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movie review: Why We Fight

March 16, 2006

Why We Fight
Dir: Eugene Jarecki

Seems like ages since I saw a movie in a theater with greasy popcorn and a Gigantor sized jug of soda. With a rare moment to spare, I caught Why We Fight, a documentary spun on President Eisenhower’s parting shot at the military-industrial complex. Why We Fight takes the chronological approach, looking at the evolution of a bifurcated beast to a fire breathing hydra. That growth is shown running parallel to the angst of a nation regarding the Iraq War as seen through the eyes of a father who lost his son on 9/11.

The film should be enlightening to those who assiduously avoid weekly news mags and chat show blather, though the director (Eugene Jarecki) does well to tighten up loose ends in our theories about why we fight. We fight, the film argues, in large part because people with vested interest in profiting from the art of war tell us too. The arms industry seduces our politicians into buying big ticket items that would just go to waste if they lay there unused. The think tanks spend all their time trying to make themselves relevant, creating new strategies for our global domination. We catch kids with little hope for the future and promise them a new life in the armed forces.

That explains, in part of course, why we’re fighting now. That theory weakens once you take the Middle East out of the picture. The think tank discussed in the film, the neo-cons Project for the New American Century infiltrated the Bush administration. Their focus, their reason to exist, seems to be foreign policy in the Middle East. They don’t have a vision for how we handle North Korea and China, as we see now. Perhaps that’s because they didn’t study East Asian history at their Ivy League schools, perhaps it’s because they don’t feel the US benefits from an Asian hegemony, take your pick.  Were we in North Korea (if we were, I would probably not here, I’d be in Tokyo helping to clean up the devastation ) we probably wouldn’t be talking about The Project for the New American Century. Nevertheless, Jarecki’s film makes a strong argument, as Eisenhower did, that we must be forever vigilant against the forces of capitalism usurping the forces of democracy. I mean, it’s right there in the word; freedom should be free.

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