Why We Fight Movie Essay

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?”

March 3, 2006 in Arts & Culture.


Why we fight- Eugene Jarecki
In the film Why we fight, Eugene Jarecki explores explanations as to why American young men and women are sent to war. Equally, the filmmaker intends to convey the message that there has been a change in portrayal of American war interventions since WWII. It is as though America now engages in "Good Wars" unlike the past where there was military adventurism. It is simply in the interest of self-serving corporate America that there are increased wars operations. Preoccupation with military technology and action is a common feature in American psyche but the documentary focuses on anti-war efforts. There are differences to the period after the WWII and during the Cold War, as Americans cannot give definite answers for the reasons why the country goes to war, despite growth and strengthening of America’s military establishment over time. This essay focuses on the military-industrial complex depicted in Why we fight, highlighting on the interplay of political rhetoric, demonization, corporate interest, foreign policy and politics.
Through highlighting on the Military-industrial Complex (MCI) as coined by Eisenhower, the film also focuses on related ideological, political as well as economic forces leading to increased military operations overseas leading to the war in Iraq. Since the governments have not been forthright with informing the American public, political leaders have misled the public on American war efforts abroad. Military action has been used to influence the world through maintaining political dominance of the American hegemony. Nonetheless, the level of corruption in the war machine means that no person can single handedly tackle the power wielded by the system. As such the voters need to pressure politicians to be more accountable for there to be changes on the influencing power of the military-industrial complex.
Political rhetoric has been one of the tools through which to rally Americans to the need for war efforts. In order to gain acceptance with the public, politicians have relied on fears of the American people about the need to improve security measures by engaging in war. To highlight on this point, Jarecki uses the testimony of past American presidents as well as the statements of members of Congress. The political angle to the military-industrial complex cannot be ignored when focusing on American military strategies. The War on Terror is a case in point, where the nation rallied for the War on Iraq based on political rhetoric that Saddam Hussein was culpable in spreading terror and owning weapons of mass destruction. However, President George Bush distance himself from linking the 9/11 attacks to Iraq later on, which was surprising given some Americas initially felt that the war was justifiable (Jarecki).
The use of demonization is another strategy employed to misguide the public on American military role oversees. In the case of Saddam Hussein, before the Gulf War he was seen as an ally and the CIA also provided help to counter Iran influence. However, the invasion of Kuwait alarmed American policy makers. There was fear that with Saddam Hussein’s stay in power American interests would be threatened it became nece...

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