Return to main page
In retrospect, my opinions have changed slightly since writing this. I still strongly disagree with Fahrenheit 9/11, the foreign policy ideology behind its creation, and, most importantly, the method with which these views are conveyed, but my criticisms would now likely take a different tone. My foreign policy views now are very similar to those described here.
By Travis Snyder
Red font indicates exact quotes from a reference. References found at the bottom of the page. Comments are appreciated.
Excerpts/highlights summarized with accompanying news articles include The Florida Recount, The Draft Myth, The War In Iraq, The UN, Iraq and Darfur and Arab Governments and Causes of Terrorism.It was a difficult decision to make, to see or not to see the infamous documentary that was claimed to be little more than leftist propaganda. By viewing the movie I would be putting money in the pockets of liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and the Weinstein brothers, a thought that made me shiver. Admittedly, I was first drawn in by the wide media coverage and the incessant railings against the film by the conservative media. My somewhat recent discovery of the disingenuous political maneuverings and constant demagoguery of issues by the Democratic party (and political parties in general) left me curious as to how far they would really go. And, I apologize to any conservatives reading this, in the back of my mind I had lingering doubts that it was really as bad as all the conservative pundits made it out to be. In other words, I suspected that, similar to the mudslinging and fear mongering that was the reaction of some liberals to the ‘Passion of the Christ’, certain conservatives might be tempted to do the same. In my constant quest for the truth I was eager to catch overzealous conservatives in any falsehoods they might engage in and from then on avoid their columns and denounce them for their blind partisanship.
As I battled between these conflicting feelings of guilt, curiosity, and suspicion, a single event pushed me over the edge: the public attendance and statements from preeminent members of the Democratic party. Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, the Head of the Democratic National Committee Terry Mcaulife, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, New York Rep. Charles Rangel, Washington Rep. Jim McDermott, and others (1). Even a member of the 911 Commission, Democrat Richard Ben-Veniste made an appearance! (2)
Senator Bob Graham of Florida said, "There might be half of the Democratic Senate here." (2)
Harkin told the Associated Press, "It's important for the American people to understand what has gone on before, what led us to this point, and to see it sort of in this unvarnished presentation by Michael Moore." (3)
When asked by the (conservative) National Review if he believed Moore's account of the war in Afghanistan, McAuliffe said, " I believe it after seeing that." The DNC chairman added that he had not heard of the idea before seeing the movie, but said he would "check it out myself and look at it, but there are a lot of interesting facts that he [Moore] brought out today that none of us knew about." (1)
A short time later, McAuliffe was asked by CNN, "Do you think the movie was essentially fair and factually based?" "I do," McAuliffe said. "I think anyone who goes to see this movie will come out en masse and vote for John Kerry. Clearly the movie makes it clear that George Bush is not fit to be president of this country." (1)
"This movie raises a lot of the issues that Americans are talking about, that George Bush has been asleep at the switch since he's been president," McAuliffe said as he walked the red carpet into the premiere. (1)
According to the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota:
"At the Washington premiere, Moore sat a few rows behind Daschle. Afterward, says Moore, ‘He gave me a hug and said he felt bad and that we were all gonna fight from now on. I thanked him for being a good sport,'" Corliss wrote. (109)
But Daschle disagreed!:
....the South Dakota Democrat said he and Moore did not embrace. (109)
"I know we senators all tend to look alike. But I arrived late, and I had to leave early for Senate votes. I didn't meet Mr. Moore," Daschle said. (109)
These are all the quotes I could find, but it was amazing to me that if it was true that the majority of the film consisted of lies and propaganda that such powerful national Democrats would attend and make these statements. I decided that I would have to see it for myself. I rationalized my decision by telling myself that afterwards I would write a summery and analysis of the film. The guiltier I felt about supporting (through attending) the film, the longer my commentary about it would be. Judge for yourself the result...
As such thoughts rolled through my head, I attended the 9:50 PM showing at a minor theater in Tallahassee Florida on Sunday, June 27th. Major theaters in the area did not show it. Immediately upon arrival we were greeted by two Marijuana legalization activists trying to gather signatures. The theatre was filled near capacity. The audience was a normal looking one, perhaps a little younger and more "grunge" then the average audience, but this may have just been because of the late viewing time.
To my surprise, the movie began with a dramatic rehash of the 2000 elections concluding, "If there was a statewide recount, under every scenario Gore won the election." Having read extensively on this issue I could not believe what Moore was insinuating. The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and the LA Times all did extensive journalistic investigations of this issue and all found that even if Gore had won the Supreme Court Case and a recount was undertaken in the specific Democratic voting counties (which is what Gore was asking for), Bush still would have won (34) (83). CNN has on it's "Indepth Special":
A comprehensive study of the 2000 presidential election in Florida suggests that if the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed a statewide vote recount to proceed, Republican candidate George W. Bush would still have been elected president. (121)
Suppose that Gore got what he originally wanted -- a hand recount in heavily Democratic Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Volusia counties. The study indicates that Gore would have picked up some additional support but still would have lost the election -- by a 225-vote margin statewide. (121)
Now, these papers certainly lean to the left in their reporting, as seen by their endorsements of Gore in that election (118), and you can bet your bottom dollar that the journalists investigating this were hoping to cash in on what would have been the biggest journalistic scoop of the century. In my research I did find that there were studies done where Gore would have won under certain extenuating circumstances, hence the infamous indented or hanging chad scenario etc... (34)
In fact, the argument can legitimately be made that more people in Florida went to the ballot box intending to vote for Gore. However, short of reading voters minds, an election has to have parameters around which it can be conducted. Bush clearly won the election. The film shows tearful, almost all black, members of the house of Representatives on the floor of the house chamber railing against the 'disenfranchisement' of minority voters, denouncing the election as illegitimate and berating the Senate for not backing them (apparently, in a procedural flux, a single Senator had to co-sign to allow these representatives to proceed in taking further action)... The fact that the entire Senate and almost the entire house of Representatives recognized the legitimacy of the election is apparently lost on Moore, who resorts to race baiting in his desperate attempt to make his point.
NARRATOR: Not a single senator came to the aid of the African-Americans in Congress. One after another they were told to sit down and shut up. (157)
I wonder what all these Democratic Senators present for this 'gala film opening' thought of this. Will any reporters ever ask them?
Where does Moore get this stuff from? The myth was built up and continues to be propogated by the nations prominent Democrats. At the Democratic National convention more than nine in 10 delegates say George W. Bush did not win the 2000 election legitimately. (140)
Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry had this to say in a speech before the AME:
Don’t tell us disenfranchising a million African Americans and stealing their votes is the best we can do. This time, in 2004, not only will every vote count – we’re going to make sure that every vote is counted. (141),
And he made similar remarks to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition:
Don’t tell us it’s the best we can do when in the last election two million votes weren't counted. We live in the greatest democracy in the world. We must make sure every vote is counted and every vote counts. We can do better. And we will. (143)
Al Gore got wild cheers at the Democratic convention after saying:
And let's make sure that this time every vote is counted. (152)
Let's make sure not only that the Supreme Court does not pick the next president, but also that this president is not the one who picks the next Supreme Court. (152)
Bill Clinton also delivered some "red meat" to the delegates:
And this year, we're going to make sure they're all counted in every state in America. (APPLAUSE) (153)
Peter Kirsanow, an African American member (Bush appointee) on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights writes in the (conservative) National Review:
The six-month investigation of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found absolutely no evidence of systematic disenfranchisement of black voters. The investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice also found no credible evidence that any Floridians were intentionally denied the right to vote in the 2000 election. (142)
In fact, Florida 2000 was not a startling anomaly. Ballot-spoilage rates across the country range between 2-3 percent of total ballots cast. Florida's rate in 2000 was 3 percent. In 1996 it was 2.5 percent. (142)
The next time Senator Kerry tells a black audience about massive disenfranchisement, he might also inform them that in none of the offending counties was the county supervisor a Republican — and in 24 of the 25 counties with the highest ballot spoilage — er, disenfranchisement — rates, the county supervisor was a Democrat. (In the remaining county, the supervisor was an independent.) (142)
Glitches occur in every election. Some glitches are massive, others not. This is not to downplay the problem, but to put it into perspective. For example, the number of ruined ballots in Chicago alone was 125,000, compared to 174,000 for the entire state of Florida. Several states experienced voting problems remarkably similar to those in Florida. But the closeness of the 2000 election in Florida, and the attendant electoral implications, placed the state at the fulcrum of a remarkable opportunity for racial demagoguery. (142)
Kirsanow's statement that the commission found no intentional disenfranchisement is correct. His assertion that the commission found absolutely no evidence of systematic black disenfranchisement is misleading, because the commission split into two partisan camps. The sole Republican and an Independent on the commission wrote a minority dissenting opinion agreeing with Kirsanow and slamming the majority report:
By basing its conclusion on allegations that seem driven by partisan interests and that lack factual basis, the majority on the Commission has needlessly fostered public distrust, alienation and manifest cynicism. The report implicitly labels the outcome of the 2000 election as illegitimate, thereby calling into question the most fundamental basis of American democracy. What appears to be partisan passions not only destroyed the credibility of the report itself, but informed the entire process that led up to the final draft. (144)
But the 5 Democrats and one Independent detailed in their majority report the chaos of the election process and numerous inconsistencies and problems:
During Florida’s 2000 presidential election, restrictive statutory provisions, wide-ranging errors, and inadequate resources in the Florida election process denied countless Floridians of their right to vote. This disenfranchisement of Florida voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of African Americans. Statewide, based on county-level statistical estimates, African American voters were nearly 10 times more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected in the November 2000 election. (145)
The minority report responded that this statistic "....is nothing more than a wild guesstimate."
