Grade: BWhy We Fight (2005)

Director: Eugene Jarecki

Stars: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John McCain, Karen Kwiatkowski, Wilton Sekzer

Release Company: Sony Pictures Classics

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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Jarecki: Why We Fight


A Crowd of Iraqi Protesters Pray in Front of a U.S. Military Checkpoint
A Crowd of Iraqi Protesters Pray in Front of a U.S. Military Checkpoint Photographic Print
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The biggest laugh in Eugene Jarecki's documentary Why We Fight occurs when a corporate executive declares "God bless our contractors!" at a military armaments convention. But this is no comedy; it's an op ed piece that will make you mad. People with politics akin to to Jarecki's (and mine) will feel like cursing U.S. government pretensions for recent military operations in the Middle East while neo-cons from the "red" regions will blast the filmmaker for his liberal "propaganda." However, you're not likely to hear much about Jarecki's film as it flies under the radar and plays at a local arthouse for a week or two.

While Michael Moore thrives on controversy and generates considerable popular appeal through humorous confrontation, Jarecki doesn't generate that kind of publicity. About the only people that will see this film will be other progressives/liberals that already agree with its politics. Keep in mind that despite the remarkable box office of Fahrenheit 9/11, George Bush still won the election. Therefore, don't expect Jarecki's film to change U.S. policy or spark a Congressional investigation, despite including a significant segment with Senator John McCain and basing the film's thesis on President Eisenhower's final warning speech about the "military-industrial complex."

Jarecki's film elevates Eisenhower to prophet status, adding additional components to the vast systematic U.S. war machine that now includes Congressional complicity and influential "think tanks." You can't even get a rise from the current regime by citing Vice President Cheney's obvious ties to Halliburton and their uncontested huge contracts in Iraq--not even when disclosing Cheney's income tax records declaring over sixty times as much accumulated wealth since taking office. Administration officials merely shrug this off, stating that the Vice President has severed all ties to the corporation. They don't delve into his finances, unlike Charles Lewis, who states, "We elected a government contractor as vice-president."

The film weaves archive footage (Eisenhower, Viet Nam, the Gulf War, Iraq, etc.) with modern interviews intended strictly for the film. To give the appearance of balance, Jarecki does include footage from both sides, yet the film's construction transparently reveals its slant early on. The naive New York City youth that bookends the documentary is as blatantly used to illustrate Jarecki's thesis as he is exploited by the army recruiter. We can only roll our eyes as the 19-year old orphan enthusiastically talks about how the army is his dream answer to the sweet life. Such ideas have been explored for many years. A century and a half ago Thoreau spoke of such men that "put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well."

While short sequences of supportive military personnel currently involved in Iraq are included, much more time is given to disillusioned Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who resigned from the military when witnessing how the military-industrial-Congressional-think tank complex was plunging the U.S. into Iraq and likely beyond. Jarecki shows what many like-minded progressives already realize--government collusion with corporations for profit, media manipulation for propaganda, U.S. commercial imperialism, covert C.I.A. coup d'état operations, "smart bombs" that are killing massive numbers of civilians instead of intended targets, etc.

The most compelling sequences involve Jarecki's example of an average citizen, who was angered by 9/11 and wanted ass-kicking revenge in a big way. Retired New York policeman Wilton Sekzer lost his son in the World Trade Center, and he emails the military a request to put his son's name on a bomb to be used in the coming Iraq War. After a bewildering bureaucratic trail of forwarded emails, Sekzer eventually gains his request, and he feels a measure of redemption. But then, President Bush publicly admits that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and Sekzer is devastated. He feels that his patriotism and anger have been deliberately manipulated and that President Bush blatantly lied. He muses how he can ever believe anything about the U.S. ever again; that it's really bad when you can't trust your president.

Many fellow wagers of Peace already realize this, but it's encouraging to see provocative ideas come to the big screen, even if Why We Fight plays to small and like-minded audiences. After a day of being surrounded by milk-toast media, conspicuously conservative FOX "News," and right wing radio talk shows, it's refreshing to share a screening of Jarecki's documentary with others and know that we're not alone. Most Americans act like sheep, trusting that the government is right and will continue to dominate the globe; but Jarecki reminds us that there is no reason to believe that U.S. supremacy is destined to last forever.

In fact, the government may have already abdicated its responsibility, just as Eisenhower predicted nearly a half century ago. Jarecki doesn't offer ideas that can't be gained from critical reading and research, but it provides an overview that may spark further investigation and discussion among the open-minded and progressive. Or it may do what it did for me--rekindle anger about the system, remind me of the overwhelming odds against bucking the system, yet provide a glimmer of solace that other like-minded peace seeking souls exist. More than a few of us would like to see the U.S. return to its ideals and truly become a force for good in the world. Bookmark and Share


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