Michael Moore's 9-11

Culture Watch

Mr. Briley is Assistant Headmaster, Sandia Preparatory School.

The film the Disney Corporation didn’t want you to see is doing quite well at the box-office. Fahrenheit 9/11, filmmaker Michael Moore’s indictment of the Bush administration’s mishandling of the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq, is the number one film in America; with its first weekend release receipts exceeding the $21.6 million total gross of Moore’s Bowling for Columbine.

Fahrenheit 9/11 has already earned the wrath of some right-wing political groups, such as Citizens United, which contend that television commercials for the film violate campaign finance restrictions regarding the broadcasts of commercials paid by unregulated money from corporations or unions. The Federal Election Commission has yet to rule on the matter, but one may rest assured that Citizens United had no objections to the continuous coverage of the Reagan state funeral in which the Bush administration shamelessly attempted to wrap itself in the mantle of the former president.

So what’s all the fuss about? Documentary films are hardly objective, and Moore has publicly observed that his intention with this film is to assure President Bush’s electoral defeat this fall. So the real question is not whether Moore is partisan in his politics, but how strong is his case against the president?

Moore begins his film with the disputed election of 2000, a topic which the filmmaker explored in some depth with his best-selling book Stupid White Men. The film depicts a bumbling president whose legitimacy is tainted. However, everything changed on the morning of September 11 as planes crashed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Moore does not contend, as some conspiracy theorists allege, that the Bush administration orchestrated the attacks. But Fahrenheit 9/11 does assert that the president and his advisers were negligent in their response to the Al Qaeda threat. While his conclusions here are in agreement with many of the reservations expressed by the 9/11 Commission and former terror czar Richard Clarke, Moore chooses to make his point visually through focusing upon the dazed expression on the president’s face as he continued to read along with Florida school children for nearly ten minutes after being informed that the nation was under attack.

Moore, however, does appear to drift a little more into the conspiracy camp as he examines the relationship between the Bush family and Saudi dynasty. Retracing the ground plowed by authors Kevin Phillips and Craig Unger, Moore establishes that the Saudis have personal and financial ties to the Bush family through such international conglomerates as the Carlyle Group. The filmmaker suggests that the Bush family may have more loyalty to the Saudis than the American people, but it is somewhat unclear as to where all of this is leading. Moore seems to conclude that there is a connection between 9/11 and the Saudis (after all, most of the terrorists were Saudis, not Iraqis), but here Moore is perhaps more akin to director Oliver Stone’s JFK. Motivations for conspiracy are established, but little convincing evidence is offered.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is on a firmer foundation when Moore turns his focus upon the Bush fixation with Iraq. The film convincingly argues that the Bush administration manipulated the terrorist threat to foster fear among the American people and build support for an invasion of Iraq. Moore documents the misrepresentations, or dare we say lies, of the president and his advisers regarding Saddam Hussein’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi dictator, a notion whose veracity has supposedly been put to rest by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. Moore also goes after corporations such as Halliburton, which have secured lucrative government contracts for supplying troops and rebuilding Iraq. Evidently such attacks are beginning to hit their targets. When Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy took aim at Halliburton on the floor of the Senate, former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney responded that the senator should engage in an anatomically impossible action.

In addition, Moore provides viewers with the grisly war footage of maimed Iraqis and American soldiers which has been missing from Pentagon-manipulated media coverage of the war. The face of war is not pretty, and Moore disturbs and challenges us with these images.

The filmmaker also returns to his home town of Flint, Michigan to support his contention that the war in Iraq is also being waged against the poor in this country. Especially disconcerting is a scene in which two Marine recruiters prey upon unemployed African-American youth. Denied other opportunities, these young men believe they have no other escape from poverty than the military. Moore does seem to exploit the grief of Leila Lipscomb, whose son was killed in Iraq, but it is difficult to deny his argument that the poor are bearing the brunt of the Iraqi conflict. This point is cleverly brought home when Moore stands outside the Capitol steps and encourages members of Congress to enlist their sons and daughters in the war. Needless to say, he gets no takers. Only one member of Congress has a child serving in Iraq.