Let us be clear: According to Dr. Lichtman’s data, some 180,000 Florida voters in the 2000 election, 2.9 percent of the total, turned in ballots that did not indicate a valid choice for a presidential candidate and thus could not be counted in that race. Six out of ten of these rejected ballots (59 percent) were “overvotes”—ballots that were disqualified because they indicated more than one choice for president. Another 35 percent were “undervotes,” ballots lacking any clear indication of which presidential candidate the voter preferred. (The other 6 percent were invalid for some other unspecified reason. Since they are ignored in the majority report, they will be here as well.) (144)
The problem is voter error, a term that astonishingly appears nowhere in the majority report. This is the central fact the majority report attempts to obscure. Some voters simply did not fill out their ballots according to the instructions. They failed to abide by the very elementary rule that you must vote for one and only one candidate for the office of president of the United States, and therefore their attempt to register their choice failed. Their ballots were rejected, and their votes did not count. (144)
However, the term 'voter error' does appear in the majority report and it is 'astonishing' that the minority report would claim this. Their basic point that the majority report tends to minimize voter error is probably true. The minority report offers more facts not contained in the majority report:
The majority report argues that much of the spoiled ballot problem was due to voting technology. But elected Democratic Party officials decided on the type of machinery used, including the optical scanning system in Gadsden County, the state’s only majority-black county and the one with the highest spoilage rate. (144)
Republican-appointed commissioners were never asked for any input in the composition of the witness list or in the drafting of the report itself. (144)
An outside expert with strong partisan affiliations was hired to do a statistical analysis without consultation with commissioners. (144)
We asked for a copy of the machine-readable data that Professor Lichtman used to run his correlations and regressions. That is, we wanted his computer runs, the data that went into them, and the regression output that was produced. The Commission told us that it did not exist—that the data as he organized it for purposes of analysis was literally unavailable. Professor Lichtman, who knows that as a matter of scholarly convention such data should be shared, also declined to provide it. (144)
Who is Professor Lichtman? Brief searches yielded some interesting results. He wrote an endorsement on the back of Bill Clinton's recent book, "My Life" (147). During a later redistricting dispute in Florida he was called as the main Democratic witness:
The Legislature called two political scientists who challenged the logic and conclusions of the Democrats' top expert witness, Allan Lichtman, the history department chairman at American University. (146)
He was also called as a Democratic witness in Arizona:
But the Democrats had a statistics expert of their own. Professor Allan Lichtman, chair of the American University history department, cited studies that show the gap closing and called the year-old Commerce study obsolete.
On January 14th 2004 he gave an interview with CNN:
"Now you have George Bush coming along. His dad tried to get into space and failed. His dad didn't have the vision thing. So here is George Bush. He's not going -- he's now going to prove he has the vision thing that his dad didn't have." (148)
"He he's even going to top Kennedy. He's not just going to the moon, he's going to Mars. The problem is he doesn't want to make it hard. Where is he going to pay for it? Is he going to ask his rich buddies out there in corporate America to pony up and pay what could be a multibillion dollar price tag?" (148)
"What's on the table now won't do it. We needed that $5 trillion surplus that's has gone a glimmering and suddenly become a $500 million deficit." (148)
The other thing is there are lots of other goals that might be more relevant to life here. What about cutting fossil fuels by 50 percent? Or doing something about global warming or fixing up the electric grid? All those questions are going to be asked by George's Bush's critics. (148)
Professor Lichtman has a blog on the History News Network, which is filled with Bush bashing. A recent entry states:
Today, a charge by John Kerry that the Bush administration was the most corrupt in American history would also engender widespread skepticism. Yet there is good reason to believe that such a charge is once again correct. (149)
Besides his partisanship, Lichtman also has a personal conflict of interest - his academic reputation. On CNN:
WOODRUFF: Well, whatever the poll numbers are showing these days, history may be on Al Gore's side in his bid for the presidency. Allan Lichtman, dean of history at American University, some years ago, created a system for predicting the outcome of presidential elections. I asked Lichtman to explain the 13 keys to the presidency and what they bode for this year's presidential hopefuls. (150)
WOODRUFF: Now, and you're saying it's been accurate every time you've applied these keys since 1984? (150)
LICHTMAN: That's correct. Well ahead of time, it has predicted the outcome of every election from 1984 to 1996. (150)
WOODRUFF: But having said that, the pluses for Al Gore, you're saying, far out -- or outweigh the negatives? (150)
LICHTMAN: The pluses narrowly outweigh the negatives. That's why Gore is going to win. (150)
In sum, from the brief research I have done it is certainly suspicious that: 1. The commission based it's majority report on hidden research which cannot be replicated (as the work has not been shared). 2. The 'expert witness' who did this research seems to be a partisan Democrat. If the majority commission was truly looking to come clean in their investigations, their actions make little sense. 3. The minority report neglects to mention that Dr. John Lott, their statistician, is clearly a staunch Republican as seen by his website. (151)
The majority commission found problems with voting procedures for a number of other groups including the disabled, elderly, Jewish, Puerto Rican and Hispanic. Despite the fact that the only group not on their list are white Christians, the report really just seems to show that problems existed across the board. Whether the problems fell disproportionately on any group in particular is unclear. In my judgment, it is a shame that the commission succumbed to partisan squabbles and was unable to give a united report, and that both selected partisan researchers to put forth their findings. But it is notable that even the Democratic majority commission report found that there was no Republican effort to 'steal' or influence the election, or disenfranchise black voters. [To read some expanded research on this, including my communications with both Dr. Lott and Dr. Lichtman click here]
Next, the film covers the oft cited 'fact' that Bush took the most "vacation time" in the history of any president. To his credit, Moore at least mentions that Bush was receiving foreign dignitaries, Congressmen, aides and government officials regularly, but the film focuses on clips of Bush playing golf and clearing brush and takes excerpts from a press conference of Bush responding awkwardly to questions about his schedule. In short, much ado about nothing - a non-story here. In actuality, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if Bush never went to Washington...
Then the film focuses on Bush's national guard record and shows clips of Moore calling the president a deserter. Democrats have questioned whether Bush showed up for temporary duty in Alabama while working on a political campaign during a one-year period from May 1972 to May 1973. (4), (126) Although not require to do so, Bush released most of his military records earlier this year. Recently, some news organizations filed suit for the original microfilm in the belief that all of the original records may not have been released. On July 8th, the New York Times reported that:
It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. (110)
It is unclear how these records would have been different from the ones already released by Bush. The Associated Press reported:
Thirteen pages of payroll records and retirement point summaries released earlier in the week showed Bush was paid for 25 days during the period from May to May, 1972-73. He was not paid for any service during a more than five-month period in 1972, from April 17 to Oct. 27. He was paid for two days in late October of that year, four days in mid-November and no days in December. He was paid for additional days in 1973. The White House also earlier in the week released a copy of a dental exam Bush received at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Alabama on Jan. 6, 1973, as proof that Bush had physically been at the base and served there. The records showed that Bush, a pilot, was suspended from flying status beginning Aug. 1, 1972, because of his failure to have an annual medical examination. His last flight exam was on May 15, 1971. (4), (126)
Since this paper was written, the Department of Defense found the missing film, but no new information is contained in them, or so the media tell us.
Bush was lauded as being in the top 5% of his class in reports by his superiors and honorably discharged. In fact, Moore’s "deserter" remark prompted (left of center) ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings to confront Democratic Presidential contender Wesley
Jennings: Now, that's a reckless charge not supported by the facts. And I was curious to know why you didn't contradict him ... (5)
In sum, it is certain that Moore's charge of desertion is false. A more appropriate question, which Moore doesn't address, is whether Bush received preferential treatment getting in and out of the National Guard. (6) Moore than makes a HUGE deal of the fact that the name of another pilot who missed a physical was blacked out in the military papers released by the Bush campaign, but not in a separate copy that Moore received from 'elsewhere'. Ominous music plays as a split screen shows both records side by side. It turns out this person was a friend of Bush's who later was involved with Bush in business. First, it is troubling that a citizen's private information can end up in the hands of a filmmaker. Secondly, why would the White House release the military records of another private citizen? The fact that two pilots in the same reserve unit both missed physicals, were friends and later had the audacity to have a business relationship does not strike me as newsworthy.
