March 13, 2007

"Why We Fight" an important film


It's not often that a film comes out that can awaken your awareness and change your perspective the way the award winning documentary "Why We Fight" can. It could be the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of our age.

The facinating and well done documentary, which takes its title from a series of propaganda films created by Frank Capra during WWII, uses Dwight D. Eisenhower's Farewell Address as a touchstone to examine how the very dangers Eisenhower warned of decades ago have indeed come to pass. America has become essentially a war-making militaristic corporation/state almost entirely disconnected from its citizens in matters of war and peace.

"Why We Fight" doesn't approach the subject from a partisan or ideological perspective, and contains interviews with everyone from ordinary people on the street to those directly involved in promoting the invasion of Iraq such as Richard Pearle and Bill Kristol. Several conservatives are featured such as John McCain, as well as several military figures including the two pilots who dropped the first massive bombs on Bagdhad. (the myth of "smart weapons" or "precision bombing" is also explored.)

Eisenhower's eerily profetic speech warned of the rise of the "military-industrial complex", though his original draft more correctly described it as the "military-industrial-congressional complex". The film shows the role congress plays in furthering and compounding the utter domination of government and foreign policy by corporate interests who profit from war.

The Bush administration is packed with former defense contractor execs, and the defense contractor's corporate boards and executive ranks are filled with former government and military officials. Conservative think tanks have also taken their place among the military and government as a stopping point within the "revolving door".

This revolving door, in which figures in top positions of government go directly into corporate positions for sometime ten time their previous pay, and then sometimes move back into government as with Cheney, Rumsfeld and many others, contributes massively to nearly erasing any line between government and corporate interest.

Figures are constantly moving between military, corporate, and think tank positions. Think tanks have largely taken over the policy functions for our entire government, with at least this White House taking nearly all of it's direction in policy from conservative think tanks funded by right wing billionaires and corporations themselves.

Congress blindly endorses the spending of countless billions on defense projects, many of dubious use and many which don't work as promised. Not only do politicians often depend on the defense industry to fund their campaigns, they will never vote against anything that represents a few jobs in their district.

One example of this is the fact that parts for the B-1 bomber project were set up to be built in every one of the 50 states, thus ensuring total allegiance from congress. The B-1 is considered by many to be a multi-billion dollar boon-doggle, wasted on a plane that's not strategically needed and which serves little purpose. Yet enough money was spent on each of them to provide health care for tens of thousands of people or to build a dozen schools.

Americans like to think of themselves as a peace-loving country, yet our country is the most militaristic, agressive and war-like of any country on the planet, eclipsing the rest of the world by vast margins to the point where the U.S. has truly become one giant war machine in search of targets.

This is not a recent development, but rather got it's start with the massive build-up for WWII, and it's been growing out of control ever since. "Why We Fight" does a brilliant job of presenting this phenomena, and in particular how it reached it's zenith with the invastion of Iraq.

One revealing section of the film reveals how KBR, the military contracting arm of Haliburton, was commissioned to do a study while Cheney was Secretary of Defense. They were paid millions to look into the advisability of "privatizing" much of the military.

Surprise, surprise, they found that this was a fantastic idea, and the result was that much of the work which has always been handled by the military is now done by .... KBR and Haliburton, including everything from laundry and food service to providing armed security forces, corporate armies in essense, around the globe.

These contractors are being paid literally billions and billions of dollars with little or no oversight by the Republicans until this point, and are making astronomical profits in the bargain. And what little has been found out reveals that they provide tainted water and food to our troops, are paid money for services that are never provided, and are granted no-bid, "cost plus" contracts, which means they have carte blanche to charge whatever they want at any time.

A telling scene involves random people at a patriotic parade being asked, "Why do we fight?" They're clearly clueless, which is disturbing when you think about it.

The notion that we wage war for the ideals of "freedom" or "liberty" has long ago been proven to be a sham, which necessitates the massive efforts and millions of tax dollars spent to try to deceive, frighten, and manipulate the public (you) into thinking the reason for war is idealistic and justified. Somehow for the benefit of all of us.

