If you're looking for a thoughtful film I recommend Why We Fight. It's a ninety minute documentary about the military industrial complex, beginning with President Eisenhower's warning as he left office in 1960. The film traces the rise of our military industry from the Second World War through Vietnam to the present day. It's a heavy topic, yes, and it's likely to make you very, very upset. Listening to Eisenhower's words one gets the impression the man saw very clearly what was about to happen. "God help the nation," he once said, "when it has a president who doesn't know as much about the military as I do."
In the film former CIA analyst Chalmers Johnson explains what is meant by the term blowback:
"It's a CIA term. Blowback does not mean simply the unintended consequences of foreign operations. It means the unintended consequences of foreign operations that were deliberately kept secret from the American public. So that when the retaliation comes the American public is not able to put it in context, to put cause and effect together. That they come up with questions like 'Why do they hate us?'"
He then analyzes how the inertia of our country's military industrial complex propelled us into war with Iraq:
"The United States is the world's largest consumer of fossil fuels. Oil is what drives the military machine of every country. That is, it provides the fuel for the aircraft, for the ships, for the tanks, for the trucks. Control of oil is indispensible. When you run out of it your army stops.
"There is a direct connection between events that happened more than fifty years ago and the war in Iraq today. In 1953, the prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, became extremely irritated. The British were ripping off his country's national resources. He wanted a greater share in it. The British came to the new President Eisenhower and asked for help on this. Eisenhower very conveniently declared Mossadegh to be a communist. And we then set the CIA to overthrow him.
"The result was we brought the Shah to power and he created the extremely repressive regime that within twenty years had led to a revolution against him. The Ayatollah Khomeini creates a government that is violently anti-American.
"In the after-action report by the CIA on what they had done in Iran in 1953 they said we're going to get some blowback from this. We then made a puppet out of Saddam Hussein in Iraq who was a friend of ours. He was an asset in the CIA's computers. We did so because he was anti-Iranian. He was very fearful that the revolution in Iran would spread into his country. He therefore went to war with Iran. The war was extremely bloody, went on throughout the 1980s. Unfortunately for Saddam Hussein he began to lose the war. At that point in comes the United States in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, sent to Saddam Hussein by President Reagan to tell him we will supply you with intelligence. We will supply you with the weapons you may need through covert means. It's why cynics in Washington say 'We know Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We have the receipts.'
"This is what we mean by blowback. He remained a friend of ours right up to his invasion in the summer of 1990 of Kuwait. We became alarmed when he invaded Kuwait that he could also go on and invade Saudi Arabia itself. The largest reserves of oil on Earth. We stationed troops in Saudi Arabia. It was a mistake in every sense of the term.
"Remember, Osama bin Laden had said I resent the government of Saudi Arabia for using Americans to defend Saudi Arabia against Iraq. At that point we began to fear that we were going to lose our position in Saudi Arabia. Well, the second largest source of proven reserves on Earth are in Iraq. This leads us now to demonize our previous ally and to prepare the American public for the thought that we must take him out."
For more on the inertia of our country's military industrial complex, see Is It Ethics, Loyalty, Respect For Authority, Or Self Interest?