Throughout the movie Moore jumps on Bush Jr. and Bush Sr. for having connections with the Saudis and the Bin Ladens (referring to Osama Bin Laden's family). Moore makes little distinction between the Saudis and Bin Ladens, and neglects to mention that Osoma Bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia and disowned by the Bin Ladens. Moore claims that in the days and weeks immediately after the terror attacks of Sept 11th, close to 140 members of the Saudi Royal family, Saudi citizens and some Bin Ladens were granted exclusive flights out of the country when all other planes were grounded. Upon visiting Moore's website, I find he now claims (in a defensive manner) that his film didn't state that all other flights were grounded, but that the Saudis were allowed to leave when normal flights resume. (35) Others must have been left with the same false impression. In any case, it is a legitimate question to ask why this was done, but Moore's attempts to blame this on Bush fall flat because media darling and Bush critic Richard Clarke told the Congressional Newspaper The Hill, “I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again." (7)
Clarke said yesterday that the furor over the flights of Saudi citizens is much ado about nothing. (7)
“This is a tempest in a teapot,” he said, adding that, since the attacks, the FBI has never said that any of the passengers aboard the flight shouldn’t have been allowed to leave or were wanted for further investigation. (7) (52)
He said that many members of the bin Laden family had been subjects of FBI surveillance for years before the attacks and were well-known to law-enforcement officials and that the FBI interviewed and signed off on the rest. (7)
“It’s very funny that people on the Hill are now trying to second-guess the FBI investigation.” (7)
The Sept. 11 commission released a statement last month declaring that six chartered flights that evacuated close to 140 Saudi citizens were handled properly by the Bush administration. (7) [I wonder what 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste was thinking at this point]
Moore neglects to mention any of this information and leaves the impression that, either through neglect or malice, the Bush administration may have let possible co-conspirators, or people with important information, leave the country. The suggested reason for this was the close business ties that Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. and other members of the government had with the Saudis. The film shows clips of the massive Saudi embassy and describes how 7% of the US economy is owned by Saudi Arabia and that Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, has excessive secret service agents assigned to protect him. It is unclear how Moore knows how many Secret Service agents are assigned to different diplomatic personal. According to the Secret Service Mission Statement:
The Secret Service protects the President and Vice President, their families, heads of state, and other designated individuals; investigates threats against these protectees; protects the White House, Vice President’s Residence, Foreign Missions, and other buildings within Washington, D.C. (36)
There is a humorous scene in which Moore is accosted outside the Saudi Embassy by these agents who question what he is doing (in a good natured way). At other times Moore describes how Saudi investors or Saudi owned investment firms invested in Bush Jr.'s various business ventures, owned stock in defense firms and that, after he retired, Bush Sr. sat on various corporate boards in which the Saudis had heavily invested. Clip after clip portray both father, son and other senior Republican officials meeting, posing and shaking hands with various Saudis. Moore especially focuses on the Carlyle group, a large Washington DC-based investment group (which, incidentally anti-Bush Billionaire George Soros also invested in) (96). In all this, "the Saudis" and "the Bin Ladens" are used interchangeably.
It is important to give some background information before debunking this misleading picture. Moore's claim that the Saudis own 7% of the US economy is wildly off. The entire Saudi economy only equals 3% of US GDP (although it's been pointed out that investments abroad subtract from GDP). (9) (119) My research, albeit limited, suggests that there is no clear way to estimate the exact extent of Saudi investment in the United States, although it certainly is substantial. See David Kopel's extensive review for further analysis of this:
According to the Bureau of Economic Statistics, total foreign investment in the United States in 2003 was $10,515 billion dollars. This means that even if the figure that Unger "heard" about Saudis having $860 billion is correct, then the Saudis would only have about 8 percent of total foreign investment in the United States. Unless you believe that almost all American assets are owned by foreigners, then it cannot possibly be true that Saudis "own seven percent of America." (87)
Saudi Arabia is the greatest oil producer on the planet and we are the biggest consumer. Therefore, each year US oil companies give billions of US dollars to the Saudi government through contracts, direct oil payments and taxes. However, owning so many US dollars means that, naturally, Saudis reinvest that money in the United States. If the Saudis invested their money elsewhere they would have to change their dollars to another currency (one couldn't buy stock in a European company in dollars).
The American buck is the most prolific currency on the planet and is legal tender in many countries, but eventually dollars, in and of themselves, eventually filter back to the country which issues them: the United States and a few scattered affiliates (which have no national currency). Because of the historical profitability, strength and safety of the US economy, the Saudis generally choose to invest a good portion of their wealth directly in the United States. Taken by itself, this is a good thing. The influx of Saudi money (our returning dollars) raises the value of the stock market, finances our national debt and generally contributes to the economic growth of our country and increases prosperity for all our citizens. It's called capitalism. (8) Those that have relationships with Saudi investors and convince them to invest in the United States are a key part of this process.
A similar situation developed in the 80s and continues to this day with the Japanese. Flush with cash from American consumer purchases, the Japanese choose to invest a good portion of their dollars back in the United States. Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman once remarked:
It is a mystery to me why... it is regarded as a sign of Japanese strength and American weakness that the Japanese find it more attractive to invest in the U.S. than Japan. Surely it is precisely the reverse - a sign of U.S. strength and Japanese weakness. (8)
The sheer proliferation of Saudi money and the large number of investment firms, corporations and businesses that interconnect guarantee that just about any successful businessmen, or prominent politician, can be linked in some way to Saudi money, especially by a filmmaker with an bone to pick. Even more laughable is Moore's shocking finding that Saudi money was linked to past Bush family oil businesses. One might expect that Texas oil companies would be the first place someone from the Middle East would invest. Interestingly enough, it appears even Moore himself couldn't escape a smear of his own making. The Gaurdian reported:
"One of Moore's prime targets is the Carlyle Group, a Washington DC-based investment firm that allegedly links the Bush and Bin Laden families. The trouble is that the company recently became co-owner of the very cinema chain due to screen Fahrenheit 9/11 across America." (10)
Also left out of the documentary are the facts regarding the relationship Osama had to his family. Instead of flashing photographs of Republican officials shaking hands with various Bin Ladens, Moore could have told us that Osama was the 17th of 51 siblings, expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1994, and publicly denounced by his family on at least three different occasions. According to ABCnews:
When asked once by a reporter to list their names, he could barely recall a dozen before giving up amid his own laughter. But members of the bin Laden clan living in the United States weren't laughing in the days following the attacks. They were fearing for their lives — and fleeing the country. (11)
Osama's father was an illiterate laborer who turned a construction business into a worldwide conglomerate. Now, the family members are "kind of like the Rockefellers or the Forbeses of Saudi Arabia," explains ABCNEWS consultant Jonathan Winer.(11)
The second richest family in Saudi Arabia, The bin Laden family business employs 32,000 people in 30 countries, has a revenue of $5 billion a year and is invested everywhere from construction to manufacturing to financial services to insurance to biological research. (11)
And some of the bin Ladens carry out their business ventures in the United States, based primarily on the East Coast, from as far south as Florida to as far north as Boston, and with offices in Rockville, Md., in between. (11)
The Boston bin Ladens, for instance, own several units in a luxury condo and 16 percent of Hybridon, a Boston, Mass.,-based biotech company engaged in cancer research — and technology that someday could be used to defend against biological attacks. (11)
The rupture with his family came in 1991 when Osama denounced the presence of America in Saudi Arabia to fight the Gulf War while other bin Ladens were making millions building airstrips and military housing for U.S. troops. (11)
1994 [The family expressed] their "regret, denunciation and condemnation of all acts that Osama bin Laden may have committed, which we do not condone and we reject." (12)
His relatives also denounced him after the 1998 terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa — attacks for which Osama bin Laden has been indicted in U.S. federal court. (13)
"All the family members condemn all violent and terrorist acts, even if Osama is behind them," the uncle [current family patriarch] told reporters [after September 11th]. (13)
Contrary to almost every reported news story and biography of Bin Laden, the 9/11 commission found:
Bin Ladin never received a $300 million inheritance. From about 1970 until approximately 1994, he received about $1 million per year—a significant sum, but hardly a $300 million fortune that could be used to fund a global jihad. (19)
The Bin Laden's were involved in wide ranging philanthropies including:
Last year, former President Carter met with 10 bin Ladens who donated $200,000 to the Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga. (11)
They donated $1 million to Harvard Law school, and another $1 million for the study of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard's School of Design. (13)
Harvard officials say they have no reason to believe that the donations were in any way linked to Osama bin Laden. Still, Harvard officials have spent the week explaining to angry alumni and radio talk show hosts that the bin Laden family group, who represent about 20 of Osama bin Laden's siblings, disavowed his politics and actions a long time ago. (13)
The preceding paragraph is especially interesting as Moore tries to get the same reaction out of his audience, playing the Bin Laden name throughout the film as if it were unconscionable that any government official or business man would have anything to do with such a villainous family. Although Moore doesn't cover this in his documentary, it is illuminating to note the connection between his smear of the Bin Laden family and the outrage on the left over alleged racial profiling and the detention of Muslims on immigration violations in the period after September 11th. This is not to suggest that the Bin Ladens should not have been investigated in an appropriate matter [which apparently they were even before 9/11], but to link the Bush family and other Republican officials to them in such a suggestive way demonstrates ignorance at best.
However, I must concede that Moore does make a decent point about the basic nature of the Saudi regime.
