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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