In 2005, Norman Solomon released his book, War Made Easy, which exposes the manner in which US presidents manage to sell war, like clockwork, through the same fallacious arguments, largely with the help of a compliant media.
Two years later the Media Education Foundation's Loretta Alper has adapted Solomon's book into a documentary film. The movie features footage of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and our current president making frighteningly similar arguments about the motives for wars. All claim that violence is a means to peace and that war is the last resort. "We still seek no wider war," said Johnson. "The United States does not start fights," said Reagan. "America does not seek conflict," argued George H.W. Bush "I don't like to use military force," said Bill Clinton. "Out nation enters this conflict reluctantly," says George W. Bush.
As the movie points out, the mainsteam media only turn against war when it is too late. "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," notes Solomon in the film. "But that doesn't bring back any of the people who have died ... when it comes to life and death, the truth comes out too late."
It is a chilling and persuasive movie. Solomon hopes it can serve as an organizing tool --and a call to action. "In my 40 years as a journalist and activist I have learned that it is important to see grassroots activity as central and not as peripheral" he says.
In that spirit the filmmakers are helping to organize screenings around the country in the hope that it will spark anti-war activity. So far there have been dozens of screenings of the film -- in churches, at meetings, and in people's living rooms. The meetings have been organized by various groups committed to peace, such as the Progressive Democrats of America and Veterans for Peace.
These grassroots screenings, says Solomon, offer people ways to see the film--and, perhaps even more important, help spark a dialogue between activists. "The most common reactions to the film have been feelings of grief and anger, as well as a heightened resolve to end this war and to prevent future ones," said Solomon. A recent screening in California, for example, prompted discussions on how to advance legislation to call for bringing California National Guardsmen home from Iraq. "Activists are making the film their own ... it's a sharing process that moves us forward in the directions we need to go," said Solomon.
The Nation plans to screen this film on next week's Nation Cruise, and those interested in attending or hosting a screening of War Made Easy in their town can find details at the film's web site.
Michael Corcoran is a former Nation intern and freelance journalist residing in Boston. His work has appeared in The Nation, the Boston Globe and Campus Progress. He can be reached at www.michaelcorcoran.blogspot.com.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.
© 2007 The Nation