Oil, being an extremely valuable commodity, has made the Saudis (and some other Middle East states), exceptionally wealthy. Despite this wealth, or ironically, perhaps because of it, Saudi Arabia is a heavily indebted state (debt load is 115% of GDP) (14), ruled by a chaotic, corrupt oligarchy consisting of the ever expansive Saudi royal family. The family maintains it's hold on the kingdom through a combination of religious indoctrination (which aids in the creation of external enemies), ruthless despotism, and the 'generosity' of a bloated, out of control welfare system. Throwing buckets of cash at individuals who never worked a day for it, combined with the lack of an accountable financial system and loose controls, has led to an explosion of funding for the twisted ideology of Wahhabism. Moore is right in exposing the Saudi regime as the dangerous society it has become.
Generally, it appears that a corrupt political
society is only reinforced and further distorted by the power thrust upon it
through easy wealth [and possibly created from it]. To elaborate further, let's pretend there is no
oil in the Middle East, but it's all in Africa. The Middle East, besides Israel, would consists of
impoverished warring states that don't have the capability to threaten anyone besides their own
citizens and their equally impoverished neighbors. In short, you'd have a situation similar to
(certain parts of ) Africa today. But in Africa, you'd still have the constant civil wars, tin cup
dictators, rebel leaders, massacres and genocides, but now each state would be bolstered by billion
dollar oil revenues. Mirage fighters would replace machetes in Rwanda; cruise missiles would replace
militias in the Congo. Tanks would replace horsemen in the Sudan. These regimes would have the funds
to import and/or train scientists to develop chemical and biological agents. Powerful countries
would succeed in taking over their neighbors. Sound familiar?
In essence, the political systems are not much different in (parts of) Africa and the Middle East. Oil makes the difference appear so glaring by increasing the wealth and power these corrupt despots hold and elevating them from primitive warlords to global power mongers. (20) The national security of the United States [and the free world] become threatened when these regimes gain enough power, through oil, to threaten the stability of a vital economic commodity and, in some cases, become powerful enough to challenge the west militarily - Iraq through direct military confrontation, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and others through the exportation of subversive ideology and terrorism. Is the United States trying to steal oil in order to profit corporations as Moore later indicates? No. US companies are more than willing to pay the market price for it. Is oil intertwined in the problems of the Middle East? Yes. But not in the way Moore and the anti-US crowd overseas believe it is, although I can see how it is tempting to make the correlation. The US [and the free world] would like nothing better than to pay their money for oil and have nothing else to do with the Middle East. Unfortunately, it appears that this hands off policy, coupled with appeasing diplomatic and military alliances and interventions, has failed.
Another theory is that without foreign aid or natural resources, governments are forced to liberalize because it is the only way for them to get tax revenues. In other words, when wealth can only be generated through the naked productivity/ingenuity of it's citizens, the rulers of that country will be most inclined to introduce reforms to accelerate this. Notice some of the strongest economic zones in the world today - Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea and the (early, eastern) United States - are poor in natural resources. Historically, the British, Dutch, Portuguese and, going way back, Carthageans and Athenians, were all were top world powers without being strong in natural resources. Why was the Spanish Empire, a centrally controlled country drowning in colonial gold, discarded into the ash heap of history so fast? Returning to the Africa analogy, the areas which are richest in natural resources, especially the diamond belt, are suffering the greatest conflict and strife. Taking this into account, Moore and other leftists should wonder why the United States would even want to "take over" any oil...
Egypt, homeland of number two (and probably more influential in operational effectiveness than Osama Bin Laden) Al Qaeda terrorist Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri, is perhaps the second largest supporter of Al-Qaeda in the gulf region. Each year Egypt receives about 2 billion dollars in transit from the Suez canal, 2.2 billion in 'aid' from the United States and inflows of money from the 10% of it's population that works or has worked abroad in other gulf states. With this revenue, why should the government worry about the need for a rich or middle class to tax? (111)
We must not minimize the role that the socialistic nature of the Arab governments play in their totalitarianism, aggression, and sponsorship of terrorism. Foreign investment is discouraged because of the government monopolies and political instability (not to mention lack of religious freedom, freedom of expression etc..- foreign investments need foreign workers to manage them; how would you like to move your family to Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia?). Publicly owned factories are not likely to invest in foreign countries. Privately owned Arab companies are hampered by an uneducated workforce, a jumbled legal system, and competition from the huge subsidized public sector, and so are also less likely to invest in foreign countries. The net result is that, besides oil and petro-investments, little trade and interaction exists between (and among) Arab countries and the rest of the world.
It has been argued that the United States is the world's best policemen because our citizens own many things of value in countries across the world. Likewise, multitudes of citizens from many, many countries across the world own things of value in the United States (such as businesses that employ our citizens). Therefore, as the wealthiest country in the world, we have the most interest in seeing the world stay free, peaceful, and prosperous in order to protect and increase our own wealth and prosperity. For the United States, a win for us is a win for the world (and vice versa). In the same sense, China's shift from a Communist regime to a Capitalist regime has greatly reduced the threat it poses to it's neighbors. Any hostile actions by the Chinese against, say, Taiwan, would devastate it's economy. Chinese businessmen and workers, the former of which are becoming increasingly influential in the Communist party, would howl and possibly revolt. Chinese aggression is a loosing strategy for China and a loosing situation for the world. In contrast, a hostile action by Saddam Hussein against Kuwait is a win for him and a loss for the world. Socialistic countries are not held back from aggression by business/economic pressures; they see only external prizes that can be easily claimed by 'the state'. It's citizens don't raise a fuss about the need to protect their property because the citizens don't own anything (or very little)! Of course, the term 'Socialistic' as I am using it here does not apply to the Socialistic Scandinavian countries, which consist of private industry (with internal and external foreign investments) burdened by high taxes and regulations. In Arab Socialistic countries there may be some areas of relatively low taxes, but there is little private industry.
Perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle lies in the totalitarian nature of the Arab regimes. None of the 22 countries in the Arab league are democracies compared to 63% of countries throughout the world. In it's 2002 survey Freedom House found only 28% of Middle Eastern countries could be described as 'free' or 'partly free'. Despite having lower per capita incomes and GDP, more than 60% of African countries meet this standard. (111)
Natan Sharansky, a famous Soviet Dissident and Israeli politician writes in 'The Case for Democracy' (a book read and lauded by President Bush), that the motivations of unelected regimes and elected ones are often similar - to stay in power. But the actions taken by the two governments are vastly different. Generally, an unelected regime will expend a great deal of energy on brainwashing, propogandizing, and actively suppressing it's citizens. Sharnaksy argues that a key tool in supplementing this task is creating an external threat. In other words, internal stability is more easily achieved by creating external enemies. In Free Societies this political fearmongering is still attempted (the draft myth) and often directed at opposing political parties, but is limited in scope by the inquires of an independent press and the freedom of public discourse. In Closed Societies, with a controlled media, citizens will often accept the leadership of a regime if they believe an external source is responsible for the dire conditions present in their country, or presents the greater threat. To a lesser degree this can also occur in Free Societies. For example, during both World Wars US citizens accepted rationing and cutbacks in consumer goods with little protest. (154)
Almost every totalitarian regime in history has created these external enemies in order to help maintain power over their people. In the same way that the Soviets funded Communist insurgencies around the world, the Arab states fund religious insurgencies. In fact, Arab terrorism was first funded, trained, and encouraged by the Soviet Union. (155), (156) Just like Hitler and Stalin preached hatred of the Jews, Arab regimes call for the destruction of Israel and broadcast anti-Semitic rhetoric. Saddam Hussein was a great admirer of Stalin and the hyper-controlling, top-down, socialistic economic system has been adopted, to varying degrees, by all the Arab governments. The hated, ever-present religious police of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Taliban are the mirror image of the equally hated and feared expansive network of government informers of Saddam Hussein, Castro, Kim Jung Ill, and the Soviet Union.
In fact, one could even construct scenarios in which Communist regimes are less of a threat to their neighbors than Arab type dictatorial socialistic regimes. Communists regimes historically have, at least initially, mimicked the effects of creating external threats by creating internal threats within the country by inciting violence and hatred of the upper and middle classes. Authoritarian socialistic type countries are not bloodletting their own people to the degree that the Communists are, and thus might be more inclined to create external threat in order to aid in their retaining control over the populace. (155)
This is why such a glaring contradiction exists between the diplomatic friendliness enjoyed between the United States and some Arab countries and the propaganda they force feed their citizens. These regimes are willing to publicly smile (in our media) as they accept our aid, weapons, and petro-dollars in return for 'stability', as they privately suppress dissent via internal suppressions and these artificial external enemies. In reality, this 'stability' we create by supporting these undemocratic regimes has achieved the opposite of it's intention. In other words, the destructiveness resulting from the external instability of these regimes has clearly surpassed any 'gain' achieved by their internal stability. Moore's allegations are, again, 180 degrees from the truth. We didn't go to war for oil - we remained in a hypnotic, fallacious 'peace' for so long because of oil! (154)
This disturbing tendency of Free Societies to appease Closed Societies is not new. Because Free Societies are peaceful societies, they fall prey to 'sound bite diplomacy', and politicians are always keen to avoid any charges of 'warmongering'. Ronald Reagan was denounced as such by his political opponents and the mainstream press as was Barry Goldwater and George W. Bush. All three men, respectively, did, would have, and (hopefully) will, triumph over Closed Societies by bringing clarity to the policies of Free Societies. The difficulty of bringing a Free Society to necessary action is a testament to the polar strengths and weaknesses of a Free Society.
