Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Fight Club

War Made Easy examines the methods and media that repeatedly lead us into conflicts

Posted on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death
Release Date: 2007-06-27
Rated: NOT RATED
Genre: Documentary
The presence of American troops in Korea after more than 50 years demonstrates that it is as hard to get out of a war as it is easy to get into one. Even many who now believe that the invasion of Iraq was a gruesome blunder balk at withdrawal. War Made Easy, distributed directly on DVD by the Media Education Foundation (Warmadeeasythemovie.org), is an analysis, illustrated by footage from 1945 to the present, of how wars are devised and sustained. It is an extended interview with Norman Solomon, whose book of the same title provided the film’s premise, which is that American leaders and news media have conspired repeatedly to legitimize military actions abroad. A rational, dispassionate presence, Solomon contends that wars of the past half-century were initiated and executed through fraud: “The sources that have deceived us constantly don’t deserve our trust, and to the extent that we give them our trust we set ourselves up to be scammed again and again.”

Wars, the film shows, have been justified through almost identical declarations about the purity of American motives and the heinousness of foreign leaders. Once combat begins, dissidence, or even skepticism, becomes perfidy. Despite reference to other conflicts, War Made Easy emphasizes parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. Lyndon Johnson’s spurious claim that an American destroyer was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin is juxtaposed with George W. Bush’s disingenuous insistence that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction. Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamization” returns as Bush’s plan to make Iraqis responsible for their own security. Wayne Morse, one of only two senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, anticipates Barbara Lee, the sole member of Congress to vote against extending presidential power after 9/11. George H. W. Bush’s exultation, following the Gulf War, that, “We’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” is belied by the fact that, 30 years later, American troops are again bogged down in a futile conflict. All the more reason to pay attention to the invention and perpetuation of war that this film exposes.

Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp, who wrote and directed War Made Easy, are especially concerned with how mainstream media beat the martial drums. Journalists are accused of retailing official pronouncements without independent investigation. Guilty of what Solomon calls “worship of the gods of metal,” TV, in particular, is enamored of military hardware. The networks hire retired officers vetted by the Pentagon and fire employees, including Phil Donahue and Peter Arnett, who do not buy into the belligerent consensus.

None of this is exactly new to anyone who has followed the criminal debacle of American foreign policy, and anyone who has not is unlikely to seek out this film. War Made Easy makes complex history seem too amenable to easy generalizations. It fudges on whether intervention in Kosovo to prevent genocide was justified and ignores whether U.S. forces might have saved hundreds of thousands in Rwanda and Darfur. However, the film makes the astonishing point that the percentage of civilian casualties has increased dramatically, from 10 percent in World War I to 50 percent in World War II to 70 percent in Korea to 90 percent in Iraq. It redirects the pervasive conversation about Iraq, from whether we are “winning” to whether being there at all is wrong. 

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