In the Orwellian world of U.S. politics, often it takes artists to
say the truth that otherwise can't be said -- or heard.
Stanley Kubrick brought home the reality of militarism and the
madness of U.S. nuclear doctrine in Dr. Strangelove as no nonfiction
work of the time could. Sidney Lumet's Network did the same for the
corporate takeover of our culture.
Today, John Cusack's War, Inc. fires a similar shot across the bow of
our tortured political discourse.
War, Inc. is a Swiftian allegory of the world not as it might be in
some possible future but as it is today, with a performance from Ben
Kingsley as memorable as Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove. (It also
features a deconstruction by Hilary Duff of her own fame and our
twisted, sexist culture that has to be seen to be believed.)
The film is scathing, farsighted, bold, and truer than nonfiction.
Cusack and the stellar cast of War, Inc. don't blink. War, Inc. takes us inside the world of war profiteers, war makers, embedded journalists,
mercenaries, entertainment moguls, and "disaster capitalists" (as
Naomi Klein has called them) who form the interlinking
Set in fictional Turaqistan, the film tells us more about Iraq -- and
U.S. politics -- today than anything on offer from the establishment
media, with it's 24/7 barrage of abuse of our intelligence.
Without the complicity of the corporate media, even many journalists
will now acknowledge, the invasion of Iraq could never have happened.
But few have commented on the fact that the occupation could not have
continued for so long -- with the prospect of lasting for years to
come -- without the media's continued subservience to power.
The people who got it so wrong on Iraq are the "experts" we hear from
constantly, while those who predicted the disaster of this occupation
-- and those who worked to prevent it -- are rarely, if ever, heard.
And now we hear from the same politicians and pundits who led us into
Iraq why we cannot leave.
In our Orwellian media landscape, every word of political discourse
has two meanings: its actual meaning and its political meaning.
Take for example the simple word "withdrawal."
If you asked any person on the street what it would mean to
"withdraw" from Iraq -- an idea that a significant majority of the
country supports -- they would likely say "removing all military
personal from Iraq." Ask a follow up question, and they'd likely
agree that this would also mean removing all mercenaries and military
bases, as well.
But read any article in the New York Times or listen to NPR, and
"withdrawal" means something entirely different: redeployment of some
U.S. troops from our overstretched military, while keeping tens of
thousands in Iraq, alongside perhaps an even greater number of
mercenaries, as well as the largest embassy of any government in the
world, and military bases, in Iraq, at least until the year 2013, and
probably well beyond. (Not to mention likely escalating the air war
against Iraq, while keeping tends of thousands of troops nearby in
position to re-invade.)
That is, "withdrawal" means continuing the occupation.
The debate around Iraq today is as specious as the case for the war
in the first place. It is over the tactics of the occupation, or at
best the strategy, not the fundamental immorality of it. What cannot
be said is that we have no right to be in Iraq in the first place.
That we have destroyed the country, not rebuilt it. That we have
fueled civil war, not prevented it. That we are opposed to genuine
democracy for the Iraqi people, not "bringing democracy." That we are
there for our own interests, and by "our" I mean the interests of the
handful of people who benefit from this war -- the people help up to
examination in War, Inc. -- not the interests of the Iraqi people, who
more and more we hear politicians blaming for the problems we have
In times such as these, the role of filmmakers, musicians, poets,
playwrights is vital. And it's why we should be encouraging everyone
to see War, Inc. and the other important films that this war has
generated, including Paul Haggis's powerful In the Valley of Elah and
Cusack's heartbreaking Grace Is Gone.
John Cusack has proved himself to be one of the most thoughtful,
intelligent, and risk-taking film makers of our time. In the upside
down world we are in today, we need more films like War, Inc. and
more artists like Cusack, if we are going to set it right.