I just finished watching Eugene Jarecki’s “Why We Fight” that won the 2005 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It is probably one of, if not the best documentaries on the Iraq war that I have seen to date. The 98 minute documentary however is a bit broader as it looks at American foreign policy with relation to what is now called the Bush Doctrine.
The documentary takes its name from a series of propaganda films done by Frank Capra during the World War 2 era where Jerecki starts off. Truman drops the bomb to launch the war on communism and the US is off to the race tracks. A few years later in his farewell address Eisenhower warns of the rise of the “military-industrial complex”: the emergence of a machine where military fuels economics and economics fuels military and in between foreign policy is reshaped to fight not for entrenched American values but rather profit and dominance.
The concentration is on the Iraq war but Jerecki doesn’t narrate he allows many “characters” to speak for themselves. Each of them in a seemingly unrelated storyline that isn’t fully revealed until the film nears its end. An ex-cop who loses his son on 9/11 and tries to get his name written on the side of a bomb to be dropped in Iraq. Fuji and Tooms, the two pilots sent in to Iraq in the middle of the night to drop the satellite guided bombs that would eventually start the war but also eventually miss their target. A cash strapped teenager who sees joining the army as his only means of survival.
Jerecki goes back and forth between these and many other characters and various politicians, ex-military and scholars all of them filling bits and pieces of information until the bigger picture is complete. He also goes around asking random Americans “Why do we fight?” It’s the answer to this question, or the lack of it, that is so compelling in the context of this film that is documenting a war based on a lie. Other questions unravel themselves like who benefits from war? Who is running the military-industrial complex?
What is so different about this documentary is that for once someone allows everyday Iraqis to have their say on camera. A simple farmer giving his opinion on AmericaÃ¢??s future as a superpower; the doctor who received the first wounded in the first week of the war, all civilians he says. A bookkeeper of a Baghdad morgue. The mother of a child who died when those first bombs dropped on the Dora Farms, missing their targets.
The war on Iraq is Eisenhower’s warning coming true and this is what Jerecki documents. The shift in American foreign policy to dominate the world through military force, specifically where it counts: the Middle East.
This is one of the best and most informative documentaries I’ve seen on the subject of Iraq but the fact that the war is put in context of the broader modern policy makes the documentary even more formidable and comprehensive.
It is immensly entertaining and I highly recommend you get your hands on it.
Bottom Line: 5/5