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In Shifting Sands

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 92 mins . PG . PAL


With Saddam Hussein and his bunch of cronies no longer the symbol of authority in Iraq, one can look back on the whole sorry saga in a different light. It may have taken just weeks for the "Coalition of the Willing" to actually move on Baghdad and forcibly remove Saddam, but it was a very long and drawn out process getting to that stage. In Shifting Sands is the story behind the story, of the United Nations attempt, and then more pointedly The United States' attempt, to remove the threat that Saddam posed not only to the region, but to the world - apparently.

The USA has had an interesting relationship with Iraq going way back beyond the current decade of conflict. There was a time when they were quite pally, but that is not what this DVD is about and indeed makes no mention of that. Things turned quite sour at the time of the Iraq-Iran war, and since then things between Iraq and the States have been frosty at best, and deadly at worst.

The final straw came in 1990 when Iraq moved in and 'invaded' the neighbouring sovereignty of Kuwait. The United Nations unanimously voted that Iraq should leave immediately, but they didn't and were eventually driven back to Iraq by the US led coalition. The USA maintains a strong presence in Kuwait.

Gathering more intelligence, and working on the belief that Iraq was developing WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction), the United Nations, again at the behest of the USA, formed weapon inspection teams that were given the power to go to Iraq and search for weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was reluctant to say the least, and their lack of co-operation resulted in economic sanctions against them. Unfortunately, the only ones who really suffered from these sanctions were ordinary citizens, but that is another story.

In Shifting Sands provides a detailed look at the stalemate that ensued throughout most of the 1990s. UNSCOM's (United Nations Special Commission) mission was clear; to find evidence of these WMDs and present that evidence to the United Nations. Iraq maintained that they had no such weapons, and what they did have were destroyed. The cat and mouse games continued for years. UNSCOM acted on various pieces of intelligence, Iraq tried hard to block the inspectors, claiming they were already meeting their requirements and requesting the lifting of sanctions, and the US administration cried foul. The United Nations seemed split on how to handle the situation, and as this documentary points out, the whole thing fell into a big mess that was never truly resolved.

There are many firsthand accounts of the dramas that took place, some strange decisions that were made, the apparent deals and inexplicable actions of some senior players, and the overall lack of damning evidence that Iraq had any WMDs. Remembering that this was filmed before the ousting of Saddam, it is interesting viewing with personal and direct input from players such as Richard Butler, Tariq Aziz, and Scott Ritter.

Those with an interest in world politics and the roller coaster influence of the United Nations should find this very interesting indeed.


For a recent production, the video quality varies greatly, and while much of this can be attributed to the ‘hidden camera’ footage, there are some studio interviews that I would have expected to be razor sharp. Still, there is no real problem as such. This is a full frame presentation and therefore not 16:9 enhanced. Generally the image is quite acceptable, providing you make allowances for that 'hidden video camera' footage that suffers from all manner of glitches and is mostly very soft, bordering on fuzzy.

There is some news footage included that looks like it was recorded by a VHS recorder at the time, and probably was. There are numerous artefacts throughout, but few compression problems.

It is easy to be critical, but this presentation relies heavily on ‘exposing’ the truth. No one is going to allow camera crews with truckloads of the most up-to-date equipment to just set up and start filming, least of all Saddam Hussein, so the shaky and oft-glitched footage has to be expected.


As with most documentaries, there is no whizz bang audio of offer, but there are no problems either. The English Dolby Digital stereo track is perfectly serviceable with good volume, clarity and fidelity. The occasional truck and B-52 bomber make an appearance and prove this is a stereo track, but little else, aside from the music, will, or gets the opportunity to, prove itself.

The sound range and fidelity is serviceable, and whilst there are some burned-in subtitles when accents get a bit thick, or the hidden camera is struggling to catch the audio, everything else is well-synchronised.


A few extras are included, but do not offer anything too breathtaking. There is a five-page Scott Ritter Biography that is brief but informative. The man has quite a C.V.

The Map of Iraq & Region is a single-page colour map of the region.

Those wanting to learn more about Ritter’s research can check out his two books Endgame and War On Iraq in Scott Ritter Books.

Lastly, there are seven trailers in Madman Propaganda for a variety of low budget but interesting docu-dramas.


Can we ever truly expect the truth from politicians and other leaders? The cynical amongst us and the conspiracy theorists would say, "No, never. Don't be ridiculous." After watching In Shifting Sands, I may have to agree.

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      And I quote...
    "Will we ever learn the real truth about the search for Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction? This DVD simply compounds the cynicism!"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
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          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
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          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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