Why We Fight (US, France, Canada, UK, Denmark, 2005)

He saw the military-industrial complex coming

He saw the military-industrial complex coming

This film focuses on why the US invaded Iraq from the claim it was involved in 9/11 to Bush’s statement that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with that ‘watershed’ attack. However it contextualises these years by explaining America’s neo-colonialist project throughout the 20th century and bookends the film with Eisenhower’s swansong speech as President when he predicted that war would become a function of capitalists’ desire to make money. As the documentary shows, this has come to pass.

It’s tempting to think everyone watching this movie would be convinced of the argument that wars are fought for businesses like Haliburton. However, as Dan Gardner demonstrates in his brilliant Risk (Virgin Books, 2009), once humans believe something to be true it is almost impossible to convince them otherwise. So while I find this film utterly convincing, those who are politically on the right are likely to believe that it’s left wing propaganda.

Jarecki mixes archive footage with interviews with politicians, ex soldiers and, refreshingly, Iraqis supposedly being liberated. A range of political voices are heard, including the right wing idiot who argues that a pre-emptive strike is legitimate because it’s common sense to shoot first before someone shoots at you; it may be but Iraq NEVER had weapons of mass destruction and and didn’t have the capability to shoot first.

The question ‘why we fight?’, echoing WWII propaganda films, is asked throughout and is answered, most potently, by Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski ret. who saw at first hand the Bush adminstration’s abuse of intelligence in the Pentagon, when she says we fight because not enough people stand up against war. Given the millions who protested against the Iraq war this might seen harsh, however the war went ahead anyway. It’s the problem with democracy, many people believe it is ‘power of the people’ and – hegemonically – accept their powerlessness; it isn’t, it’s ‘power of the capitalist’. We need a better political system.

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