Note that (with only a few outlying exceptions) no two democracies have ever fought a war. The contradictory public statements vs. private actions of Closed Societies can mislead the media and citizens of Free Societies as to the intentions and motives of the Closed Societies. President H.W. Bush was very concerned about the possibility of 'instability' during the break-up of the Soviet Union and even made a (poorly received) speech in the Ukraine advocating against the reckless nationalism of the Soviet Republics. The same mistake has been repeated in the Middle East. For example, US and Israeli politicians celebrated as Palestinian Authority chairman Yassir Arafat shook the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Simon Peres while he was simultaneously encouraging and/or plotting the murder of Israeli civilians. (154)
The constant U.S. media reporting of the 'anger of the Arab Street' is often just regurgitating what is being broadcast on state television in these repressive countries. For some reason there is little speculation whether this 'anger' is directed at the United States because of our support for their unpopular, corrupt governments, rather then our policies towards Israel or Iraq. Why is it that the people under the government that we most openly oppose, the Iranian theocracy, are the most (allegedly) pro-American in the region? (154)
It has been said that Islam itself breeds terrorism. The fact that Mohammad was a conqueror, lived by the sword, and combined Church and State, may have injected an element of violence into the Middle East, but Mohammad also taught peace, justice, and mercy. While it may be possible Islam contributed to some aspects of terrorism, any portrayal of Islam as a root cause of terrorism is misleading. Islamic culture was at one time the most advanced in the world. In recent months Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, elected Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former security official running on an anti-terror and anti-corruption platform. In free societies, almost all Muslims reject terror.
What is more probable is that state control over Islam by the despotic governments of the Middle East is one of the causes of terrorism. The BBC reports that in Turkey: Chief Mufti of Istanbul faxes out the sermon, which must be delivered in identical form across the country. (158) The Saudi Royal family appoints and dismisses all imams. Almost all Middle Eastern Governments engage in similar practices. The Mullahs of Iran have managed to overthrow and become the new Tyrants of that country. State and Religion are now the same in Iran. It is true that only a small minority of Muslims corrupt the Islamic religion by engaging in terrorism, but it is also true that a majority of Muslim countries also corrupt the Islamic religion. US Supreme Court Justice Roy Black wisely said: "..a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion..."(159) And American revolutionary Thomas Paine stated: "All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." (159) To read a bit about our founding and the first separation of Church and State click here.
Moore is right about the pattern of softness the United States government has followed in dealing with the Saudis (and the entire Middle East). His error lies in linking this problem exclusively to the Bush administration. The problem of Saudi and Arab terror funding, including Al Qaeda linkage, has been a bipartisan issue that the United States has refused to face for decades. Saudi and Arab think tanks and lobbyists curry favor with the political elite of both parties, often hiring members of Congress when they retire.
In an under reported June 30th editorial in the Washington Post, Senator Jon Kyl, Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, offers an explanation why 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi:
But for Saudi nationals, we looked the other way. Because Saudi Arabia is a rich country -- and, perhaps more important, because it is considered a U.S. ally -- before Sept. 11, 2001, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs at the time, Mary Ryan, had relaxed the visa application rules, even to the point of implementing "Visa Express," an unprecedented program that literally delegated visa processing to travel agents to speed it up. The basic legal requirement that applicants provide accurate and persuasive information was ignored. (78)
Unfortunately, the State Department does not seem to have learned much from the experience. It continues to maintain that its pre-Sept.11 visa policies in Saudi Arabia were reasonable because of a lack of specific intelligence indicating otherwise. (78)
In fact, the Sept. 11 commission found that two other suicide volunteers were turned down because al Qaeda feared they would have trouble, as natives of Yemen, getting visas of their own. (78)
This same money has flooded into Presidential libraries of all past presidents. For example, Conservative columnist Robert Novak notes:
Bill Clinton not only received a $750,000 speaking fee for going to Saudi Arabia in January but came back with a hefty pledge for his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., according to high-ranking Saudis. Estimates range from less than $1 million to $20 million. (53)
Before September 11th a critic can only claim that President Bush perpetuated this pattern of complacency. Since, Bush is the first president that has acted decisively on it and, ironically, is later criticized by Moore for doing so.
On August 5th 2002 a story appeared in the Washington Post and began:
A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States. (16)
The story was quickly disavowed by senior Bush administration officials (17) and the murky situation quickly faded from public memory (18). Whether the story was leaked to pressure the Saudis, to gauge public opinion, or just uncovered by a resourceful journalist remains unclear. Whatever the case, it shows that serious options were being discussed. During recent months, a huge spike of Al Qaeda related violence has taken place in Saudi Arabia leading to speculation that there was a cease fire agreement between the Saudis and Al Qaeda. Rumors swirled about payoffs and subtle support given to Al Qaeda by various senior members of the Saudi government. (21) True or not, the present battles indicate that whatever official ties there were between Saudi intelligence and Al Qaeda are now broken. What occurred is certainly worth investigating. It was and probably still is true that Al Qaeda's main source of funding comes from individuals in Saudi Arabia. Even so, contrary to popular belief and past policies, strengthening and/or supporting the Saudi regime will probably not result in the defeat of the support (private or public) that encourages terrorism for the reasons described in the proceeding paragraphs.
In fact, on November 6th 2003, President Bush gave a historic speech calling for democratic reform in the Middle East (15). The President and other member of the Administration have also indicated their hope that a democratic Iraq will aid this spread of freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East.
* In Conclusion, the differences between all of these 'Causes of Terrorism' may just be a matter of semantics/definitions. Socialism, tyranny, oil, weakness of free societies, and economics pressures are basically all on the same side of the same complementary coin. Change one and the whole coin is likely to flip. Notice that poverty, Islam, US intelligence failures, and 'aggressive' US Middle East policies are not listed among the root causes of terrorism. This was purposely done because they are not. :) For the excerpt of 'Causes of Terrorism' and more articles in this area click here.
Moore then shows an intriguing video of Prince Bandar telling a reporter that he only met Osama Bin Laden once, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when Bin Laden returned to thank him and other Saudi defense and intelligence officials for providing money and arms from both Saudi and American sources. During the Afghan war, Bin Laden sowed the seeds of his future organization by developing contacts with likeminded extremists and establishing fundraising ties throughout the Middle East. Of course, what Moore is hinting at is that the United States created Bin Laden. Following Moore's line of reasoning we should have opposed communism before winning World War II. After World War II and up to the collapse of the Soviet Union, communism was clearly the single biggest threat to human civilization and the United States was right to oppose it in any possible way. (23), (22) [Check out these links to see how communism killed more people than both World Wars combined!]
At different points in the film, Moore reverts to personal attacks on members of the Bush administration. Different scenes are shown of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz combining his hair before an interview with an idiot grin on his face. Bush, Powel, Cheney and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge are shown in similar awkward poses being made-up before TV shoots. The best one is of Attorney General John Ashcroft singing a song. It actually set me thinking how self assured one would have to be to do this in front of one's coworkers. I thought he sang pretty good... Moore prefaced his singing with a dig at Ashcroft, describing how he lost his Missouri Senate seat to a dead man [ his opponent, Mel Carnahan died a month before the election in a plane crash] (24). Left out was that voters knew they weren't actually voting for the dead Mel Carnahan, they were voting for his widow. The Missouri governor promised to appoint Jean Carnahan if her husband won. (66), (87) But I admit parts were funny and I laughed with the rest of the audience.
Fahrenheit 9/11 has brief but moving scene showing the devastation and grief from the September 11th attacks. No dead or gruesome bodies are shown, nor are the planes showed hitting the towers. Then Moore shifts to President Bush reading to children in a Florida school and alleges that Bush stayed and read to children for seven minutes after learning the second tower was hit. With a background of ominous musics, the camera shows a slow motion close-up of an obviously distressed president and Moore's condescendingly wondering if Bush was thinking about his corporate or Saudi ties that put him in this mess. Moore suggests that Bush stayed in the classroom for those extra minutes because, "no one told him what to do and he didn't know what to do." My disdain for Moore's personal and totally speculative criticisms of Bush at this time almost overwhelmed any curiosity I had on whether what he was reporting was actually factual. The full facts have yet to be fully disclosed, but it turns out that the general timeline given was true and one can make a good argument that Bush didn't show strong leadership by staying in the classroom. The Naples Daily News reports a more positive picture:
Bush told the federal 9/11 Commission, which released its report last week, that he remained in the classroom because he felt it was "important to project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening." (76)
But Gwendolyn Tose'-Rigell, the principal at Emma E. Booker Elementary School, says Bush handled himself properly. (76)
"I don't think anyone could have handled it better," Tose'-Rigell told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in a story published Wednesday. "What would it have served if he had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?" (76)
She said the video doesn't convey all that was going on in the classroom, but Bush's presence had a calming effect and "helped us get through a very difficult day." (76)
Tose'-Rigell said she plans to publish her account of the morning of Sept. 11 from pages she wrote in her journal following the attack. The principal said she didn't vote for Bush. "But that day I would have voted for him." (76)
This is one of the few areas in the film where Moore actually reports something interesting and accurate that isn't generally seen in the mainstream press. It is a shame this revelation is almost completely obscured by his snide comments and irrational speculations.
