Why We Fight is a film about the United States "military industrial complex" in the context of 9/11 and the Iraq War.
Awww—another one? I expected yet one more tedious indie-media style documentary, or a semi-hysterical rant, á la Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. At the very least, I prepared to spend 98 minutes getting hit over the head with a dissection of Bush's march into Iraq.
I was wrong. The film opens up with archival footage of Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1961 farewell address, wherein Eisenhower warns against the military industrial complex—a new phenomenon back then—getting out of control: "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."
Why We Fight soldiers on, artfully outlining how (and why) we got from Ike's speech 45 years ago to Baghdad. Relying on more archival footage, a vast array of interviews—featuring everyone from John McCain and neo-conservative lobbyist William Kristol, to Gore Vidal and the guys who dropped the first bombs of Operation Iraqi Freedom—and complemented by vignettes of a retired NYPD cop who lost his son on 9/11, and a young guy in New York who's enlisting in the army, this film showcases how the United States is "beholden to the military industrial complex," and following in the footsteps of ancient Rome in trying to build an empire. (I trust you remember what happened to Rome.)
More impressively, director Eugene Jarecki manages to put together a documentary about a polarizing topic in a nonpartisan way; blame is laid at every president's feet. Indeed, Jarecki delayed release of his film—which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival—until after last year's election, to avoid the perception that he's pushing propaganda. I, for one, wish that voters—all of whom live in a state where a piece of the war machine chugs along, "so our companies can get rich," and so Congress won't dismantle it (and kill jobs in their home districts) anytime soon—had a chance to see this powerful film last year, but better late than never.