What makes the United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave, so damn convinced that we must serve as the neighborhood police for the entire world?
Are we genuinely concerned with evildoers? Are we, in fact, serving as the defender of the oppressed and downtrodden?
OR is there an agenda? Are we, in fact, increasingly acting upon an almost blind vision for world domination? Do we wish to become the Rome of the 21st century?
Your answer to these questions may, in fact, determine just how much you are able to enjoy Eugene Jarecki's latest documentary, "Why We Fight," a film that essentially builds itself around former President Eisenhower's last address warning that America was headed towards becoming a nation of war dominated by its military industrial complex at the cost of true democracy.
Much like Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Why We Fight" takes sides on the issue. Unlike Moore's film, Jarecki's film lacks the energy, insight and urgency necessary to effectively argue for a change in American culture that is, quite honestly, almost incomprehensible. In essence, "Why We Fight" is a kindler, gentler "Fahrenheit 9/11" ever so slightly mixed with the political tone of "Control Room." "Why We Fight" is not as effective as either film, yet compelling enough to please most liberals and further irritate supporters of the our current administration's supporters.
Despite its overwhelming obsession with the military industrial complex, "Why We Fight" is most effective when Jarecki focuses on the personal side of creating a culture of war.
Jarecki brings to life the grief journey of Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York City cop and Vietnam Veteran, whose son was killed on 9/11 in the attack on the World Trade Center. Vacillating between grief and rage, Sekzer begins exploring outlets for his grief and wants revenge, clear and simple. When Bush clearly identifies Iraq as the target of our wrath, Sekzer begins e-mailing the powers that be asking to have his son's name written on a bomb to be dropped in the Iraq war.
He accomplishes his mission.
Bush, MUCH later acknowledges that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
The grief flows again.
We are introduced to Lt.Gen. Kwiatkowski, a 20-year military veteran who retires from the Pentagon after becoming disillusioned with the growing influence of big business and think tanks over actual military personnel. It is, ultimately, her viewpoints on "why we fight" that Jarecki builds his film around. They are simple, plainly presented but almost undeniable as presented by Jarecki.
The rest of the film, sadly, doesn't live up to the emotional draw of the personal experiences provided by Jarecki. Too often, Jarecki simply presents well known facts and chooses to draw his own conclusions from them.
Whether you agreed with his conclusions or not, Michael Moore would take "well known facts" and go beyond drawing his own conclusion. Moore takes these basic "facts", finds new arguments, illustrations to support his arguments and, ultimately, offers solutions to support his notions.
Jarecki, on the other hand, offers very little in the way of new information in "Why We Fight," titled after the World War II propaganda films by Frank Capra.
Is it really news, or particularly film-worthy, that Vice-President Cheney had ties to Halliburton and now seems to channel business their way?
While Jarecki does have the decency to provide both the liberal and conservative perspectives on this issue, his slant is clear and quite intentional. Interviews with John McCain, the Eisenhower family, Chalmers Johnson and Richard Perle among others others serve primarily as an advancement of his argument.
"Why We Fight" is not going to change your mind. In fact, it may make you feel like giving up. The overall tone for Jarecki's film seems to be resignation. This is the way it is, and our "empire" is headed for destruction if we don't change our course. Because he's so busy proving that we are on the course, Jarecki offers little or no hope that we can, in fact, change the course. "Why We Fight" is content to prove that Eisenhower was right and the military industrial complex is now dominating American culture, politics and, yes, foreign relations.
Why do we fight? Is it truly to survive? In the end, Jarecki dares to imply that, perhaps, it is because we fight that we will not survive.