The film shows clear evidence of how a handful of neocons in charge of foreign policy in the Bush administration, rabid ideologues from conservative think tanks for the most part, and many ex-defense contractor execs like Dick Cheney who fill the administration, laid out a clear plan for conquest and American empire far before Iraq, (the Project for a New American Century) feeling that as the last super-power, the U.S. should literally dominate the entire planet, spreading "democracy" at the point of a bomb.

The comparison to the Roman empire should not be taken lightly.

Rather than continue to describe the film, I'd just ask that you please take a moment to GO HERE AND WATCH THE PREVIEW. When the trailer is finished, it will take you to a page where you can watch and listen to Eisenhower's address something which is almost shocking in it's foreshadowing of the state of things we find ourselves confronting. (well worth reading in full.)
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Take some time to learn more at the film's website, and then better yet, go to Blockbuster or see if it's available at your library or online, and watch the film yourself.

Not only will you be a better informed person, I guarantee you'll be glad you took the time to see it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Continuing The Inside Dope's Cavalcade of Cinema, I also highly recommend "Shut Up and Sing", a behind-the-scenes documentary on the Dixie Chicks, before, during, and after the insane right wing effort to demonize and destroy them for what was actually a very innocuous remark about Bush.

"Shut Up and Sing" is like getting two documentaries in one. Not only is it interesting politically by how it reveals the truly ugly and insane tendencies of the right wing and it's mindless support of the war, it's also an interesting peek behind the scenes and into the lives of a top touring musical group on the road, in the studio, and at home. And to top it off, it's full of their great music.

It says it's a "Blockbuster Exclusive", so I guess it's only available at that store. Grab it when you pick up "Why We Fight".

3 Comments:

At 3/14/2007 10:06 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

Good call on "Why we Fight". I watched it and then I had one of my seniors watch it,(a nice "ordinary" kid) and he really found it to be quite powerful. I might use it in my curriculum for History2 and Govt, alongside another good documentary called "Who Killed the Electric Car".
Why We Fight is worthwhile, a must-see. I like the people whom he selected to interview. The retired cop who lost his son in 9/11 was probably my favorite. That poor man went through the whole range of emotions.

 
At 3/14/2007 11:04 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Nico, I'm impressed that you've seen it, though as I tried to get across, anyone from anywhere on the political spectrum would find it very interesting and important.

And yes, the retired cop's story was very powerful. In a way, he represented most of the country who immediately lusted for revenge only to realize far too late that they'd been victims of a bait and switch operation by Bush and gang.

I'm glad you saw it and glad you recommend it. I fear that people may think it's some slanted or biased documentary since I recommend it, but it clearly is not, as my conservative (can I call you that?) friend Nico attests.

 
At 3/14/2007 11:29 PM, Anonymous saul said...

I also saw Why We Fight just recently, and it is really an excellent film. Very fast paced and well put together. Interviews with people at all different levels, from defense contractors, workers in armament factories, military families, active military people, vets and experts of all kinds. The interviews with the man who lost his son on 9/11 were very powerful and artfully weaved into the film.

Eisenhower's speech is really something. Eisenhower was a man who was more knowledgeable about the US armed forces and it's ability to fight wars than any other president in US history. And while he was president he saw the armaments industry grow to a level of power and influence that exceeded what anyone could have imagined. Though it wasn't new in American history for corporations and powerful interests to influence policy, it was entirely new to see the armaments industry so quickly insinuate itself into so many aspects of American life and politics. The immense amounts of money spent on the war and the early part of the cold war created within the span of a few years an industry so powerful that it could influence not just one or two congressmen, but then entire congress itself and direction of foreign policy of the entire country. General, Supreme Allied Commander and Republican President Eisenhower witnessed this transformation of American politics, and thought it was so serious that he felt the need to make it the centerpiece of his final speech to the nation.

The other day in a bookstore I came across a book of important speeches from the 20th century. All sorts of speeches from US presidents, but, of course, not the Eisenhower speech. What Eisenhower said in that speech--and his unimpeachable authority to make such a judgment--is something that should be known and remembered. If you don't understand this transformation that Eisenhower pointed to, how much can you understand about American politics and foreign policy?

 

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