June 1, 2006


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Why We Fight (PG-13)
Dwight Eisenhower doesn’t let being dead keep him from starring in a political thriller of his own, Why We Fight, a documentary technically released in 2005 and still making its way through the independent movie circuit.

In his farewell address Eisenhower gave a Washington-style warning about the military-industrial complex and its potential for influencing policy. Why We Fight shows how Eisenhower’s warning became fact and how the collusion between the industry that supplies war, the military that goes to war, the president that sells the war and the Congress that supports war makes going to “war” (or conflict or intervention) every six or seven years an inertia that’s hard to stop. The movie makes its point with a cast including a few retired military and CIA types, John McCain, some Eisenhower kids and assorted journalists and commentators.

What stands out the most in this documentary is what always stands out in documentaries about mid-century American politics — namely, that presidents used to use big words and would, on occasion, talk to the country rather straight-forwardly. Eisenhower made plenty of use of the confused-old-guy and I’d-rather-be-golfing routines during his time in office but the farewell address is amazingly blunt. These guys will suck up way too much power if you let them so look out, he says. Imagine something so informative coming from the White House at any point in the last, say, 20 years.

Why We Fight is not as elegant or as dramatic in its statement as the brilliant documentary The Fog Of War, which stands as one of the best political documentaries dealing with American foreign policy. But Why We Fight is not as hyperbolic or as strident as Fahrenheit 9/11 either. It is simply thought-provoking and engrossing like a well-written magazine article. And, perhaps the highest compliment, this movie makes you want read beyond just the headlines. B

Why We Fight is at Wilton Town Hall Theater and is scheduled for release on DVD on June 27.

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