'Why We Fight'
But 60 years later, and in the middle of a very different war, Jarecki's movie moves in a very different direction, away from simplistic arguments of good and evil and into a far more complicated discussion of America's post-9/11 identity, and how the nation's government seems to be just a cog in the perpetual-motion machine of the war industry.
Any topical documentary risks seeming dated ... but a year and a half after its Sundance 2005 premiere, "Why We Fight" reaches DVD commercial release perfectly placed to join the debate about the Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program, and the larger arguments about the president's presumptive sidestepping of Congressional authority in the name of, well, whatever he wants.
Jarecki's film addresses the issue in a very simple and heartbreaking way, through his interview with Wilton Sekzer, a retired policeman whose son died in the World Trade Center. Driven by an entirely understandable mix of rage and grief, Sekzer petitioned the Pentagon to stencil his son's name on a bomb that was dropped on Iraq, only to realize that, since the Iraq war was launched under false pretenses, the Bush Administration had allowed his son's name to be perverted in the cause of propaganda.
Now, obviously, if you don't see it that way, this is not a movie for you. "Why We Fight" is without question a biased assemblage of interviews and archival footage, specifically intended to push back against the onslaught of right-wing aggression disguised as patriotic fervor. But telling the truth used to be considered patriotic, too.
As one might expect for a documentary with so much to say, Sony's enhanced-widescreen DVD comes loaded down with supplements, thoughtfully divided into subsections.
"Audio Commentary" is a feature-length conversation between Jarecki and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell (and, more recently, a voluble critic of the Bush administration) that expands upon several of the film's themes. It's required listening for political junkies as well as history buffs.
"Extra Scenes" presents half an hour of deleted material as five complete sequences, including a much more considered examination of Eisenhower's transformation from stalwart military man to concerned citizen and a primer on the fallacy of "smart" weapons.
"The Characters" similarly collects unused footage, but in this case it uses it to present enhanced views of five of the film's subjects -- offering further details of Karen Kwiatkowski's career, for example, or providing a final grace note to Wilton Sekzer's quest to honor his dead son.
And "Talking About Why We Fight" features excerpts from Jarecki's promotional tour, with appearances on "The Charlie Rose Show" and "The Daily Show" and about 10 minutes of footage from post-screening Q&As.
In a thoughtful touch, all of the supplemental material is presented in enhanced widescreen, with the TV material windowboxed within the 16:9 frame, just as the standard TV footage is framed within the feature.
STUDIO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
TIME: 99 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles; audio commentary; deleted scenes; additional footage; promotional appearances.
INTERNET SITE: www.whywefight.com