The film's big derisive laugh comes with a clip of Bush on a golf course, saying, "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers," before swinging his club and advising, "Now, watch this drive." The insinuation is that Bush's mind is on golf instead of the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001. Moore doesn't mention Bush was talking about a suicide bombing attack in Israel. (75) (87)
Moore then attempts to show that members of the administration were obsessively focused on Iraq almost immediately after 9/11, and used the attack as an excuse for the real goal of corporate profit in Iraq. He returns to Richard Clarke and extracts a quote where it appears Clarke is accusing the Bush administration of asking him to fudge a connection between Iraq and 9/11. USA today reports:
Clarke said Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes that soon after the attacks, Bush demanded to know whether Iraq was behind them. When Clarke told him intelligence found no link, "He came back at me and said: 'Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way." (25)
After experts concluded again that Saddam Hussein played no role, Clarke said, his memo "got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. Do it again.' " (25)
Clarke's memo was returned because Tenet had already "told the president that there was no evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attack," the White House said. (25)
We might wonder who to believe at this juncture, but we can at least commend Bush for wanting to know whether a sworn enemy of the United States, with ties to various terror organizations, was involved in the 9/11 attack. [See Putin's comments below... (27)]
However, in the media and political firestorm over Clarke's book, testimony and interview, one thing Clarke said threw up a bright red flag:
"Her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before [referring to Al-Qaeda]," Clarke said in the book, going on sale Monday. Clarke said Rice appeared not to recognize post-Cold War security issues and effectively demoted him within the National Security Council staff. (25)
If we set aside any possible grudge over this demotion, being passed over for a top job in the Department of Homeland Security, his vote for Al Gore in the 2000 election, or even his praise of the Bush administration weeks earlier (28), it is still totally unbelievable and inconceivable that the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, a women with impeccable credentials (29), who spent most of her storied career studying foreign policy, would not have heard of Al Qaeda.
Moore later attacks Rice by showing her testifying that the intelligence she receiving prior to 9/11 was vague. This was immediately followed by a different clip of her announcing the title of a briefing, "“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.", the idea being that she had information, but was too incompetent to act on it. However, we knew Bin Laden was determined to strike in the US throughout the '90s. In fact, he had already done so, during the first world trade center bombing. The whole thing is another non-story.
Moore also claims that Bush never met [or was briefed by, I forget the exact term used] with Clarke. This comes despite Moore's earlier description of Bush demanding Iraq connections from Clarke.... But, the White House countered this claim by claiming:
Bush did not need briefings from Clarke because he met daily with the CIA director. (25)
Moore states that the Bush administration cut counter terrorism funding. In a further illuminating off the record conversation with Fox News, Richard Clarke dispels this:
JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?
CLARKE: All of that's correct. (28)
According to the Washington Post, Attorney General John Ashcroft [the singer] was accused by a liberal group, which obtained department documents, of reducing a $1.5 billion counter terrorism appropriation to the FBI to $531 million and making terrorism a low priority. This was NEW funding in an emergency bill passed soon after 9/11. If this is what Moore was referring to, an increase of $531 million isn't a cut. The title of the article was "FBI Budget Squeezed After 9/11: Request for New Counterterror Funds Cut by Two-Thirds". The Post attempts to fix it's shoddy reporting by adding:
White House spokesman Taylor Gross noted that FBI funding has increased by more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2004, not including supplemental funds such as those requested after Sept. 11. Under President Bush, "the FBI has been reformed to make counterterrorism its No. 1 priority," Gross said. "No matter what sort of rhetoric gets thrown about in a campaign season, it doesn't change the fact that this president is committed to fighting the war on terrorism." (30)
Next, Moore levels the charge that the only reason we invaded Afghanistan was to construct a natural gas pipe line through the country. Moore cites a visit by Taliban ministers sponsored by energy giant Unocal in '97 and '98 to the United States as evidence of profit over principals. There is an amusing clip of a Taliban representative telling a women protesting the Taliban's brutal treatment of women, "no wonder no man will have you", or something similar.
Moore leaves out that the State Department's condemnation on the day of one of the visits: “We don’t recognize any government in Afghanistan.” (83) It is a bit ironic, because the State Department was responsible for letting them in the country. Moore also neglects to mention that the United States had been a leading critic of the Taliban government even before September 11th and after the African Embassy bombings of '98 and in response to critical news coverage, Unocal withdrew it's tentative plans for the pipe line.
In a press release announcing the withdrawal from the project, Unocal said it would, however, continue to provide "humanitarian support and skills training to Afghanistan through CARE and the University of Nebraska at Omaha." The oil company added that neither program was designed to provide pipeline construction skills training. (31)
The Center trained 400 Afghan men before Unocal unexpectedly pulled out of the contract. (31)
"They were hot for it then, but they gave up," Yaseer said of Unocal. "But [the 400 Afghan men] all have their own businesses now, so it was a useful program." (31)
Certainly doesn't seem very nefarious, but add in eerie music, ominous commentary and descriptions of connections between Unocal and Bush administration officials, and you have a full blown conspiracy! Especially when Moore falsely claims that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was involved with Unocal, but according to a Unocal spokesman.
"Karzai was never, in any capacity, an employee, consultant or a consultant of a consultant," Barry Lane said. He said Unocal also never had a plan to build a Caspian Sea pipeline. (79) (80)
Karzai's spokesmen denied he was ever a consultant for Unocal as well. Upon further research it appears Moore's claim may have originated in "Le Monde", a left wing newspaper in France beset by scandal and accusation of bias. (123)
Since the fall of the Taliban, the new Afghan government has begun negotiations with neighboring countries on construction a pipeline. But, it turns out that Unocal isn't involved at all! A Unocal press release states:
Unocal has absolutely no intention of participating in an Afghanistan pipeline project nor are we in discussions with any parties about doing so. (81)
So President Karzai is apparently attempting to rebuild his country and encourage foreign investment, including the building of a long pipe line [a Caspian pipeline which is different from what Unocal had been contemplating] that will employ hundreds of Afghans and results in millions of tax revenues. Gasp!
How could Moore get this all wrong? At some point it becomes difficult to believe that anyone is capable of such stupidity from ignorance alone.
Moore claims that the real target all along was Iraq and that the US bungled the Afghan invasion, after all, we weren't there to get terrorists, just to build the pipe line! This omits the amazing military victory the United States achieved. At the time, America's newspapers, notably the New York Times, left their readers with the impression that the the effort was fading and that Afghanistan would be the next Vietnam. Sound familiar? With two thirds of the Al Qaeda senior leadership dead or captured, and the rest dodging US and Pakistani special forces in the treacherous tribal regions of Pakistan, it made little sense to swamp the country with US troops.
So what was the next step? As previously mentioned, President Bush and his advisors were faced with a stark choice: to continue to respond to each act of terrorism as a symptom, or to try to cure the body of the disease:
...the threat posed to the United States came less from Al Qaeda per se than from the environments allowing such groups to form. As the Bush administration gauged the impact of Sept. 11, policymakers split into two camps: those who argued that the US must respond narrowly against Al Qaeda and its supporters, namely the Taleban in Afghanistan; and those who sought a broader mandate to reshape Middle Eastern countries regarded as terrorist breeding grounds. (26)
We now know what path the President choose. To argue with the policy would be legitimate, but debating issues is not what this film is about. How do the terrorists view the struggle in Iraq? According to a 54 page Al Qaeda handbook intercepted and verified by western intelligence agencies:
"This would be (for the US) the first step toward the eradication of hardline Islam in the entire world," it said. (60)
The most ridiculous point in the movie occurs when Moore shows slow motion shots of Iraq kids singing and dancing and families laughing together in harmony. This is supposed to represent Saddam's peace loving Iraq. It's a small detail, but it might be worth mentioning the 290,000 [low end] estimated Iraqis buried in mass graves, the thousands of Kurds and Shittes killed and gassed, the 1-2 million casualties from the Iraq-Iran war, Saddam's support for terrorism and the raping of Kuwait. (32) Even some hardcore liberals were uneasy with the logic used by some on the left against the war. (33) (Great article. If you get a chance; read it)
Even more outlandish is Moore's claim that Saddam never murdered a single American! My boisterous laughter at this led to reproachful looks from those in the rows in front of me. Moore forgets that 147 Americans were killed in battle and 145 in non combat deaths for a total of 292 dead in the first gulf war and 467 wounded. (37) He neglects to mention that Iraq fired daily on US aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones, violating a cease fire agreement that Iraq signed. Also left out are Saddam's payment of $25,000 to families of Palestinian suicide bombers, which directly or indirectly resulted in a number of US citizens killed in Israel, and his harboring of Abu Nidal and other terrorists who engaged in and financed terrorism around the world, including the slaying of US diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan. (38), (39)
Moore than hits us with the footage of Bush saying, "..remember, this is a man who tried to kill my dad". To my surprise, there was scattered laughter throughout the theater. Saddam's attempt to assassinate the President of the United States is no laughing matter. During testimony before the September 11th commission, Judith S. Yaphe, considered to be one of the most respected authorities on Iraq (40) said:
Iraq's security services and surrogates showed little success, however, in planning or ordering operations against foreign targets. Baghdad ordered its Palestinian dependents to launch terrorist operations against the United States and its coalition partners in the fall and winter of 1990; they refused to comply. Iraq made an apparently singular effort to send terrorist teams abroad prior to the initiation of hostilities with the U.S.-led coalition in 1991; it failed. One of the Intelligence Community's reported successes in the period of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm was the arrest of the teams on landing outside Iraq. They were caught by their fake passports, all of which were in consecutive sequence. The attempt to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in Kuwait in April 1993 was a botched job, using apparently ill-trained operatives in an ill-planned operation. (39)
On June 9th 2004 Russian President Vladimir Putin said that,
"..Russian agents had received information that Iraq's special forces were preparing terrorist attacks on the United States, and on its military bases around the world." (27)
Putin's comments were portrayed by some as just an attempt to bolster Bush. This is a charge that cannot be proved or disproved.
