The Unknown Known – Director, Errol Morris

Ten years ago Errol Morris made a film called The Fog of War which I saw at TIFF and thoroughly enjoyed. It focused on Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defence for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson during the Vietnam War. It was basically an interview for nearly 90 minutes that held your attention riveted as he defended and reflected on his actions during one of the most unpopular wars in US history. This film uses the same technique to address the actions of Donald Rumsfeld who served as Secretary of Defence for George W. Bush during the Iraq war and the War on Terrorism. Whatever one thinks of these two men there is no question that they are immensely intelligent and believed in what they did but they were not ideologues – they were bureaucrats of the American Empire. One may wonder if they are lying or telling the truth or even whether they are ultimately evil men responsible for the death, torture and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Americans, Vietnamese and Iraqis. But I am not sure those are the right questions to ask. To call them evil or put the blame for America’s actions entirely on them is unfair and distorts the reality of an immense power exerting its dominance over the world. Still they were the ones to implement the policies of power and these two films are treasures that provide an insight into the world we live in and the role of the US in defining our history the very personal eyes of two influential men. An interesting question at the end of the film asked during the Q and A with the director: Do you (Errol Morris) think he (Rumsfeld) was lying to you? Morris answered by a quote from his movie Tabloid: If you tell a lie often enough, you may eventually come to believe it yourself.

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