Thursday, January 04, 2007

Movie Review - Everyone Needs to See This

The opening of Eugene Jarecki's fascinating documentary "Why We Fight" features an excerpt from President Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 farewell address. The president, saying goodbye to the nation, left a warning about the growth of something he was all too familiar with: The growth of the defense industry in the United States. The President said the following:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment.
Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential
aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...
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 statehouse, 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 the huge industrial and military
machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and
liberty may prosper together.

The movie moves on to describe the growth of the "military-industrial-congressional" relationship that has seen companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton growth into mega-sized multi-national corporations who have earned trillions of dollars from the US Taxpayer over the last 50 years.

The eye-opening and frightening reality presented in this movie is that the defense industry is so embedded in the fabric and conscience of our country's being that we may never see the end of continued development of weapons and armaments. The defense budget figures cited in this movie are astronomical. The control over congress the lobbyists and the pentagon have is apalling. The language of the defense industry has been acutely honed as to potray anyone who questions the growth, expense and commitment to the industry of war as non-patriotic or weak.

Major figures from our history, both past and present day actors such as Richard Perle, Gore Vidal, John McCain, as well as ex-CIA and defense industry veterans provide a wide point of view regarding these actions. A heartbreaking arc in the story is that of a retired New York City Policeman, who was a combat veteran of Viet Nam. He lost his son in the 9/11 attacks and understandably was angry and wanted vengeance. He discusses his attempts to gain some level of justice by imploring defense officials to write the name of his dead son on one of the bombs to be dropped in combat operations in Iraq. A related segment of this story shows two Air Force pilots who fired the opening salvos in combat operations in 2003 by bombing an area of Baghdad known as Dora Farms. They were told a "high-value" target was in a particular area and targeted their "smart bombs" at the site. The only trouble was that the smart bombs weren't so smart and they wound up bombing civilian habitats killing civilians. The story winds its way back to the father who lost his son and showing his anger at being duped by the government regarding the lies told about WMD in order to justify the war.

This movie has an agenda of course as all documentaries do. It attempts to portray the defense industry, that "military-industrial" complex as almost shadow government doing everything possible to strengthen and perpetuate itself. Is it an accurate portrayal? I'm sure that depends upon the viewer's perspective. I know I am seriously troubled by what I say and I'm afraid we've seen what President Eisenhower warned us about come to fruition. At the end of his warning, he says "only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" can maintain control of this and keep a balance between defending ourselves and liberty. I fear we've not been as alert as we needed to be. Go see this movie. Rent it out and watch it with your older kids and family. It's that important.


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