Ever since the emergence of Michael Moore as our Leftist Laureate, there has been a glut of like-minded, anti-war anti-Bush docs popping up, sometimes even invading the multiplexes. Of the ones I’ve caught, none have fueled my rage and given my pause quite like “Why We Fight”, a brilliant dissection and indictment of the rise of American Imperialism throughout the world. Though such props have been tossed to many of these other films, “Why We Fight” truly is “Fahrenheit 9/11” without the gimmicks, emotional chokehold, or hullabaloo (at least not yet). Writer/director Eugene Jarecki (“The Trials of Henry Kissinger”) has delivered a tour-de-force that has made me loathe the recently inaugurated administration even more than I did before, no small feat. But what’s even more amazing is that he did it the old-fashioned way, by piecing together some astounding “behind-the-scenes” footage and interview subjects (Dan Rather, bless his bleeding heart!), while forgoing such pranks as reading the Patriot Act from an ice cream truck or trying to enlist the kids of Congressmen.
So, why do we fight? Simple, to feed that gluttonous son of a bitch that is the American military industrial complex. In his famous farewell address, Eisenhower warned us of such a thing. We didn’t listen. Now, according to “Why We Fight”, we fight. Of course, we’re not really fighting, are we? No, we’re really “liberating” people, toppling oppressive regimes, playing righteous peacemaker in the world. Call us Team America! Oh wait, that name’s already been taken. And what’s all this fuss about preemption? If I know some mofo is gearing up to get medieval on my a*s, you know what? I’m gonna take that mofo down.
By taking on the Big Issues, “Why We Fight” runs the risk of biting off way more than it can chew. After all, this is not just a film about Bush and Iraq and American Imperialism. It is a veritable battle royale of sticky subjects and disturbing notions: Circa WWII American military propaganda. Vietnam. Cheney. Halliburton. Smart missiles. The media. 9/11. Rabid, mislead patriotism. And so forth and so on. “Why We Fight” stacks these things up like dangerously teetering Jenga blocks that somehow still hold to create that improbable little tower. Jarecki even produces his own Lila Lipscomb in a retired New York City cop who lost a son on 9/11, vowed to roll with the president, and eventually got wise to his Lies. The most disturbing thing about “Why We Fight” however, is the pervading sense that the will of a peace-seeking people may have been forever supplanted by the war-mongering of Corporate America and that both Republicans AND Democrats are equally to blame. In other words, remember a thing called hope? Didn’t think so.
Somehow, I can’t help wondering that, however many eyes the film may pry open, ummm…. isn’t it a little too late? (Can you say four more years? Try it, it gets easier with practice.) And if People’s Choice winning Moore couldn’t sway public opinion enough to make a difference last November, what the hell does Jarecki hope to accomplish with “Why We Fight”? It seems to me that unless you’re a slovenly-dressed, outspoken Flint native you’re not going to get the attention you need, or if you do, it’s merely preaching to the choir at this point. But perhaps the reason I’m so taken with Jarecki’s film is that it doesn’t feel like Death By Propaganda the way “Fahrenheit 9/11” did. True, Moore’s film was way more immediate and a rallying cry, something we could all get behind and be hopeful about for a change. “Why We Fight” on the other hand, is a much more carefully orchestrated document of why America the Beautiful is often one ugly bitch, in the eyes of any rational person at least. As we now know the direction that the (slight) majority of this nation wishes to take, I believe this is a film that will resonate in our consciousness long after any “Bonanza”-inspired buffoonery Moore may feed us. Then again, Gore Vidal doesn’t call this the United States of Amnesia for nothing.