Moore concludes his film by asserting that we should never again risk the lives of our young people in wars which are not essential for the country’s security. The last shot is one of the president’s bumbling speeches in which he asserts if you are fooled twice, then shame on you. The film then fades to black, and the credits begin to roll to the sound of Neil Young’s Rocking in the Free World. Many audiences, including the one in which I screened the film, then burst into spontaneous cheering and applause.

What will be the impact of Moore’s film? It is playing to larger than anticipated audiences. But is the filmmaker simply preaching to the converted as did Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? At the least, Moore’s film is galvanizing the anti-Bush base to work harder for the president’s electoral defeat. On the other hand, fragmentary and anecdotal newspaper accounts suggest that the film is raising some reservations among swing voters. Whether or not one completely buys into the political ideology of Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11 does raise some troubling questions which should be part of the political discourse in a democracy which values free speech and artistic freedom.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

DeWayne Edward Benson - 2/6/2005

When ever I see someone who might have a valid reason to say Fahrenheit 911 was pack of lies, or without merit in fact, I immediately ask for (one) specific instance such as in the Gil Troy diatribe.

As was evident in his article, there is a lot of character assassination, but no valid point. Unless of course as in the onset of his article, comparing a fine wine from a south slope in France (Chev-radiator) to crackers has some significance.

His imagination does have a tendency of running off all the tracks, as in trying to connect the Florida 2000-elections with putting down africans. The jest of his argument placing the "sloppy" situation as SOP in everyday events. Of course with the right blinders, you could ignore the "GOP-Mob" that was imported into Florida, the same seen on TV blocking Fed-Judges in the process of (trying) to count votes.

His erroneous statement charging F911 erred in "Republican coup to terrify Americans and fight the lovely people of Iraq, rather than a story of Islamicist terrorist evil exploiting American." We are to forget (?) that Bush-admin said this war was to "free the good Iraqi from Saddam the evil dictator." Now unless I read something into his statement, Islamicist are ALL "TERRORISTS."

His confusing charge is that F911 was an attempt to "tar Bush with a Saudi brush." Beg pardon, Bush(sr) was the man whose job was to ... Saudi Carlyle Group investor rears. Ever wonder what Salem bin Laden was doing in Texas in 1988, when he died in the plane accident?

He also claimed that the Saudi and Osama member's were all handled in ordinary and normal procedures. The fact is these people had to have had top-level clearance for planes flying around America picking them up (during No-Fly restrictions), this seems not to have drawn much of his attention. Also in fact many had only their names taken and no interrogation, according to this intelligence expert, this is normal operating procedure.

His attempt to diefy Reagan is another point of recognition, considering some citizens of this nation were able to discover the 1979 Iraq arms restriction. Iraq had been placed under a "Terrorist Supporting Nation" list, effectively Embargoing all military and other "WMD" sales to Saddam. Pres-Reagan in 1982 removed this Embargo, permitting (Legal Sale) of "WMD" to Saddam. Rummy being sent in 1982-3 to enlist this Mass Murderer in our war with Iran. Some may remember our "Oil-Friendly" dictator SHAH and his SAVAK Secret-Police, whose dictatorship fell apart when the Shah died of cancer in 1980.

His statement "Having demonized all Saudis as murderers and caricatured the Bushies as their greedy accomplices, Moore then minimizes Saddam Hussein’s evil." Here he brushes aside Reagan-Bush setting up Saddam in the first place, even providing US Hi-Tech spy-plane and satellite data, then setting back and covering up fact Saddam used this data during their terms in office to Poison-Gas both Iran and Iraq villages.

