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Why We Fight - movie Review

Why We Fight - movie Review - Why We Fight(2004 Casting a...

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Why We Fight (2004) January 20, 2006 Casting a Harshly Critical Eye on the Business of Warfare in America By MANOHLA DARGIS Published: January 20, 2006 The title of Eugene Jarecki's "Why We Fight" sounds like both a declaration and a question. While variations on these three words are repeated throughout the film - posed as a question to various Joes, Janes and sometimes little Timmy - it is clear from the start of this agitprop entertainment that Mr. Jarecki has a very good idea why America has seemed so eager to pick up arms over the past half-century. Calvin Coolidge famously said that the chief business of the American people is business; 80 years later, Mr. Jarecki forcefully, if not with wholesale persuasiveness, argues that our business is specifically war. Another American president is critical to that argument. On Jan. 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the country. Writing in longhand - one of the more arresting images in the film is the tablet on which he wrote his famous speech, scratched-out words and all - Eisenhower took stock of the nation, its recent wars and its military might. "In the councils of government," warned this president and former general of the Army, "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." Mr. Jarecki borrowed the title "Why We Fight" from a series of films made by Frank Capra for the military during World War II, and it's after that war that the story of the military-industrial complex begins. It's a story Mr. Jarecki tells with appreciable energy, using images culled from newsreels, educational and military films, and original material. Bombs explode, wars are fought, and talking heads fill the screen. The editor of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol, waves the flag for the right, while Gore Vidal shakes his pompoms for the left, invoking American amnesia. Everyone sounds smart, if not always convincing, as when Mr. Vidal states that Truman dropped atom bombs on Japan only to frighten Stalin and declare war on Communism, even though the Japanese were trying to surrender. Mr. Vidal's assertion would give some historians pause and others an attack of apoplexy. Which raises a problem with films of this type: Who's telling the truth? Crammed with facts, or at least assertions of fact, "Why We Fight" presents a battalion of experts
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delivering what sound like reasonable historical overviews and political analyses. Given the sheer wealth of information, however - more than 50 years of American military history and dozens of wars and military adventures are wedged into the film's 99-minute running time - even an attentive observer of the geopolitical landscapes past and present might have a hard time separating the chaff from the wheat, ideologically framed arguments from those more empirically grounded.
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