Why We Fight

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(HOST) Commentator David Moats has seen Eugene Jarecki’s new documentary, and he’s giving it a big “thumbs up.”

(MOATS) A Vermonter has made a film I think everyone should see. It’s called “Why We Fight,” and it’s a documentary by Eugene Jarecki of Waitsfield.

The movie explores the roots of the Iraq war, not in the shifting formulations of the Bush administration, but in the long evolution
of what Dwight Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower provides the intellectual framework for the movie. It was his farewell address in 1961 that warned us of the excessive influence of the arms industry, combined with the power of the federal government.

But Jarecki’s film does not offer up simple-minded conspiracy theories. In fact, Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11” seems sophomoric and superficial by comparison. Remember how liberals took delight in the release of Moore’s film in 2004?
It was so gratifying finally to find someone willing to challenge conventional wisdom.

But Jarecki avoids the cheap shots and the fuzzy history that undermined “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Instead he offers an intelligent and searching look at a long history going back to World War II, the atomic bomb, and the Cold War. He interviews Eisenhower’s son and granddaughter, who talk about Eisenhower’s misgivings about the growing power of the arms industry, even as he saw the necessity of competing in the Cold War.

The movie includes interviews with a retired New York City cop whose son died in the World Trade Center and who requested the Pentagon to place his son’s name on a bomb bound for Iraq. It was a bit of revenge, he said. Until he learned that President Bush had acknowledged there really was no connection between the World Trade Center and Iraq. That took the grieving father and Vietnam vet all the way back to the Vietnam War and the way it was sold to the American people by the lies of Lyndon Johnson. So not only did the father suffer the loss of his son, he saw his grief manipulated by a new generation of leaders.

I think “Why We Fight” may be the defining film of this generation, capturing the tragedies of the present by placing them in the context of the past. The film’s persuasiveness derives in part from the way it includes the voices of those who support the Iraq war. He doesn’t include them to mock them. He includes them to place their ideas in the broader picture.

The views of Richard Perle, the defense expert, and William Kristol, the journalist, are presented straight because they’re an important part of the story. Kristol asks a reasonable question, after all: Would the world be a safer place if the United States withdrew from involvement in world affairs?

“Why We Fight” is excellent film-making and excellent journalism. Everyone should see it, not to reinforce ideas they already have, but to learn something that maybe they didn’t already know.

This is David Moats from Salisbury.

David Moats is the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He spoke from studios at Middlebury College.

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