EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the February 13, 2006, issue of National Review.
Let’s be clear at the outset: Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight is a reprehensible film in its intellectual dishonesty. But it is so poorly cobbled together that it never rises above the propaganda level of Fahrenheit 9/11. It purports to be a serious documentary not about soldiers in the first Gulf War, Afghanistan, or even Iraq, but about all sorts of conspiracies of how they got there. Unfortunately, after four years of “No blood for oil,” “Bush lied, thousands died,” Halliburton, neocon wars for Israel, and intimations of September 11 foreknowledge, it is hard for an anti-war propagandist to shock movie audiences in any way that can be considered novel.
To the extent that this predictable film has a coherent script it seems to be the following. We remember that Frank Capra’s Why We Fight documentaries of the 1940s reminded the wartime public that our GIs were dying for freedom and democracy in World War II. But we now learn that that was not the whole story: See, more often our military was blasting away at elected governments in out-of-the-way places to make profits. Or, in the words of talking-head Washington insider Charles Lewis, American wars have usually been about capitalism and extinguishing democracy–making corporate profits abroad to feed the military-industrial complex at home. How does the film advance this novel insight? In three ways.
First, critics such as Lewis, Gore Vidal, retired Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, Chalmers Johnston, and Joseph Cirincione confirm that neocons, CEOs, and arms merchants run our lives. Authors of books with “Empire” and “Imperial” in their titles spell out foolish concepts like “blowback” and “economic colonialism.” Jarecki brings these conspiracists in at opportune moments to assert that legions of capitalists–not an elected Congress, president, or independent judiciary–hold the real power in our political system. . . .
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