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Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Posted: April 21, 2008 04:50 PM

Live Blogging With John Cusack This Afternoon at Crooks & Liars


A few weeks ago John Amato and I went to see John Cusack's incredible new film, War, Inc. We persuaded him to join us over at Crooks and Liars for a live chat a little closer to the official release date. And today's the day. This week the film will start rolling out in the Toronto area and then in New York City next month. So at 3pm (PT) John is bringing two of his co-writers with him, Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser, and they'll be talking about the movie and answering questions for an hour or so, starting at 3PM (PT), 6PM back East.

The movie is hilarious but you never lose sight of an objective at least as important as entertainment: stark and compelling Truth. I'd venture that Cusack, who says he was inspired by Naomi Klein's 2004 article in Harper's, Baghdad Year Zero, also had Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 retirement speech in the back of his head, the one where the Supreme Allied Commander-turned-President points out that "We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations." Eisenhower goes on to issue a warning that has become his most memorable utterance as president:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-- economic, political, even spiritual-- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.


In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

John Cusack and his colleagues have taken Eisenhower's warning and updated it into a chilling movie set in the not too distant future, at a time when, unfortunately, no one remembers what Ike said or why. A couple of days after I watched the film, Cusack explained why he worked so hard to make this movie, not just as an actor and a writer but also as a producer... the guy who has to raise the money.

I'm deeply troubled about the radical transformation in this country. We filmed it in Bulgaria and we were about to do it for a relatively small budget. Everyone was into it because people know that corporate "ethics" of the new militarized "defense" economy are just hollowing out what it means to be a nation state. All the things that we equate with the core functions of government, from disaster relief, armies, interrogations, jails, border patrol, all these types of things are all for-profit businesses that are kind of a part of the government, but not really. They have no accountability. That's some scary stuff. Erik Prince from Blackwater said 'I want to do to the military what FedEx did to the post office. He didn't mean it as a joke.


The government's role is to basically create the ultimate environment for corporate profit, hollowing out the core of government and just giving it to these companies. They preach about free markets but it's really a protectionist market. They're all socialists and Keynesians on the way down... when the bills come in. It's not just Boeing and Bechtel, Parsons, Lockheed-Martin, Carlyle Group-- not just the gang always hanging around the Greed Zone and locked into the State Department. On Wall Street these cowboys go crazy and the government bails them out and then the bailout isn't big enough and they want it upped. In the meantime if you lost your housing due to the scam... well, that's the "free market." There's a hypocritical way they put out two sets of rules, one for the corporate aristocracy and then one for the rest of us who have to live and die by a "free market" that's not even free... The level of greed and hypocrisy and avarice is beyond anything you can imagine.

That was a lot to think about and to juxtapose with his film. But he wasn't done. He had a polemic from Arundhati Roy he wanted to recite for me. I settled back and got another layer of understanding about what drove him to make War, Inc.

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness-- and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they're selling-- their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.


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