Why We Fight, a documentary by Eugene Jarecki, is a very well done polemic questioning the United States use of force in the world since the Second World War. It won the Documentary Grand Prize in January, 2005 at the Sundance Film Festival and only now is being shown in theaters by Sony Classics, after having been shown on HBO and the BBC.
The film has several focii, the first being Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous parting speech in 1961 when he warned the nation of the dangers of the military-industrial complex (actually, according to Eisenhower's son, John, the phrase was originally "military-industrial-congressional complex".) The film documents how the Defense Department adopted a policy of "privatizing" some aspects of the military under Dick Cheney as defense secretary under Bush I, how Cheney then left the Defense Department to become the CEO of Haliburton, raising his net worth from somewhere around $1 million to $365 million over the course of six years, and how Cheney then stepped back into government as Vice President in charge of everything under Bush, all the while adamantly asserting that the no-bid contracts being awarded to Haliburton were not connected to his ties with Haliburton and that he personally did not benefit from them.
Another focus of the film, and the most dramatically compelling for me is the story of Eugene Sekzer, a retired New York City policeman, whose son, Jason, was a victim of the Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001. A Vietnam veteran, Sezer was enraged and eager for revenge. He wanted someone to be punished for what had happened to his son and was a fervent supporter of the invasion of Iraq, even making and having granted a special request to have his son's name painted on one of the first bombs to be dropped on Baghdad. Then it shows Sekzer's disillusionment and anger when Bush finally confesses that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks, and the mastermind behind them, Osama bin Laden, continues to roam freely, making video and audio tapes taunting and threatening the United States. Sekzer is not a hand-wringing liberal afraid to be tough with global outlaws. He is a tough-talking ex-cop who feels betrayed by a president who deliberately deceived him into supporting an invasion that was ill-advised in its rationale and misplanned in its execution.
Another compelling storyline is that of a young New York City man lured into joining the Army, assured by the recruiter that everything he was telling the young man was in "black and white policy regulations so I'm not giving you smoke and mirrors or anything."
This movie is better balanced and cinematically a better film than Michael Moore's 2004 effort, Farenheit 9/11. Jarecki gives time to opposing viewspoints, most notably the two young pilots who dropped the bunker busting bombs that were supposed to land on Hussein's palace at the beginning of the war, but who wound up missing their mark and killing many women and children.
But this is not a television network artificial balance with the on-the-one-hand-he-says; on-the-other-hand-she-says routine where fact is "balanced" with bullshit. It is more like an Op-Ed opinion piece. The director has an agenda and he puts together the film to further his agenda. I don't find this objectionable because it is so well done and I agree so much with his agenda. A conservative supporter of The Lying Turd probably wouldn't like the movie.
As we left the movie, my wife said she enjoyed it, but that she was afraid it was preaching to the converted. By and large, that is a valid criticism, but even the converted need a pep talk to keep from getting disheartened from time to time. One of our friends who accompanied us to the movie said that although there was nothing in the movie that he didn't already know, the way it was put together made it a good movie to see. I agree and gave it five stars out of five.