Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008

Sean Penn on War and Peace

By David Luhrssen
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Americans looked forward to what one columnist called "a new world of peace" after World War II, but history took the opposite course. Between rapid incursions, air strikes and massive interventions, the U.S. military has seldom rested for long. War Made Easy, a documentary produced by the Media Education Foundation, asks why. It will be out on DVD in March.

Although War Made Easy is narrated by Sean Penn, the critical voice belongs to syndicated columnist Norman Solomon, who supplies the production with its perspective and analysis. If one or two assertions require more qualification, Solomon's assessment is generally accurate. Since World War II the same justifications for conflict have been rolled out by president after president, including the rhetoric of spreading democracy, the assertion that war will benefit the people being warred against and the threat posed to America by enemies real or exaggerated. The media inevitably parrots the government line, albeit when the government's objectives bog down, as in Vietnam and Iraq, many pundits will distance themselves from the politicians and reevaluate their positions.

Much of the DVD's footage concerns the build-up for the Iraq invasion, juxtaposed with coverage of the Vietnam War. In both cases the official drumbeat echoed throughout the media as the press repeated official falsehoods and misinformation over and again without reflection. Anyone of importance who objected to the government agenda, notably MSNBC's Phil Donahue and Peter Arnett, were fired. Allowing itself to be manipulated by the White House, CNN became the willing stooges of Bush's policy. Fox News went even further with their foaming, rabid endorsement of the war and denunciations of anyone who didn't share their enthusiasm. Well, one expects no less from Rupert Murdoch's rigid ideologues.

Even more disheartening is footage from other reporters from the Iraq front, embedded or not, gibbering over the effectiveness of smart bombs and daisy cutters with the idiot enthusiasm one expects from over-caffeinated play-by-play announcers. War Made Easy demonstrates that democracy, which depends on an informed public, has been ill served.

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