Directed by Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp. With Norman Solomon, narrated by Sean Penn. Distributed by Media Education Foundation. 1 hour, 13 mins.

No MPAA rating.

(adult themes). Playing at: Roxy Theater

Neither as ambitious nor as thorough as the 2006 documentary Why We Fight, Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp's War Made Easy makes a strong case that when it comes to military action, the American public has been deceived by presidents from Lyndon Johnson on down the line to the current occupant of the White House.

From the Gulf of Tonkin to Saddam's WMDs, War Made Easy shows how successive U.S. governments have manipulated the press, and exploited the patriotism of citizens, using what the filmmakers call "the rhetoric of democracy" to engage in war.

If this sounds like the stuff of lefty liberals, well, maybe it is. Adapted from Norman Solomon's 2005 book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death - and featuring Solomon as its principal talking head - the film nevertheless seems on solid footing as it examines the way the news media have been "handled" by respective administrations.

Even Walter Cronkite, the sainted CBS anchor whose on-air condemnation of LBJ's Vietnam policies is considered a turning point in the public's sentiment against that war, is seen in an "embedded" report jazzed and gung ho, having just flown in a jet on a bombing mission over Vietnamese jungles.

War Made Easy also offers a frightening excerpt from the Nixon White House tapes in which the president urges his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, to "think big" and consider using nuclear weapons against the enemy.

Sobering and more than a little scary, War Made Easy should give pause even to the rightest of right-wing conservatives. If you can't trust Fox News, then who can you trust?

- Stephen Rea