Review of the Documentary ‘Why We Fight’

by Gaetana Caldwell-Smith / March 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper

In the documentary film “Why We Fight,” writer-director Eugene Jarecki uses rare,
incriminating film footage, declassified files, and interviews with ordinary people as well as government and corporate luminaries.

Jarecki has created a sweeping, controversial, factual account of America’s rise as a military power whose government leaders and advisors, in general, are bent on world domination. One interviewee admits, “If there’s something we don’t like about another country, we invade them.”

The film points out that immediately after World War II, the U.S. devised detailed plans to dominate the world. In one clip, we are shown the published, bound reports imprinted with the name if each country to be targeted, lying on a desk.

Included also is an eye-opening account of the U.S. drive for global imperialism, starting with Guatemala in 1954 and on up to Iraq in 2003. This is graphically illustrated by a map of the world, with the countries that we messed with—overtly or covertly—highlighted in red.

The film’s main thesis is that the U.S. economy is based on what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” in his 1961 farewell speech when he left office. Eisenhower warned of “grave implications” should this become its foundation.

Evidence in the film reveals that dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was largely aimed at scaring the Soviet Union. Since then, regardless of its ability to obliterate perceived enemies with the bomb, the U.S. continues to increase its military spending and awards huge military contracts to favored private corporations with strong government ties—e.g. Dick Cheney.

Jarecki employs a technique used by Michael Moore in his film, “Fahrenheit 9-11.” Rather than stringing a bunch of facts and interviews together, he engages us by introducing a human perspective.

He interviews some ordinary people and follows them throughout the film—a retired New York cop whose son died in the WTC disaster and a baby-faced guy just out of high-school whose only hope is the military. Another interview is with two proud, emotionally disconnected Air Force pilots, before and after dropping the first bombs on Baghdad.

Neocon William Kristol, interviewed by the filmmaker, says that well before 9-11 Cheney asked him and Wolfowitz to devise a plan for the U.S. to become the number-one superpower in the world. They came up with the Project for the New American Century (published in
2000, available on-line, and scary!). Kristol says, “If we don’t police the world, who will?” Which begs the question: Why does the world need policing, and who gave the U.S. the right?

Made evident in the film is the fact that the U.S. plans to maintain a presence in Iraq. It is building 14 permanent bases there.

Retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwaitkawski, a former Pentagon official who quit when she no longer wanted to be a part of the lies and deceit, was asked, “Why are we allowing our country to continue on this path?” She replied, “Not enough people are stepping up, saying, ‘we’re not doing this anymore.’” Of course, millions around the world have demonstrated in protest of U.S. war policies in Iraq and elsewhere.

There’s a clip of former President Reagan giving a speech in which he states that our military might is a “force for peace.” Following Reagan, the Bush administration has utilized George Orwell’s “newspeak” and “doublethink” quite effectively. One interviewee says, “It’s not so difficult to get a country to go to war. Since Vietnam, the government shapes what it wants its people to know about the war.”

The government now spends up to $1.2 billion on military propaganda in the United States. Most people don’t even realize they are being brainwashed. This is evident by the answers the filmmaker gets when he asks ordinary people on the street: “Why do we fight?”

Related Articles

A Tale of Two Summits

Last week (June 8-10) there were two summits in Los Angeles, California: the Summit of the Americas hosted by the US State Department and the Peoples Summit hosted by US and international activist organizations. The two summits were held in the same city at the same time but could not be otherwise more different.