Snips of Ike:
Why We Fight
by Henry Edward Hardy
Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight takes as its framework snippets from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous televised farewell to the nation in 1961, often called the “military-industrial complex” speech. Jarecki is best known for The Trials of Henry Kissinger.
One may or may not be sympathetic to the premise of the film, that the United States has become an American Empire, and as such, is behaving badly in the world. Why We Fight makes clever use of icons of the Republican Party such as John McCain and Eisenhower and neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Richard Pearle to make its points.
Why We Fight is also the title of a series of films made for the U.S. government by Frank Capra during World War II. They were commissioned in response to the Nazi use of mass media in films like Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Since then the title has been (mis-)appropriated a number of times, such as the book by former “Drug Czar” William J. Bennett subtitled “Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism”, and the name of a popular Danish rock band.
Jarecki’s Why We Fight has not been widely seen in the U.S. It was shown on the BBC in March 2005 and won the American Documentary Grand Prize at Sundance in 2005. The film would be stronger if it were better-organized and had a less transparent point to make. For those unfamiliar with some of Eisenhower’s later and more progressive thinking, this film is an interesting introduction.
A version of this article appeared previously in Current Magazine and on Electric Current
Copyright © 2006-2007 Henry Edward Hardy