The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Why We Fight: You don’t want to know…

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer


President Eisenower relays an important message for generations to ignore. We’re fucked.

I have a friend who greatly enjoys saying controversial things meant to anger and/or fluster his audience. I learned this when we got into a basic political discussion, and he explained why he was a Republican thusly: “I love Bush because Bush is pro-war, and war is good for my business.” Since, I mused, this was an opinion no person could actually have, the only conclusion I could draw from this is that my friend was being controversial just for controversy’s sake.

And then, I saw Why We Fight.


Why We Fight is a documentary written and directed by Eugene Jarecki. And while it will surely get compared to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, that would be inaccurate. Both films do end up analyzing, and ultimately excoriating, the war on Iraq. However, while Moore’s attack is so obviously and virulently anti-Bush that it ends up losing the very credibility it’s trying to establish, Jarecki looks at US military foreign policy over the past forty years, shows the disturbing (and largely non-partisan) pattern that has been established over that time, and only THEN breaks down in exhaustive detail just what a debacle the Iraq war was, is, and will be.

While the cornerstone shot of Fahrenheit 911 is President Bush reading a children’s book to a classroom as planes crashed into the World Trade Center, Why We Fight looks at (Republican) President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address to the nation. In this speech, Eisenhower expresses grave concern over the very military that he once commanded as a general. After stating the importance for our nation’s military to remain “mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction,” he then discusses a theretofore unknown and unnamed threat:

“In the councils of government, 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.”

(Remember when we demanded eloquence and thoughtfulness from our leaders? Sigh. To read a full transcript of this fantastic speech, click here.)

I admit that, while I had heard the phrase “Military Industrial Complex” before, I had never taken the time to dissect it, or to understand its meaning. Why We Fight makes it clear that Eisenhower was referring, quite literally, to the then newly-formed industry of military. Whereas WWII famously had companies and factories change INTO military companies for war time, (remember Rosie the Riveter?) and then change back, the Eisenhower administration saw the rise of companies the existed solely for the purpose of bolstering our military.  This was what he was warning against, and just as night follows day, this (according to Jarecki) is the root of all our current trouble.

And now I think he’s right.


With every day that passes, another person wants to kick William Kristol’s teeth in.

After showing us military conventions where vendors sell their latest wares to government contractors, and then letting us see Boeing and Lockheed/Martin compete with each other for a government contract worth billions of dollars, we are treated to the following assertion: The government spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the military last year, and the companies who service them collectively reported a profit of 25%. If war is this profitable, then leaders have no incentive to stop waging it.

Think about that for a minute. I’m sure we’ve all had the thought that big businesses were betraying the people in favor of their profit margin, but thoughts like that can always be pushed aside with corporate double-speak (One of the world’s biggest military contractors says this about their corporate mission: “We are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct in all that we do.  We believe that honesty and integrity engender trust, which is the cornerstone of our business.  We abide by the laws of the United States and other countries in which we do business, we strive to be good citizens and we take responsibility for our actions.”) But the facts here are chilling: if your business (and its thousands of employees, and its millions of investors) makes money helping nations wage war, then no one has any incentive to push for world peace. That is fucking terrifying.

And it is at THIS point in the film where they finally break down the situation in Iraq.

In the end, Why We Fight probably isn’t going to inundate you with facts that you hadn’t heard before, but it will still prove to be enlightening in ways you didn’t expect. Here are few examples:

1. Jarecki interviews a ton of Americans, asking them all “Why We Fight.” A LOT of people – especially children – answered “For freedom.” It’s hard to say what’s scarier here: that so many of us have been inundated with party-line bullshit that we all say the same thing as though reciting from a script, or the sense that the people who gave that answer have no idea what it really means.

2. Several people compare the current US military policy to that of the Roman Empire. While that might sound like hyperbolic overstatement, consider the facts. The Roman Empire was the world’s only super power, and to keep control over everyone else, they kept a standing army that they spread too thin to actually contain any uprisings that might occur. It’s not too far-fetched, and with each passing new event (Not enough National Guard to protect the country post-Hurricane Katrina, talk of re-instating the draft to be able to field an army to invade Iran), you see just how far afield we’ve gone from Eisenhower’s statements.

3. Is it just me, or does William Kristol resemble a grinning rictus of death more and more with each passing public appearance? Do you think toeing the party line as hard as he does actually saps your soul, or is just his unapologetic avarice and egoism?

4. My friend might be the sort of person who just likes to rile the natives, but he also has a chilling point. War is good for business, and until that changes, we are in even bigger trouble than we thought.