Monday, April 21, 2008



A few weeks ago I mentioned how I had gone to see John Cusack's incredible new film, War, Inc.. John Amato and I persuaded John Cusack to join us over at Crooks and Liars for a live chat a little closer to the official release date. And today's the day. This week the film will start rolling out in the Toronto area and then in New York City. So at 3pm (PT) John is bringing two of his co-writers with him, Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser, and they'll be talking about the movie and answering questions for an hour or so.

The movie is hilarious but you never lose sight of an objective at least as important as entertainment: stark and compelling Truth. I'd say Cusack, who says he was inspired by Naomi Klein's 2004 article in Harper's Baghdad Year Zero, had Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 retirement speech in the back of his head, the one where the Supreme Allied Commander-turned-President points out that "We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations." Eisenhower goes on to issue a warning that has become his most memorable utterance as president:
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 militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

John Cusack and his colleagues have taken Eisenhower's warning and updated it into a chilling movie set in the not too distant future, at a time when, unfortunately, no one remembers what Ike said or why. A couple of days after I watched the film, Cusack explained why he worked so hard to make this movie, not just as an actor and a writer but also as a producer, the guy who has to raise the money.
I'm deeply troubled about the radical transformation in this country. We filmed it in Bulgaria and we were about to do it for a relatively small budget. Everyone was into it because people know that corporate "ethics" of the new militarized "defense" economy are just hollowing out what it means to be a nation state. All the things that we equate with the core functions of government, from disaster relief, armies, interrogations, jails, border patrol, all these types of things are all for-profit businesses that are kind of a part of the government, but not really. They have no accountability. That's some scary stuff. Erik Prince from Blackwater said 'I want to do to the military what FedEx did to the post office. He didn't mean it as a joke.

The government's role is to basically create the ultimate environment for corporate profit, hollowing out the core of government and just giving it to these companies. They preach about free markets but it's really a protectionist market. They're all socialists and Keynesians on the way down... when the bills come in. It's not just Boeing and Bechtel, Parsons, Lockheed-Martin, Carlyle Group-- not just the gang always hanging around the Greed Zone and locked into the State Department. On Wall Street these cowboys go crazy and the government bails them out and then the bailout isn't big enough and they want it upped. In the meantime if you lost your housing due to the scam... well, that's the "free market." There's a hypocritical way they put out two sets of rules, one for the corporate aristocracy and then one for the rest of us who have to live and die by a "free market" that's not even free... The level of greed and hypocrisy and avarice is beyond anything you can imagine.

That was a lot to think about and to juxtapose with his film. But he wasn't done. He had a polemic from Arundhati Roy he wanted to recite for me. I settled back and got another layer of understanding about what drove him to make War, Inc.
Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness-- and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they're selling-- their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

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At 1:39 PM, Blogger Milt Shook said...

I can't wait to see this film. Besides being a huge John Cusack fan, it sounds like a great film about what is really happening out there.

Good luck with the film, and know that at least one ticket's sold. Actually, two; I'll drag my son to it, as well. He's old enough to vote this year... and he likes Obama...


At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh boy! Where to start? The original post deserves more study--but time is short...Overall question: What goal(s) do you wish your film to achieve? What effect do you honestly believe your film will have on public perceptions?

Harry Truman reportedly had a deep distrust of two politicians--according to interviews by David Susskind in the very early 1960's. The two were Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower. Why Eisenhower?

I can't tell from this blog--Naomi Watts wrote a great article. As of that publication, my brother was listed as "out of contact" in Faluja. He was there to kick start humanitarian aide programs. But the country was too dangerous even for the veteran aide program folks, so when he was located, the office there was closed down. Soldiers I spoke with told a story that sounded like everyone was just flying by the seat of their pants. These days, the soldiers tell different stories. Some things and something changed. What was it?
And finally, with no intent to insult, and again, no knowledge of what you, personally,have or have not done--the original post speaks of this big mob of corporate greed and self interest masquerading as a government of the people. But the people are really just chattel, a means to an end...The same things are said about the "entertainment" business. You are part of that business--but, by making this film you are not? I imagine you have or will hear this comment--how do you respond? Have you exposed any truths about wars and government that are any different than what they have ever been? I'm thinking Howard Zinn, Sun Magazine, etc.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear commenter, wars and governments are basically the same down through time but take on different guises in each generation or so making the oppression (& tyranny) more difficult to spot. Cusack's film helps remove the veils from the current round of authoritarian pillaging and plundering, allowing us to see more clearly (and some to see for the first time) that amoral powermongers run this country and the hypercapitalist system that holds sway over most of the world's energy sources, finances, and populations. So maybe place your sanctimonious-type question back at yourself: What have YOU done to move the world toward more truth and liberty and equality?

No offense intended.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger karen said...

I just saw some recent pics of john cusack with jodi okeefe. I think I'm gonna vomit now. YUK! For those of us that are in love with him, I could of gone forever without seeing that. YUK! Can I slit my wrists now.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger karen said...

It's o.k. you don't have to talk about it. I know you don't like to.

At 7:14 AM, Blogger karen said...

When I saw John with Jodi it was like...Well, it felt like...It was like the cabbage patch doll came alive in a reformed chucky movie. AAUUGGHH!! I would probably be upset if he were with anyone besides myself though...God why did you do this to me? I mean how ridiculous. You know that would be impossible. Amen.


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