An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis



                 “Why We Fight” is a bi-partisan wake up call.  Fresh from winning the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and playing to crowds at the Two River Film Festival, Eugene Jarecki’s documentary is a surgical effort to cut through our rampant partisanship to discover why wars are a staple of American life.  It is neither Republicans nor Democrats, after all, who are responsible for this now embedded fact.  It is both.  Jarecki has given us, at last, a short history of the American war machine and the constant flow of fuel it demands. 

                Does the military industrial complex, as Eisenhower warned, depend on a constant state of war?     Yes, but with cause over here, and effect over there, all swirling in the fog of politics, it is nearly impossible for the public to put the two together.  The effect is called “blowback.”

                Under a variety of presidents and in the name of freedom, America went into Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Grenada, Panama, Afhanistan, and Iraq.  We fought World War II, dropped two atomic bombs and navigated the Cold War.  Whichever president has had the trigger in his hand has always defended his decision with compelling logic:  the Domino Theory in Asia, the Doctrine of Preventative War in Iraq, saving freedom, enforcing democracy.

                Despite Eisenhower’s broadside warning, the U.S. poured resources into an arms industry that soon became permanent.  Benefits began to flow to corporations that wrapped the flag around every weapon they produced.  The B-2 bomber, for example, has at least one part made in every one of the 50 states – a tidy guarantee of protest in the event of cancellation.  “Whenever war becomes that profitable, you’re going to see more of it.”  There are big profits at home and abroad for the companies involved.  We now have one of their number, former defense contractor Dick Cheney, as vice president.   Again blowback:  How many of us understand that way back there, we put Saddam in power because he was against Iran?  Or that Mr. Rumsfeld funneled weapons and money to him at that time?  We put him in, and we took him out. 

                Think tanks, corporations, politicians of both parties – all buddies in a corrosive interdependency.    We now know that intelligence is fabricated, that the Pentagon manipulates news reporting, and that a cowardly congress fails the country in the public debate.

                Does America depend on the standing armies both Eisenhower and George Washington warned of as they left office?  Is there leadership in either party that will be brave enough to say, “Stop!”?  Or is the Military Industrial Complex so enormous, so entrenched, that it has become virtually invisible?

                Eugene Jarecki says we are stuck in political polarization, that we aren’t talking about the big issue that controls our economy.  His wake up call, if we listen carefully, is aimed at all of us, not just at the incumbent administration, but at the administrations of the past 50 years.

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