Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why We Fight

Lying far North in Yamagata, the Sakuranbo Half Marathon requires an overnight trip from Koriyama. So prior to running, (Two weeks ago, holy cow I’m behind!), I stayed at the home of a very hospitable host close to the race. Yohei is a smart guy who lived in California and studied film for five or six years. His gracious family served up a delicious curry and put up with me for the night. I felt bad for his parents, because Yohei and I quickly discovered a shared interest in politics. His articulate English far superior to my Japanese, we unfortunately left his parents out of the conversation. ごめんなさい!
Yohei shared his sharp insights and perspectives on both Japanese and American politics. He’s also currently writing a book about American and Japanese politics (in Japanese). His time in film school must have paid off, because he showed me an excellent documentary about American militarism. I thought it was so good that I’m recommending everyone see it. Eugene Jarecki’s “Why We Fight,” takes the title of the WWII propaganda series and argues that American leaders misled the public about reasons for fighting in Vietnam, Iraq, and most of the 30 to 40 or so other countries where US troops have fought since WWII. From the Johnson administration lying about events in the Gulf of Tonkin to Bush admitting Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or link to 9/11, the film begs the question: Why are Americans fighting, dying, and killing around the globe?

The film places a lot of blame on the military industrial complex. The film cites facts even I didn’t know. Components of the B2 bomber are constructed or assembled in every single US state. Such saturation arguably forces American lawmakers to spend money on weapon systems or risk losing jobs and investment in their districts (and votes).

While the degree to which Congressional legislators are beholden to the defense industry is debatable, and while I remain skeptical of some of the film’s implicit suggestions, Jarecki certainly makes an unchallengeably crushing indictment of the companies that have profited from the war in Iraq. According to the film, Halliburton makes $100 each time they launder a soldier’s clothes. Soldiers are strangely forbidden from doing their own laundry. This film definitely shows your tax dollars at work!

The film also explains the concept of “blowback.” Blowback is a CIA term that describes unintended consequences of American foreign policy that reach the American public (Sept. 11th, for example). When such events occur, the American public cannot put said events in any coherent context. How could they, when politicians and leaders distort, cover up, hide, and spin the complex realities of America’s foreign conflicts to serve their interests and not those of the American public?

It also follows the human interest, as a Vietnam veteran becomes angry about the war in Iraq. The man's son, a victim of the World Trade Center bombings, gets caught up in the easy answers. He goes so far as to request US marines put his son's name on a bomb dropped in Iraq. The resulting indignant anger and disgust he feels at hearing Bush's admission that Iraq played no part in 9/11 or had any WMDs was an especially compelling story. I wish more Americans were angry about this ultimate sham.

I recommend this film to anyone interested in the future of American democracy, any of the wars the US is fighting, or even folks just interested in seeing where their tax dollars go. Compelling interviews with John McCain, John Eisenhower and others make this worthwile also. Also, for no particular reason, I’m adding a new section to my sidebar of links called Recent Films and Movies. Unlike the other two sections, this one will have links to the films! Yay!

Also, thank you again to Yohei and family in Yamagata for hosting me*


Yohei said...

Hey Tyler, just a bit of correction. The clip you saw about the laundry and the Halliburton or CACI is from "Iraq for Sale." Well, even tho I agree that I don't buy all the things those films explain, since they include "analysis," at least the huge sum of money those companies got is true because of the padded receits they submitted to the US government, which were reported even on the major network news.

Tyler Beal said...

Was it from "Iraq for Sale"? I didn't think we watched that one, but you may have shown me part of it.

Regardless, I thought it was an excellent documentary. The film's explanation of Eisenhower's feelings about the military were spot on. Frequently during his two terms, people questioned the old general's ability to "defend America" because he often didn't support the military ambitions of congress.