Why We Fight (Eugene Jarecki) 53 – This political doc examines the reasons the United States is in Iraq, and does some stuff remarkably right. It’s decidedly non-partisan, wisely suggesting that people place blame for the conflict not on President Bush, but instead on the system itself, which is consistent in its warmongering tendencies, no matter who’s in the Oval Office. Starting with Ike’s farewell speech, in which the ex-President coined the term “military-industrial complex”, the movie examines that term and begins to trace how the United States’ interests have shifted so they have less to do with Democracy than with Imperialism.
Less concerned with inciting the audience than informing them, Jarecki largely resists the finger-pointing that dominated Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 (I only wish that a movie this much smarter than that one could be the subject of such a fierce public debate!). Jarecki’s stunts are smaller in scale and doubly effective than Moore’s. One scene in which he shows that a man’s request to have his dead son’s name put on a bomb required the approval of forty-something parties demonstrates the sprawl of our nation’s military empire. Another scene in which Senator McCain badmouths Vice-President Cheney and then immediately receives a call from him is a serendipitous display of the self-protecting powers that be that Jarecki had been talking about until that point.
The film’s greatest problem is actually the fact that its capably relayed thesis is essentially common knowledge to anyone who is able to read between the lines of the news that we see. Obviously, not every viewer needs to have this aspect of American motivation explained to them, so much of the film’s shock will feel beside the point. Nonetheless, fans of political documentaries have plenty to be excited about here, though the fact that this up-to-date film won’t be commercially released until next year might hamper its timeliness among first time viewers.