This hard-hitting documentary begins with footage of General MacArthur at the end of World War II predicting an era of peace. But since then we have seen the United States make war, not peace, in Korea, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Gulf, and Iraq.
Successive presidents and policy makers in Washington have tried to convince the public that war is always the last resort. "We will seek no wider war," said President Johnson. "The United States does not start fights," said President Reagan. "America does not seek conflict," contended President George H. W. Bush. "I don't like to use military force," said President Bill Clinton. "Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly," stated President George W. Bush. And each of them, like the present administration, came up with a catch phrase ("the axis of evil") to justify military intervention.
Directors Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp of the Media Education Foundation have adapted Norman Solomon's book of the same title into a documentary film, which includes archival footage of American officials and media disseminating pro-war messages. Actor and activist Sean Penn narrates the film. Solomon points out how propaganda was used to convince people that war advances the cause of freedom and democracy. For example, the Bush Administration made the post-9/11 connection between Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, and Al Qaeda. Instead of serving as an independent critic of government, the so-called liberal media were partners with Washington in stoking the engines of war. Phil Donahue, a critic of the war, was fired by MSNBC. Others who didn't march under the patriotic banner were roundly condemned as traitors by talk show hosts and others.
Solomon criticizes the media's support of the military perspective in the war in Iraq, the worship of new war technology, and the use of embedded journalists. He states in the documentary, "News media down the road will point out that there were lies about the Gulf of Tonkin or about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But that doesn't bring back any of the people who have died. . . . When it comes to life and death, the truth comes too late." The filmmakers bring this point home by noting that civilian death were 10 % of World War I casualties whereas in Iraq they comprise 90 % of the casualties. This is "the madness of militarism" which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke about shortly before his death.
American citizens have to speak up and let Washington know that war cannot be conducted in the name of peace. Hopefully some day soon, journalists will feel compelled to return to one of their most important duties: to speak truth to power.