His mention of Kuwait completely missed the point that Pres-Bush(sr) after being informed by Saddam of a plan to attack Kuwait, Bush immediately sent a diplomat informing Saddam we had no interest in what he planned. The secret plans of these Radicals (later called "PNAC") becoming apparent, when Pres-Bush in 1992 sends CIA-Spies to Iraq in place of UNSCOM Weapons Inspectors.

He talks of "broad sacrifices in fighting terrorism", which possibly means the Corp-Contractors now in Iraq, whose numbers are greater than any (foriegn) military now helping Bush in "Mission Complete-Oilfields Secure) war.

What I came away with from reading the Professor of History 'Troys' article, is that he makes a better "shill" for bushwacker than knowledgeable teacher.
Try this bud, read up on "SAVAK Secret Police," and what nation helped install the atrocity. Check out the (CIA-Dir GHW BUSH asset) Manuel Noriega "Kangaroo Court Trial," then watch junior with his Saddam Hussein.

He makes a critical statement of "Predictably, the one grieving mother of an American soldier Moore shows is a saintly patriot whose son was anti-war and who herself rejects the war." Somehow this is wrong, yet has this well informed man said anything important, such as the Pentagon found propagandizing young soldiers in Iraq. Or the Form Letters sent to hometown papers, some from soldiers who admit never having seen the letter. During The Reagan lawless years, Congress caught and stopped the Pentagon propagandizing American citizens. Today if you go online in AOL, you may now hear "You've Got Propaganda."

All in all, I hope I've started some people checking into the propaganda put out by the "professor," also checking out to verify what I have written. My advice, if you have a chance, don't even enroll your pit-bull in one of his classes.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/1/2004

Having recently seen the film, I must say, I find little that has been proven to be factually incorrect. Most of Moore's most conspiratorial ideas are not presented as facts at all, but posed as a question. For example, having given information that is presumably true (until I learn otherwise), Moore asks if it is possible that Bush listens to the Saudis more than Americans. However, it is not a statement of fact, it is a rhetorical question intentionally designed to make you think about of something.

So what would I grade the movie if it were a term paper? I have no idea, since Moore is not making the film as an academic, and films can almost capture the precision and data of a term paper (unless the information is simply flashed on the screen). However, I can grade the film as a mere viewer. Overall, I give the film an A. The people that Moore interviews is not representative of everyone, but Moore never claims that they are. My point is the film is very entertaining, at times extremely funny, at other times extremely poignant. I enjoyed seeing it and am pleased that it is doing so well.

William A. Henslee - 6/30/2004

Although many on the left are cheering the movie, if it were a serious academic exercise, I wonder what grade they would give it.

Has the thesis (Bush action in Iraq based in family conspiracy with Saudis and Big Oil)been backed up by facts or malice-ridden innuendo and wild assertions?

Robert Harbison - 6/30/2004

Far better Analysis than the skreed that Gil Troy wrote.

Lisa Kazmier - 6/30/2004

I'm in St. Louis, so my audience applauded at the end but also when Moore's voice over states that voters in Missouri preferred a dead guy to Ashcroft. That could be read as a statement of frustration with politicians in general as well as a distaste for this one in particular.

Speaking of which, I saw an article on the VP's visit to Yankee Stadium last night. That venue has been quite patriotic in almost a Patton-esque way, playing lots of Kate Smith during the 7th innning stretch and such (yesterday the feature was Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, a fan favorite). Anyway, when Cheney was put on the scoreboard so that fans could see him, booing was audible, though it may have come from half the crowd versus all. The operator apparently noted this and quickly dropped the image.

Joe Dryden - 6/30/2004

If the comparison is to be with Gibson's "Passion," it is likely that "F911" will do more than preach to the converted. "Passion" appealed most broadly not to the conservative Catholics whence its message derived, but to Protestant Fundies. It also invited untold numbers to rethink their faith -- a phenomenon I watched play out for months on my college campus. Amidst the welter of corporate-dominated media, Moore's film tells us that not only are we not alone, but that our numbers are growing.