Why We Fight

At the height of World War II, Frank Capra delivered a clear and inspiring answer in a series of government-sponsored documentaries collectively called Why We Fight: "We're fighting for liberty, the most expensive liberty known to man." Fifty years later, documentarian Eugene Jarecki comes up with a far less idealistic answer. We fight, his film suggests,...read more

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At the height of World War II, Frank Capra delivered a clear and inspiring answer in a series of government-sponsored documentaries collectively called Why We Fight: "We're fighting for liberty, the most expensive liberty known to man." Fifty years later, documentarian Eugene Jarecki comes up with a far less idealistic answer. We fight, his film suggests, because in the 60 years since World War II ended, the American military industrial complex has become a vast machine for making tools of war, and we have to find something to do with them. We fight because a group of conservative policy makers (notably Vice-President-to-be Dick Cheney and future Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz) formulated a post-Cold War strategy to create an "American Century" by protecting U.S. interests abroad by taking preemptive military action against potential enemies of "American principles and interests," and the administration of George W. Bush used the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an excuse to implement it. We fight because the interests of the American government and privately owned corporations are intertwined, and war is good for business. We fight because each successive post-Vietnam administration has gotten better at manipulating entertainment-hungry mass media and twisting democratic ideals into the service of capitalism at its most amorally rapacious. We fight for the oil that fuels our comfortable lives, and our repeated attempts to manipulate Middle Eastern governments to ensure the safety of petro-business has spawned a seething pool of anti-American resentment so deep and bitter that someone will always be willing to take up arms against us. "This is not about one president or one party," says Charles Lewis of the Centre for Public Integrity, "We fight as a nation because we perceive it is in our own interest to fight and we then mention words like freedom... [because] who can be against freedom?" Jarecki puts a human face on the words of politicians, historians and policy makers through the political transformation of retired New York City police officer Wilton Sekzer. Sekzer lost one of his two sons in the World Trade Towers and believed so completely in the righteousness of the invasion of Iraq that he asked to have his son's name inscribed on a bomb. His bitter disillusionment when President Bush is forced to admit that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had no connection whatsoever to Al Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks is devastating.

Though Jarecki's sprawling film rehashes much of the material covered by fellow documentarians Sut Jhally and Jeremy Earp in their equally far-reaching HIJACKING CATASTROPHE: 9/11, FEAR & THE SELLING OF AMERICAN EMPIRE (2004), it's a deeply provocative piece of filmmaking.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: At the height of World War II, Frank Capra delivered a clear and inspiring answer in a series of government-sponsored documentaries collectively called Why We Fight: "We're fighting for liberty, the most expensive liberty known to man." Fifty years later,… (more)

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