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Awesome: 27.66%
Worth A Look53.19%
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Total Crap: 2.13%

5 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Why We Fight
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by Greg Ursic

"Imperialism US Style."
3 stars

In the aftermath of the Second World War Europe lay in ruins, her economies devastated and the US, which had pursued an isolationist policy for decades, emerged as one of the new global superpowers. Soon after the hostilities ended, the Soviet Union embarked on a campaign to consolidate power on the continent, and the Cold War was born. In an effort to keep pace with the Soviets, the US undertook a massive arms buildup, and in the process the government and the arms merchants - who were reaping obscene profits - became very cozy. In his 1960 farewell speech President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “military industrial complex” saying that citizens “…must not fail to recognize its grave implications…The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power persists. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberty or democratic process.” His warnings have proven eerily prescient and have gone largely unheeded.

At three-quarters of a trillion dollars and rising, the US defence budget is currently greater than all the other government portfolios combined, something which writer/director Eugene Jarecki argues has driven the US to pursue an increasingly imperialist foreign policy over the past six decades. Jarecki highlights the revolving door policy in which government officials are all too often drawn from the upper echelon of the defense industry or conversely are appointed to their boards of directors after leaving public office which perpetuates the cycle of aggression. For anyone familiar with Dick Cheney’s past and present relationship with Halliburton this may not be that hard to believe.

Jarecki interviews a host of luminaries to support his thesis including Gore Vidal, Gwyn Dyercurrent, Senator John McCain, and perennial documentary fave Lisa Kwiatkowski, who share his concerns. Yet when asked about burgeoning military spending Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld states “I think numbers are distracting.” A terrifying statement, yet sadly he’s right: the amounts in question are so staggering that they’re beyond most people’s comprehension. So what kind of bang are they getting for their billions of bucks? Not much: despite the glowing praise over precision guidance technology, smart bombs have proven to be as dumb as their predecessors – of 50 precision attacks during Operation Freedom, not one weapon hit its intended targets. Why hasn’t anyone in government done anything to address these excesses? It doesn’t pay to speak out.

Defense contractors are a lot like used car salesmen in that they live by the maxim of “Overpromise and underdeliver”. The difference is that when John Q Public buys a lemon, he will agitate for justice whereas the government buys another lemon from the same salesman. As one defence contractor states quite proudly “we’re in collusion with the government.” While it sounds flippant, he’s not far off the mark - contractors know that politicians need votes to stay in power, so contractors ensure that they spread the wealth around. In the most extreme instance, every district in the union was given a contract in the construction of the B2 bomber. When the program ran into huge overruns, not only did no one in Congress stand against the project, they voted to extend the contract. Long live capitalism! Jarecki also looks at the effect this juggernaut has had on the little guy.

Wilton Sekzer, a Vietnam Vet and retired New York City policeman lost a son in the 9/11 attacks. When Bush stated that they were invading Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s involvement Sekzer’s remorse turned to rage and he asked that his son’s name be written on of the bombs scheduled to drop on Bagdhad. The response came back “Can do Semper Fi! Yet months later when Bush stated that Saddam had in fact had nothing to do with the bombings Sekzer felt they had manipulated the collective grief of the country in a rush to war that served no one’s purpose but their own. 23 year-old William Solomon is on the other end of the spectrum.

Alone, with few job prospects and mounting debts, Solomon sees the army as the solution to all his problems noting that “If my relationship with my recruiter is any indication, I have nothing but high hopes for joining the service.” Clearly the military ad campaign is working on some level – it better for $1.5 billion they spend on recruitment ads every year trying to convince more Solomons that a career in the military is their only chance of getting ahead. And of course every new soldier has to be outfitted, which means more money for the machine. While Jarecki makes some intriguing observations, there are several notable lapses.

I enjoyed Why We Fight when I first saw it at VIFF. Whether or not that had anything to do with the fact that I’d seen four really bad movies in the day, I can’t be sure, but I can say that that the movie doesn’t hold up well to a second viewing. For example, I can accept that the defence industry exercises undue influence on American foreign policy, but the Jarecki completely neglects the fact that the US has had an imperialist agenda for the past century. One need look no further than the widespread use of American troops to intervene on behalf of companies like United Fruit Growers throughout Central America in the first half of the twentieth century. While it wasn’t arms dealers leading the charge, the actions were taken solely for economic gain.

In addition, although Jarecki purports to be examining the long term pattern of aggression, he spends an inordinate amount of time talking about the Bush administration and Iraq, and ends up rehashing information that we’ve already seen before in docs like Fahrenheit 9/11 and The World According to Bush.There are also problems with the editing, whereby Jarecki will be interviewing someone, then take off on an entirely different tangent, which severely impacts the logical flow of the film. Finally, he fails to tie several of the elements of the story together, spends too much time on Sekzer and Solomon and shortchanges other people in the process .

If you’ve never taken a World History course, or have missed the recent deluge of documentaries about Bush and his cohorts, then Why We Fight might well prove to be a revelation. If however you are up on current affairs it's a lot like watching CSI Miami after a CSI marathon- you've seen it before and the novelty soon wears off.

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originally posted: 02/21/06 19:05:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
11/30/08 CTT Another anti-Bush/Cheney/military "documentary" (propaganda); enough already! 1 stars
7/02/07 Tanya g wonderful movie, informative about the past and present 4 stars
3/29/07 fools♫gold Says nothing life-changing to me. Hell, "Farenheit 9/11" was (way) better. 2 stars
1/22/07 Patrick This is a brilliantly made docu, a true "must-see" 5 stars
9/11/06 David Well researched & presented, so it's obviously 'anti-american' 4 stars
9/04/06 Ken Rivard It is political to the core.I would suspect Michael Moore is in the background.And it is on 2 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth should appeal to most; not just the left 4 stars
7/24/06 shane swank good doc..Like spending the eve.reading myspace friends bulletins for a couple of hours.Pre 4 stars
7/15/06 michael take a look so hopefully more of you will wake up what's going on, former US Army 5 stars
3/31/06 Soha Molina good movie 4 stars
12/18/05 Thane Doss Eisenhower's warning is its thesis, and the movie demonstrates the thesis--hardly leftist. 4 stars
10/03/05 Al Reid Fantastic doc, worthy of wide theatrical release 5 stars
9/30/05 Øyvind Tverå Very precise rendering of American foreign policy, with hard cold supporting facts. 5 stars
9/30/05 Dimitri Papastavrou Superb film 5 stars
9/25/05 bl spread the word! 5 stars
8/25/05 Brian Staightforward and to the point. Former US Navy 5 stars
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  DVD: 27-Jun-2006



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