Why We Fight...
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,", December 8, 2006
Thought-provoking, terrifying and all the time maddening this compelling documentary attempts to explain the United States' reasons for promoting the "military-industrial complex," the synergy that has inevitably arisen between the military and big munitions businesses.
But Why We Fight does so much more as it gradually unveils the furtive reasons why the country went to war with Iraq, tracing the roots of the conflict back to the period after World War 2 when America set about building up huge armaments, gradually becoming a "dragon that has to be fed."
America now has to drum up wars for propaganda purposes, to justify the think tanks that have set about trying to remake the world, for the military and the politicians so they can create jobs, and most importantly for money, to open capitalist markets in certain parts of the world.
Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki opens his film with a stirring 1961 speech Dwight Eisenhower made as he was leaving the presidency, warning of the buildup of the military-industrial complex. "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," Ike says. "We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications."
His comments have become somewhat prophetic. Gone are the noble reasons for going to war - to defend the world from Nazism and fascism as we did in World War 2 - to be replaced by the need to go into places like Iraq is not because of 9/11 or to protect freedom but because the economy of American military self-interest demands continual new fronts.
To further the argument, Jarecki interviews a number of people and Karen Kwiatkowski, a long-time Pentagon desk officer who quit her job because she was disturbed at the influx of nonmilitary neo-conservatives and the way the Bush Administration were twisting the truth about the reasons for going to war in Iraq.
There's also a touching interview with a retired New York Police with a retired policeman - and Vietnam vet - who initially supported the Iraqi invasion because he thought it was helping avenge the death of a son in the 9/11 attacks.
He put his trust in those authority figures - namely the President - and thought that going to war with someone was better than doing nothing, but his disillusionment with everything that has happened is indeed heartbreaking.
Other popular figures pop up such as archconservative Richard Perle, Sen. John McCain, and Gore Vidal who reflects on President Truman's use of the atomic bomb on Japan and talks of the "United States of Amnesia."
With America as the world's only superpower, turning toward using its might for power and intimidation, Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity contends there is an innate struggle between democracy and capitalism and the government's increasing obligation to corporations.
Is America really a benign force for good intent to spread democracy and "freedom" around the globe? Or is the country merely promoting a malignant form of economic Imperialism?
Jarecki effectively juxtaposes his interviews with stories of the war machine at work - he visits the factories where the bombs are being made and you get a sense of the high-tech military in action at work with his inclusion of the tense countdown to the start of the Iraq invasion.
Here he interviews the two Stealth fighter pilots who fired the opening shots of the conflict and who admit that they are just doing their job and whose high-tech precision-guided bombs actually failed to hit their intended target, accidentally killing innocent Iraqi women and children.
Why We Fight is never heavy-handed or overly polemic and it's not that partisan, with Jarecki cleverly laying out his arguments and in the process providing much food for thought. He also makes the convincing point that for the United States, war is undoubtedly lucrative and money-making, which is why you keep seeing it.
Mike Leonard December 06.