WHY WE FIGHT (Eugene Jarecki). 98 minutes. Opens Friday (February 17). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN
Gone are the days when documentaries had some claim to objective truth. Why We Fight , the Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance last year, is a slick and effective piece of propaganda in the Michael Moore mould.
Writer/director Eugene Jarecki 's jumping-off point is Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 farewell address, where the phrase "the military-industrial complex" originated. Jarecki proposes that American imperialism serves the almighty dollar before anything else: America makes war to make money.
To his credit, he shows both sides of the equation: billion-dollar contracts go to Halliburton, but those contracts do put food on tables. The saddest part is that, had America, with all its talent and creativity, decided to spend those billions on other pursuits, it might have cured cancer or stopped global warming by now.
But the film falls down by ignoring other reasons for war. Yes, the Cold War was profitable, but many in the government honestly thought communism was a global threat. Yes, today's White House may be run by a neo-con cabal that wants to keep America rich, but by all accounts, President Bush is a true believer in spreading democracy, by force if necessary. By downplaying or discounting this kind of patriotic or religious fervour, Jarecki presents only half an explanation, and it's one that Moore and The Daily Show, among others, have done before.