Attempting to prove Saddam's collaboration with Al Qaeda has proved more difficult, although it has been established and verified that there has been a lengthy relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda stretching back into the early nineties. Exactly what occurred in these contacts does not seem to be known with certainty. A recent article in the Weekly Standard offers interesting insights not found in the mainstream media (41), which, for unknown reasons, constantly downplays the possibility of an Iraq Al Qaeda connection, much to the ire of administration officials. (42)
The 9/11 commission played the middle ground and described the connection as the following in a staff statement:
A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States. (120)
The news media has built up this vaguely worded statement as being in direct conflict with the rhetoric of the Bush administration. It is true Cheney's assertion that it was "pretty well confirmed" that a meeting between lead hijacker Mohammad Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent occurred in Prague is beginning to look dubious [his mistaken characterizations of his past statements haven't helped] and some say Bush misleads when he speaks of Iraq and Al Qaeda in the same breath. Well why shouldn't he speak of sworn enemies of the United States in the same breath? Is it not true that we were battling Al Qaeda militants and suicide bombers almost as soon as Baghdad fell? How can terrorism be defeated without changing the corrupt and brutal despots that rule the landscape of the Middle East?
Imagine you are President of the United States and you hear that senior Iraqi intelligence officials are meeting with the head of Al Qaeda. Do you sit and ponder if the relationship is "collaborative" or just a "contact", or perhaps they are just high school buddies. This was about preemption. This was about eliminating dangerous regimes that in the future could and/or would fund, harbor or supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. This aim was stated clearly, directly and forcefully before, during and after the war.
Doubts continue to build about the motives of Clinton terrorism Czar Richard Clarke. The 9/11 Commission's final report questions Clarke's constant assertion on television talk shows that there was no connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda:
Clarke was nervous about such a mission because he continued to fear that Bin Ladin might leave for someplace less accessible. He wrote Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick that one reliable source reported Bin Ladin’s having met with Iraqi officials, who “may have offered him asylum.” Other intelligence sources said that some Taliban leaders, though not Mullah Omar, had urged Bin Ladin to go to Iraq. If Bin Ladin actually moved to Iraq, wrote Clarke, his network would be at Saddam Hussein’s service, and it would be “virtually impossible” to find him. Better to get Bin Ladin in Afghanistan, Clarke declared.134 Berger suggested sending one U-2 flight,but Clarke opposed even this. It would require Pakistani approval, he wrote; and “Pak[istan’s] intel[ligence service] is in bed with” Bin Ladin and would warn him that the United States was getting ready for a bombing campaign: “Armed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad.”135 Though told also by Bruce Riedel of the NSC staff that Saddam Hussein wanted Bin Ladin in Baghdad, Berger conditionally authorized a single U-2 flight. (128)
Clarke then tells the Commission how the only terrorist not captured after the first World Trade Center Bombing was an Iraqi:
Most of the people directly involved in that conspiracy were identified and tracked down by the FBI and CIA and arrested or snatched and brought back to the United States. Mr. Yasin was the one who wasn't. And the reason he wasn't was he was an Iraqi. He was the only Iraqi in the group. There were Egyptians, there were other nationalities. He was an Iraqi, and therefore, when the explosion took place and he fled the United States, he went back to Iraq. And we were obviously, for obvious reasons, unable to either snatch him or get him to be extradited to the United States. But the investigation, both the CIA investigation and the FBI investigation made it very clear, in '95 and '96 as they got more information, that the Iraqi government was in no way involved in that attack. And the fact that one of the 12 people involved in the attack was Iraqi hardly, it seems to me, is evidence that they were, that the Iraqi government was involved in the attack. The attack was al Qaeda, not Iraq. The Iraqi government, because, obviously, of the hostility between us and them, didn't cooperate in turning him over, and gave him sanctuary, as it did give sanctuary to other terrorists; but the allegation that has been made that the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was done by the Iraqi government I think is absolutely without foundation.(129)
In 1999, during the Clinton Administration, Clarke defended the launching of cruise missles at a factory in Sudan and linked Al Qaeda to Iraq. Since this Washington Post article (below) was written, uncertainties have developed. Today it is still unknown what this factory produced and if the intelligence was correct:
While U.S. intelligence officials disclosed shortly after the missile attack that they had obtained a soil sample from the El Shifa site that contained a precursor of VX nerve gas, Clarke said that the U.S. government is "sure" that Iraqi nerve gas experts actually produced a powdered VX-like substance at the plant that, when mixed with bleach and water, would have become fully active VX nerve gas. (130), (P)
Clarke said U.S. intelligence does not know how much of the substance was produced at El Shifa or what happened to it. But he said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to El Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan. (130), (P)
Given the evidence presented to the White House before the airstrike, Clarke said, the president "would have been derelict in his duties if he didn't blow up the facility." (130), (P)
I hate to repeat myself, but this seems to be a point of contention for many. Imagine again you are President of the United States. You know Iraq ordered it's Palestinian dependants to launch terror attacks against the United States in the first Gulf War and attempted to send special forces abroad. Iraq harbors the head of the group which recently killed the US ambassador to Jordan. Iraq harbors Abu Abbas [terrorist who planned the hijacking of an American cruise liner in which a wheelchair bound American Jew was shot and thrown overboard] (131). Iraq fires at US warplanes everyday. Iraq obstructs and hinders U.N. weapons inspectors. Iraq attempted to kill an ex President of the United States. Iraq has twice attempted to build nuclear weapons. Iraq has used chemical weapons. Iraq has built long range missiles in gross violation of treaties it signed. Iraq has committed genocide against it's own people. Iraq has invaded two of it's neighbors. Putin says "Iraqi special forces are preparing terrorist attacks". Saddam Hussein praised the September 11th attacks. And to top it off, you are told that there exists, at minimum, high level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda - a group that blew up the basement of the World Trade Center, blew up two embassies, blew up a US battleship, blew up a good bit of the Pentagon, blew up the Twin Towers and would have blown up the Capitol building had they not been 'rolled' by some old fashioned hardnosed American citizens who decided not to 'wait and see' if their hijackers promises of safety could be trusted (126), (127) . Do you think, in all this, you just might conclude that we could not afford to wait, contain, and in the President's words, "trust, a madman"?
Moore then shows gruesome footage of Iraqi civilian deaths, burn victims in the hospital and wailing civilians denouncing the United States. Some quick mathematics, using low end estimations, provides some perspective. According to most sources, it is estimated that there were between one and two million total casualties with at LEAST 300,000 killed in the Iran Iraq war of the 80's. (43) Sources indicate a reasonable low end estimate of Iraqi military deaths from the first gulf war is 15,000 and civilian deaths around 2,000 (44). Saddam personally initiated both these wars. It's claimed that as a result of sanctions and post war chaos many more died. According to a March 17 briefing at the State Department by Andrew Natsios, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development:
...took place in waves, over a 25-year period. Methodically, Saddam's forces destroyed villages, transferred women and children to detention camps and took away the men in trucks, some of them barefooted and naked, never to be seen again. Tens of thousands of people were taken far from their homes to distant camps in the deserts where they were killed, buried by bulldozers under tons of sand. (46)
This is not some random violence by out of control troops. This was systematic mass murder. The death tolls rival the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the killing fields of Cambodia under Pol Pot. (46)
How many died in these mass murders? Some say 300,000, some say 400,000. There are estimates of upwards of a million. We are helping the Iraqis as they begin the terrible task of counting. (46)
The lowest estimate available of these internal killings is 290,000 dead(137). When we add 290,000 internal deaths to 300,000 deaths from the Iraq-Iran war and 17,000 deaths from the first gulf war [ignoring the estimates for deaths due to sanctions] we get a grand total of 607,000 deaths over a 25 year period, which gives us 24,280 deaths a year. Remember, these are low end estimation averages and don't include wounded. Now, comparing this with the high end estimates of 13,000 Iraqi soldiers, 1,000 American soldiers and 4,300 civilians estimated killed during the major combat phase of most recent invasion (45), or even taking a higher estimate of 10,000 total civilian deaths up to present day (46), (48), we arrive at a high end number of 24,000 deaths in a period of 15 months or 19,200 a year. Ironically, at least some of the insurgents being counted as dead are foreign terrorists, including Al Qaeda operatives. We are also (most generously) absolving Saddam from all culpability for deaths in this war and blaming them all on the United States.
