As we approach March 19th, 20 years will have passed since the small imperial coalition of the willing launched the "shock and awe" attack on the people of Iraq as the opening operation of the still ongoing, never-ending, so-called war on terror. In the days, months, years, and decades after the events of 9-11, there are still arguments that the attacks happened because the brutes hate "our freedom," a uniquely USian argument of exceptionalism.
Understanding the role of the United States and other imperial powers in the "middle east," Africa, Asia, Latin America, and inside the US, particularly the military and civilian operations kept hidden from the public, is a crucial lesson in critical thinking. Learning about clandestine military and intelligence operations helps contextualize how so much of the victimhood language used by politicians and people in positions of power is about explaining away the consequences of blowback. According to Chalmers Johnson, "the term "blowback," invented by the CIA, refers to the unintended results of American actions abroad…[and] the dangers faced by our overextended empire, which insists on projecting its military power to every corner of the earth and using American capital and markets to force global economic integration on its own terms."
This post is a suggestion about a film and an idea to screening this film with friends and family after or before a meal to discuss the ongoing implications of a war and surveillance-based security economy on culture, social relations, political power, and the health of the planet.
The 2006 documentary film, Why We Fight, by Eugene Jarecki, released three years into the war in Iraq that would spread across the planet, examines the historical justifications and reasonings for war, how US culture is a culture that venerates war and violence with a vengeance and revenge as a central narrative accompanying and reinforcing the argument that the US is a victim – of terror, of foreign aggression, of economic exploitation, or Indigenous self-defense, or…the Madlib possibilities are maddeningly massive.
"An unflinching look at the anatomy of American war-making. Granted unparalleled Pentagon access, the film launches a nonpartisan inquiry into the forces — political, economic, and ideological — that drive America to fight. Inspired by President Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 Farewell Address in which he warned Americans about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex," filmmaker Jarecki ("The Trials of Henry Kissinger") weaves unforgettable stories of everyday Americans touched by war with commentary by a "who's who" of military and Washington insiders. Featuring John McCain, Gore Vidal, Richard Perle and others, WHY WE FIGHT explores a half-century of U.S. foreign policy from World War II to the Iraq War, revealing how, as Eisenhower warned, political and corporate interests have become alarmingly entangled in the business of war. On a deeper level, what emerges is a portrait of a nation in transition — drifting dangerously far from her founding principles toward a more imperial and uncertain future."
This film explains how and why the US government teaches citizens that the US should be the police of the world. It explores American Exceptionalism as a myth that, combined with a victim-narrative, has provided the justification for wars of aggression disguised as humanitarian missions for the defense of democracy.
The film asks: Is the US an empire? And if so, for how long? Who benefits from the empire and how? How do you hide an empire?
You can check out the trailer here. The full documentary is available on different interweb sites for streaming.