the necessary cinematic scale, the essential
dynamics and universal interest.
Two UK films in a row reach Australia within two months of each other – In the
Loop (Jan 2010) and Green Zone (March 2010) – taking the discredited
intelligence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction as the basis for their plot.
How could such vital intelligence be wrong? How could it have happened? They
both suggest similar scenarios, in which secretive operatives with their own
agendas inside the Pentagon falsify intel information which is then relayed to
the strategy teams around the US President and British PM.
But this scenario is not the only plausible one, and with interest in the
subject not likely to go away, here is a chance for Australian filmmakers to
tackle global themes, and to show the world that we are not led by our nose when
it comes to world affairs. We have our own take on this ….. Here are two
alternative hypotheticals for your consideration.
THE CHESS MASTER
The bitter and costly 8-year Iran Iraq war ended in 1988 but it left Iraq
scarred at every level. During that war, Iraq used chemical weapons (verified by
the UN) and it is impossible to imagine that the end of the war brought brotherly
love to these two neighbouring nations.
In mid 2002, an Australian diplomat based in Tehran is briefed by his Iranian
contact in the defence ministry: Iran is alarmed at Iraq’s hoarding of WMDs.
The contact cites all the UN resolutions against Iraq on the matter and
complains that the UN does nothing to enforce them. He warns that Iran must
defend herself … Saddam is not to be trusted. Look what he did with chemicals in
the war. Look what he did with chemicals against his own Kurdish people. He
urges Australia to stand up and lead the West in a move against Saddam’s regime.
Australia is a ‘clean’ state, and neutral enough in Middle East politics.
Meanwhile, the Australian diplomat’s counterpart in Tehran has held a birthday
party on the same night, at which one of his Iraqi friends – a university
lecturer in English, say – got talking about diplomatic life. The talk turned to
secrecy and trust and information and intelligence … and when the conversation
came to the latest UN resolutions about Iraq’s WMDs, the Iraqi smiled and said
to the Aussie diplomat: “You Westerners need to learn more about people like
Saddam. He is a fox. He’s been trying to keep Iran frightened ever since the
war… he wants them to think Iraq is well armed, powerful and ready to launch
lethal weapons against them if Iran so much as sneezes in this direction.
Remember, my Aussie mate, Arabs invented chess ….”
The plot unfolds as the two diplomats file their reports – and in Canberra, the
spymasters ignore the report from Iraq because it’s not from a ‘trusted
REVENGE OF THE RIGHTEOUS
The Iraqi general, let’s call him Rihani, who now holds a position of great
power in Saddam’s Army was once not so highly placed. Some years earlier, while
a midranking officer, he was approached by some mysterious messengers from
Saddam’s HQ with a request for his beautiful younger sister to be talked into
marrying a close relative of Saddam who was somewhat older. Rihani refused
repeatedly, and his sister was grateful. But one day she simply disappeared. So
did the sister’s fiancée, and his entire family. Rihani was demoted on a trumped
up charge and later arrested for drinking alcohol, beaten and jailed for 6
months. Rihani, a proud Iraqi who loves his country, was shattered by these
events and harboured hatred towards Saddam’s regime.
At the beginning of the story Rihani is asked by the Australian ambassador to
give an interview to a visiting journalist from Sydney. Rihani agrees. The
interview soon comes to the hottest topic in world affairs: Iraq’s WMD. Rihani
is careful to avoid the subject, but the journo is insistent. Rihani tells him
he must go to a meeting but perhaps they can finish the interview at the
The next day, they meet in the Embassy in a private meeting room. With carefully
calculated words written down on a crumpled piece of paper, Rihani implies that
Iraq does indeed have WMD as the UN claims. He also implies that the program to
dismantle them was halted half way through when Saddam thought he should keep
some as bargaining chips.
Then he eats the paper and leaves.
The journalist confides in his friend, the Ambassador’s aide (once a fellow
journo in Melbourne) over a drink and asks how he could write the story a) without
implicating Rihani and b) still make it credible. “You can’t” is his friend’s
After they part, the aide briefs the Ambassador, who consults with the inhouse
secret service guy who sends it on to ASIO who in turn includes it in a brief to
Published March 6, 2010
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Andrew L. Urban