Movie Review: Why We Fight

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
Eugene Jarecki's (THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER) new polemic, WHY WE FIGHT, puts the American war machine on trial, and explores why we are systemically geared to fight wars. The film purports that since World War II, America has been moving toward an empire. Presidents Eisenhower and Washington warned that to build and protect an empire requires standing armies – a permanent military establishment – that can lead to the destruction of democracy itself. Dwight Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell Address as President warned that a "military-industrial complex" was gaining national influence that could threaten democracy.

The hero of WHY WE FIGHT is Dwight Eisenhower, and the heart is his farewell address. Jarecki says that at a time of exploding defense profits and when an unprecedented number of people inside the government hail from former posts at defense contractors, he wanted to investigate whether Eisenhower’s fears have come to pass.

The American invasion of Iraq is examined through interviews with members of the military families, whose lives are interwoven in the American war machine, both the devotees and the disillusioned. WHY WE FIGHT makes a convincing case that war is big money for military and industrial leaders. A state of perpetual armed conflict is required to sustain the huge profits now being reaped by the big corporations.

In my interview with Jarecki, I asked what makes him want to educate the American people about these issues. He believes it is because he is the son of refugees. His father fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and mother's family fled equally horrible circumstances at the turn of the century from Russia. He is the child of people who, because they experienced repression, are committed to civil rights and the importance of civil liberties and human dignity.
Hearing the systematic and logical discourse in the speech by Eisenhower, in which he builds one idea upon another and describes and warns about a complicated and threatening system, is astonishing on many levels. Jarecki builds a thesis that is equally logical and compelling and advances our understanding of the world around us. WHY WE FIGHT goes on my list of films that every citizen should see.

In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
Why We Fight
Eugene Jarecki, Director