The Ghost of Watt Tyler

Watt Tyler was one of the leaders of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt. He was a slain by the King’s supporters after drinking a jug of beer “in a very rude and disgusting fashion before the King's face.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Why We Fight

On Sunday I watched the excellent BBC4 documentary Why We Fight (a friend luckily recorded it). Taking as its starting point Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 about the growing power of the military industrial complex it investigates the enormous influence of the defence industry on American public life – with one contributor even suggesting it is now a state of mind. Despite being a bit of a shit in his time, Eisenhower’s warning deserves repeating as it is as relevant as ever:

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 military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Interestingly the original draft said the military industrial congressional complex - perhaps more appropriate given the collusion of Congress.

The director, Eugene Jarecki, manages to tell this complex story through a number of personal stories: a former New York cop, a Vietnamese US bomb maker, an eager army recruit and a whole cast of establishment figures who have fallen out with the neo-cons . Jarecki weaves these disparate tales into a devastating depiction of corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels.

Although there have been a whole rash of excellent and not so excellent films about US imperialism – this one really stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is original and distinctive.