Why We Fight Review
By Chris Cabin
A scant two years after his brother Andrew studied the horrifying deterioration of a family dealing with a father who is convicted of pedophilia in Capturing the Friedmans, Eugene Jarecki digs back to President Eisenhower's farewell address to find the reasons and the attitudes behind our current foreign policy and our military build-up. What Eisenhower deemed "the military-industrial complex" now has become a well-over 500 billion dollar business that companies like Lockheed & Martin and Halliburton make their careers around. It's taken a year since its debut at Sundance last year, where it won the Grand Prize, but Why We Fight is finally out and ready to stir up a commotion.
First off, Republicans should not be scared of this film. Jarecki and editor Nancy Kennedy aren't looking to throw darts at one party or another. Instead, the focus of the film is to see how the need for American democracy has become an excuse to further American imperialism. Angry liberals like Gore Vidal and ex-CIA man Chalmers Johnson are given equal floor with Richard Perle and other members of the Project for the New American Century. Unlike Michael Moore's powerful but unquestionably biased Fahrenheit 9/11, Jarecki doesn't film the neoconservatives with a subversive tone. The film is based solely on facts and the interviewee's mixed bag of opinions. The only reason you could call Why We Fight anti-conservative is because it's questioning the history of the U.S.'s military thinking; the current government just happens to be conservative.
The best part of the film comes from Wilton Sekzer, a retired NYC cop whose son perished in the 9/11 attacks. At first, Sekzer is for the Bush White House doing anything to avenge his son. He even goes so far as to e-mail the army to get them to write his son's name on a missile that will be dropped on Iraq. It's not until the infamous press conference when Bush admitted that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 that Sekzer loses his trust in his president and government. Why blame him? Jarecki knows the one thing that civilians can't stand is being lied to, and there's no doubt that somewhere between Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, there is a mighty big sham that we all bought into.
Footage of high-yield weapon shows, press conferences, and old-time army propaganda films stir up emotions of dread and regret at a culture where America doesn't need evidence to go forward with the new American empire. But the film goes to great lengths to show how war is good for the economy and brings more jobs into the marketplace at missile and arsenal factories. Thus, the congressmen from the towns that get the jobs give their OK for money to be spent on weapons, building up our military which now spends in one year, what it would take to feed, clothe and house at least half of poverty-stricken America.
It's hard to say if Why We Fight will still be considered important when Bush is out of the White House and the war is over. To me, it's the best documentary about militarism and America's political reach that I've seen, just edging out the 1972 Vietnam documentary Winter Soldier. Jarecki's film shouldn't be misjudged as an attack, but more as a rampant inquiry that suggests things are not good as they seem and that questions must be asked. If only our current media would take the hint. Now who else needs a drink?
Because we don't want these awesome bombs to go to waste!
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Saturday 1st January 2005
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 87 Rotten: 24
Cast & Crew
Starring: Ken Adelman as Himself, John Ashcroft as Himself (archive footage), Osama Bin Laden as Himself (archive footage), George W. Bush as Himself (archive footage), George H. W. Bush as Himself (archive footage), Robert Byrd as Himself (archive footage), Frank Capra as Himself (archive footage), Dick Cheney as Himself (archive footage), Joseph Cirincione as Himself