"Why We Fight" exposes "the demon of error" in our Millitary-Industrial Complex

"Why We Fight"- Can America Break the Cycle of a Greek Tragedy?

By James J Murtagh, M.D.

Warning: movie spoiler alert. If you have not seen "Why We FIght", consider seeing the film before reading further.

-Look upon our works, yea mighty, and despair. (apologies to Shelly's Ozymandias)
-It is nowhere written that the American empire goes on forever. (Jared Diamond)

By now, Americans are no longer worried about whether the invasion of Iraq was the right thing for the citizens of Iraq. Americans are not even worried about finding weapons of mass destruction. Today, Americans are instead alarmed that we will not only fail to spread democracy to the Middle East, but will instead destroy America’s own democracy and security.

Eugene Jarecki’s film “Why We Fight” shows war, especially war fought secretly and deceptively, since the time of ancients, often destroys both victor and vanquished.

Homer may have been the first to describe “Blowback,” or the unintended consequences of war.  Both Greek and Trojan societies were destroyed in Homer’s mother of all ancient wars. Even victorious king Agamemnon was assassinated on his return. The conquerer Achilles was left lamenting he would rather be a slave of a peasant than ruler of the strengthless dead.

               It was the end of the golden era.

               Now, America experiences “blowback” of its foreign adventures akin to the Trojan cycle of tragedy. The CIA’s toppled Iranian leaders leading to extremist Mullahs. The US backed Osama bin Ladin, then backed Saddam Hussein. The cycle goes on.

               Today, war aftermath on the homefront brutalizes us, numbs us to loss of freedom, wiretapping and torture, loss of treasured alliances, loss of security, and it appears Greek tragedy repeated again.
Sophocles heard the long note of tragedy long ago on the Agean, as ignorant armies clashed by night.

               War has not led to an Open society for either Iraq or America. Jarecki plays Cassandra to the New World Order, predicting that Iraq is just the beginning of more horrible future wars.

               Can we vow that we will not shed “blood for oil?” Given that our society is absolutely besotted by the need for oil, is there an alternative?

               Eisenhower’s farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961 warned against the “military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower,  a mainstream Republican and our most honored American war hero, was the Achilles of the 20th century, leader of an essentially isolationist party. Eisenhower today would be attacked as a left-wing traitor, as harshly as John Kerry.

               In another cycle of Greek tragedy, Herodotus showed free armies of the Greeks were inspired to fight harder by the corrupt luxury of the Persian despots, exemplified by the tent of Xerxes.

               Now, our elites must ask if Americans will fight to retain the luxuries in the increasing wealth-stratified Enron nation for the top 1% of the population which is rapidly becoming an oligarchy.

               Oil is running out rapidly, guaranteeing world conflict. Paul Roberts in “The End of Oil” shows the world has less than 30 years of fuel left. Mass starvation and cold is coming unless we do something drastic.

               Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond writes that the world at the end of oil appears infinitely worse than a nuclear Armageddon, which by comparison could be quick and merciful. The struggle for life between individual people and nations as oil dwindles would be slow and horrifying, possibly leading to grizzly horrors in “societal failure” as cannibalism.

               Al Gore demands that humanity “make the effort to save the global environment the central organizing principle of our civilization.”

               “Why We Fight” is chock-full impeccable, staunch conservatives. “The United States is the greatest force for good in the world,” according to  John McCain . Noted ex-Pentagon strategist Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski states “I think we fight because basically not enough people are standing up saying, ‘I’m not doing this anymore.’” Charles Lewis states with Dick Cheney, “We elected a government contractor as vice-president.”

               “When war becomes this profitable, you’re going to have more war,” notes a CIA analyst. But what happens when war is not only profitable, but deemed essential to the survival of a nation addicted to oil?

               I am a lung doctor, and we have a wry saying, “Everyone stops smoking eventually.” Well, eventually everyone will eventually not use oil, because we are going to run out of it. The question is, will the end of oil also be the end of society? Will the end of oil be the end of us, or the beginning of something new?

               In a sense, “Why We Fight” is the documentary twin of George Clooney’s “Syriana,” which declares that “Corruption? Corruption is our protection! Corruption keeps us safe and warm! Corruption... is why we win!”

               Other recent films echo this Greek tragedy cycle and link the loss of freedom and war. “Good Night, Good Luck” is a metaphor for loss of press freedom since the war unmatched since the days of McCarthy.

               New York cop Wilton Sekzer lost his son on 9/11. Seker is the heart of the film, and tells how he believed the Iraq invasion would be payback. Seker asked to have his son’s name painted on a bunker-busting “smart-bomb.” Now, Seker feels betrayed to learn that not only was their no link between 9/11 and Iraq, not only were there no weapons of mass destruction, but the bomb with his son’s name hit civilians, not military.

               The heartbreak of one American father was in the end linked to the heartbreak of another father in Iraq. Such is the nature of blowback.