“What are we fighting for?” is the rhetorical question presented to the audience at the beginning of the documentary Why We Fight. “Freedom,” “justice,” and “national interests” should be and are the obvious reasons given by many in response to this seemingly straightforward question. As the film progresses, the insight of experts and everyday citizens are intertwined with images all too familiar and montages of American “intervention.” With these voices and images, the film presents a striking view–a view essentially saying that only one of the three–freedom, justice, or national interests–is the true reason why the United States is and has been going to war since World War II.
This question is quickly answered by experienced politicians and naïve children alike, both with similar, but expected, responses: for the protection of justice and freedom, not just in the United States of America, but around the world and at any price. However, the documentary soon presents statements put forth by former government insiders and political analysts that show a very different story. Not only is it made clear that the terms “freedom” and “justice” are thrown out as blanket terms because of their undeniability, but also the fact that these terms are used to cover up the fact that the United States is going to war under the pretenses of freedom and justice in an attempt to secure its place as the world’s only reigning superpower.
The film then depicts the story of Wilton Sekzer and presents a montage of the Twin Towers collapsing from various angles. As a Vietnam War veteran and New Yorker, he is deeply patriotic. With the terrorist attacks on September 11th, he loses his son and is filled with grief and hate, the same emotions that filled virtually every American who saw the attacks on TV. He is out for blood, seeking the blood of those responsible for his son’s death. With the emotions stirred by these images and experiences, it would seem appropriate, not only in his eyes, but that of every American, for the United States to go to war as it had done after Pearl Harbor in World War II to defend itself from foreign terror. That was exactly what the United States did the following month with the invasion of Afghanistan. This was followed by the invasion of Iraq less than two years later in early 2003. To get back at those responsible, Sekzer requested that his son’s name be written on a bomb headed for Iraq. Rather than presenting it in the patriotically-invigorating light Sekzer had imagined, the filmmaker refers back to several politicians regarding the irrelevancy of the terms “freedom” and “justice” to bring to attention the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11th on United States soil. With that note, Sekzer, like most Americans, felt betrayed by the American government, as he had supported the invasion of Iraq under the pretense that they were in some way involved in the attacks that took his son. As several more people are interviewed, the question “why do we fight?” becomes more and more unclear, as the overuse of “freedom” and “war on terror” has resulted in uncertainty for everyone.
The next scene opens up with another apparently patriotic scene: bombs, planes, and other showings of the United States’ military might and pride. It is revealed that since the dawn of World War II, the private sector has played a major role in the production of weapons and other military goods. Why is this relevant? As John Eisenhower explains, his father, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned the United States against the establishment of a network known as the military-industrial complex. Essentially, this network is a closely knit relationship between the defense industry, military, and bureaucrats in which going to war, according to novelist Gore Vidal, is “very profitable.” By going to war, the military puts itself in a position where there is a constant need for weapons. For the military to obtain weapons on a large scale, there must be an industry producing arms. For bureaucrats, creating jobs such as those required to produce arms in their district means votes for them in elections. As bureaucrats, they want to uphold their positions and ultimately have a say in whether or not the United States can engage the military in foreign affairs. With this notion, the theme of the film becomes clear: the people of the United States have been misled, all in an effort to maintain the highly profitable military-industrial complex.
In the documentary film Why We Fight, a procataleptic approach is taken to reveal that America fights to protect its national interests. Oftentimes, the motive is unclear, as it is masked by the terms “freedom” and “justice.” As those in the film explain, one of these national interests is the growth and maintenance of the United States’ military-industrial complex. The pro-military images associated with patriotism and all too real images of September 11th are broken down by bureaucrats, veterans, analysts, and citzens alike and viewed from a new scope–the scope of truth. Although many of those speaking in the film, primarily bureaucrats and military engineers, may benefit from their involvement in any of the three sectors of the military-industrial complex, they remove themselves from the images associated with them in an effort to shed light on the truth. In all, the film presents a fair representation amongst all socioeconomic, political, and racial groups, albeit all with the same ideals, in an attempt to answer the question “what are we fighting for?”