Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why We Fight

Many movies romanticize war. This would not be one of them. It is the antithesis of that notion.

Why We Fight is a stirring documentary that chronicles the shift in America’s motivation for going to war since World War II. It opens with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech wherein he warns the American people of the increasing power of the military-industrial complex, a phrase he coined, and the resultant shift in our nation’s motivation for making war going forward.

The filmmakers assert that the impetus for war since World War II has evolved from a collective and irrefutable national effort to save the world from evil forces and liberate its peoples from tyranny, to a military-industrial complex led by a select few, motivated by unbridled capitalism, that have wrested U.S. military power from the democratic process and have thereby relieved our armed forces of their accountability to the American people.

The film further asserts that the use and deployment of our troops in the interest of oil and imperialism has its roots in times before the Cold War and has become increasingly easier as the makeup of our military has become increasingly less middle and upper-middle class and more constituted of the economically disadvantaged. Furthermore, they are volunteers, not plucked from middle-class families via a draft. As such, our soldiers and their families lack political power and therefore are more and more expendable.

As war has become more profitable and less of a political liability, it has become more likely. A twenty-year veteran of service in the Pentagon offers “ If you join the military now, you are not defending the United States of America, you are helping certain policymakers pursue an imperial agenda.”

We have been lied to by every Presidential administration in every war in the last 50-60 yrs without exception and Congress has also failed us as they have also become beholden to the military-industrial complex. “Our society is a constant struggle between capitalism and democracy. Clearly capitalism is winning.”

As you might expect, much of the movie is set in and around the War in Iraq, the contemporary and most egregious manifestation of the film’s thesis. Interviewed officials assert that in fact Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction. How do we know this? Because we in fact have the receipts. Moreover, the current “Think Tank”, the most recent manifestation of the military-industrial complex, was in place many years before George W. Bush came to power and was equally responsible as the President for the war in Iraq.

There are statements and assertions by individuals in this film that clearly discredit and dishonor our soldiers. It was hard, at least for me, however to uncover a blatant liberal agenda in this film on the part of the producers. That is not to say that it by any means offers a balanced point of view.While a fair amount of scrutiny falls upon the contemporary George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the movie strikes equally at Congress and implicitly at all administrations since World War II, including the Clinton administration. As such, I thought the producers were able to rise just barely above a pure political attack on the current administration.

Why We Fight has no love lost for the media, either, asserting the media is complicit, as they are also beholden to the military industrial complex and can not operate without access to those in power. Embedded journalists as an objective source of reporting in a time of war, as such, is a farce.

In the end, the producers compare our civilization to the Romans, who also sought to create a global empire in the interest of peace and the betterment of all peoples and in order to maintain it had to create standing armies, an evil which they posit George Washington specifically warned against.

While I do not have the capacity to adequately debunk this film in this space, I will say that Why We Fight is a well-crafted and powerful film everyone should watch, conservative or liberal, to check one’s enthusiasm for war, be vigilant of unchecked power and mindful of those in our government who would misdirect those that serve our country with honor or seek to operate without our knowledge or accountability.

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