Why We Fight

I can't think of a better way to kick off the new movie year than with Eugene Jarecki's potent provocation to see what's right in front of us. Jarecki is not the kind of documentarian to tell us the war in Iraq is a mess. His purpose is to show us how we got there. And he does it the hard way, with nothing up his sleeve but the facts and the human cost of ignoring them. Why We Fight wants to shake us up, and boy, does it ever. ting with Eisenhower's warning against the military-industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address as president, Jarecki sets up a wrestling match between American democracy and American imperialism and indicates why freedom is losing. Nothing greases the economy like war. All it needs is corporate and congressional collusion with the military. That it got. Jarecki sets archival war footage from the past half-century against the political maneuvering behind the scenes. The impact is shattering. You have to hand it to Jarecki — brother of Andrew Jarecki, who presented the difficulty of separating truth from propaganda in Capturing the Friedmans— for resisting the temptation to cherry-pick his speakers. For every Chalmers Johnson, a CIA man who grew critical of Bushworld, there's a Richard Perle ready to argue for pre-emptive attack, the merits of which he put into Bush's mouth. Impossible to ignore is Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York policeman who lost his son in the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Eager for revenge on Iraq, Sekzer feels betrayed when Bush comes up empty in the evidence department. From neocon think tanks to trade shows for weapons, Jarecki's film — fluidly edited by Nancy Kennedy — mounts a strong case against those who would exploit patriotism and human lives as a business proposition. No wonder Gore Vidal appears to chide us for living in a "United States of Amnesia." Why We Fight deserves high praise for making it that much tougher to wear blinders.

From The Archives Issue 109: May 25, 1972