The most ardent skeptic must see that even if one agrees with these shaky premises and accepts only the lowest and highest end estimates respectively and even throws in a few more thousand Iraqi deaths for good measure, the situation in Iraq is no different than it was under Saddam! But of course it clearly is better. We may have already "saved" about 10,000 people from dying if we use more reasonable average estimates instead of high and low. And it appears, despite a growing resentment of the American military presence, the Iraqi people agree (49), (50), (51). To portray happy dancing Iraqis and then burned corpses and wailing widows as symbolic of before-and-after the invasion is pure idiocy.
Sometime in all of this, Moore shows footage of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld meeting with Saddam Hussein on December 17th 1983. Using the same tactic he used with Bin Laden, Saudi officials and the CIA in Afghan war, Moore accuses Rumsfeld, the Bush administration and the United States in general of having double standards in dealing with Saddam; again implying that we created Saddam for our own uses and continuing his theme that all problems stem from America.
The position of the United States on the Iran-Iraq war was that there should be no winner. Initially Iraq pushed deep into Iran and Iran was aided, largely by weapons shipments, loans and purchases through third countries such as Israel. But Iran's huge and fanatical population began to turn the tables and as Iran came closer to winning the war the United States began sending limited advisers and aid to Iraq and sent an increased naval presence to limit Iran's aquatic maneuverings. Cruel? Perhaps. Necessary and practical? In retrospect it seems the answer is yes. If either Iran or Iraq would have prevailed in this conflict a monstrous entity would have been created that would have threatened the stability of the entire region and the world. Iran's radical anti-American government was and still is the most prolific state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Saddam, at least, was secular and it was worried that the large Shiite population in the south of Iraq would be easily assimilated and converted to radicalism by Iran. But, Moore, as usual, would rather question the character and intentions of Rumsfeld and others than analyze the facts on the ground.
Did America create Saddam's powerful military machine? It can be argued we went too far in preventing an Iranian victory, but Saddam had more generous supporters. The Sunni gulf states, fearful of an Iranian victory, lent Saddam billions and funneled arms and military supplies to him. One of the main points of contention between Iraq and Kuwait was Kuwait's refusal to forgive Iraq's huge war debt.. Europe and the Soviet Union were Iraq's main source of military hardware. German engineers constructed elaborate underground bunkers and France even sold Iraq a nuclear reactor! Luckily this was destroyed by the Israelis in 1981 (53), although, of course, condemned by the entire world, including the United States in a UN resolution:
The UN Security Council, in Resolution 487 of June 19, 1981, condemned the attack and said that “Iraq is entitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it has suffered.” (55)
Of all the newspapers in the United States, only the Wall Street Journal editorial sided with Israel (56). We now know this action probably stopped Saddam from constructing a nuclear weapon. After the first gulf war, it was found that Saddam had a crash program for developing a nuclear weapon. (57)
Moore then pretends our "coalition of the willing" consists mostly of Polynesian island countries and shows clips of half naked tribesmen with spears dancing around to bongo music. It was very cute and all, but in actuality there are over 30 countries with forces in Iraq including Great Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Italy, Spain [until recently (60)], Denmark and Norway just to name the larger ones. On June 30th, Rumsfeld said in a radio interview:
Well, we’ve got I think it’s 32 countries currently helping us in Iraq and I think that of those, probably 16 or 17 are NATO countries. And any numbers of others are NATO Partnership for Peace countries -- countries that are loosely affiliated with NATO. (65)
The fact that so many nations sent supporting forces and/or troops is revealing considering the rising Anti-Americanism mixed with public opposition to the war that currently permeates the globe. Conservatives have suggested that the public support for the war among Eastern European populations as compared to the opposition of Western Europeans is because Easterners have an appreciation for freedom, having lived under the tyranny of communism. This is just speculation, but it is revealing that the governments of so many countries, especially Italy and Spain where opposition to the war consistently polled higher than 70-80%, supported the war when their populations were against it. Even those against the war can admire the fortitude of these leaders standing for what they thought was right. But, instead of praising the great political risks these leaders took when siding with the United States, Moore and others, including the Democratic presidential nominee, slam them. Vice President Dick Cheney echoed Kerry's words in a speech:
Senator Kerry calls these countries, quote, "window dressing." They are, in his words, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed." (116)
Many questions come to mind, but the first is this: How would Senator Kerry describe Great Britain - coerced, or bribed? Or Italy - which recently lost 19 citizens, killed by terrorists in Najaf - was Italy's contribution just window dressing? If such dismissive terms are the vernacular of the golden age of diplomacy Senator Kerry promises, we are left to wonder which nations would care to join any future coalition. (116)
Senator Kerry now claims that Bush alienated allies and "unilaterally acted" and that he would bring more nations in to assist us in Iraq. On March 17th the USA Today reports the Senator said:
"....Europe and the Middle East have an interest in Iraq's success and that "this administration has failed utterly to bring all of those parties to the table." (117)
Most European countries have sent troops. Turkey and Jordan have offered to send troops if the intern government requests them and almost all of the Gulf States are supporting US troops or bases, often over their populations objections. It's not clear to me how Kerry reconciles these two opposing statements. Moore's contradictory criticisms fail in the same way. Remember, the last United Nations security resolution (passed unanimously) promised "serious consequences" if Saddam did not fully disclose his unaccounted weapons and cooperate with the weapons inspectors. He did neither. The United States then went back to the Security council to get a final resolution, but could not garner the votes.
The only significant nations to actively lobby against the second resolution were France, Germany and Russia. (58) Interestingly, despite Moore's charge that the United States invaded for corporate and oil profit, the breaking oil for food corruption scandals suggests that these nations opposing the war may have had their own nefarious reasons for doing so as documented by Middle Eastern Research Institute (59). It would be interesting to ask Mr. Moore why the United States would topple Saddam if the Saudis were so opposed to the war? According to a recent Foxnews story:
.....spells out that Russian and Saudi Arabian companies were the big winners in the scheme, which was beset by bribes and kickbacks: 109 Saudi Arabian companies are listed on a document titled Exempted Arab and Foreign Companies for importing all items. (106)
Saudi Arabia obviously didn't have that much pull if they couldn't prevent the war (all Arab countries including Saudi Arabia strongly opposed the war). Moore didn't even cover the usual leftist rants about Israel and the "Zionist lobby". At least we can be thankful Israel doesn't have oil, who knows what they would come up with then! Kopel (87) ponders that this may be because Jews tend to vote and contribute heavily to the Democrats. Bringing up these issues might interfere with Moore's stated aim of defeating Bush in the November elections. On a separate issue, it is illuminating that the BBC is reporting that France is opposed to sanctions against the Sudanese:
Some one million people have fled their homes and at least 10,000 have been killed in what the UN calls "the world's worst humanitarian crisis." (107)
France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq. As was the case in Iraq, it also has significant oil interests in Sudan. (107)
Mr Muselier [the French ambassador] also dismissed claims of "ethnic cleansing" or genocide in Darfur. (107)
"I firmly believe it is a civil war and as they are little villages of 30, 40, 50, there is nothing easier than for a few armed horsemen to burn things down, to kill the men and drive out the women," he said. (107)
Human rights activists say the Janjaweed are conducting a genocide against Darfur's black African population. (107)
Those who have fled their homes say the Janjaweed ride on horses and camels into villages which have just been bombed by government aircraft, killing the men and raping the women. (107)
According to Voanews, France's buddy Russia is also contributing to a stable situation in Darfur:
In recent days, Sudan is believed to have received the last of 12 MiG-29 fighter jets it had ordered from Russia. Although the deal was signed three-years ago, the timing of the delivery - five-months ahead of schedule - sparked deep concern about their potential use. (138)
Human-rights groups say refugees in Darfur have testified that their villages were bombed by Russian-made MiG jets belonging to the Sudanese air force. Many activists fear the new jets may be used in a renewed bombing campaign in Darfur. Sudan's threats against foreign intervention in Darfur have also raised fear they could be used against peacekeepers. (138)
The Associated Press adds:
The top Russian and American diplomats discussed the humanitarian crisis in Sudan by telephone, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday, and were believed to have touched on Moscow's opposition to a U.S. call for U.N. sanctions against the Sudanese government. (139)
The ministry said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Colin Powell dwelled on the crisis in the Darfur region during their talk Sunday. As many as 30,000 people, mostly black Africans, have been killed over the past 15 months, and an estimated 2.2 million are in urgent need of nutrition and medical attention. (139)
Last week, Russia was among Security Council members that moved to block efforts to threaten sanctions against Sudan for failing to prevent atrocities against civilians, objecting to the use of the word in a U.S.-drafted resolution. (139)
And these are the countries that Moore and others seem to believe holds veto power over our attempts to stabilize the world, stop human rights violations, bring about political reform and defend our national security? It seems the exact charges that Moore and others level at the United States are actually most true when applied to our diplomatic opponents!
On Dec. 16 the New York Times ran a story describing Iraq's new foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari delivering his harsh verdict to the United Nations:
"Settling scores with the United States-led coalition should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people," Mr. Zebari said in language unusually scolding for an occupant of the guest seat at the end of the curving Security Council table. (136)
"The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure." (136)
He declared, "The U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again." (136)
It was not immediately clear how the accusatory tone of Mr. Zebari's speech affected the closed-door discussion over the United Nations' role in Iraq that followed, but Secretary General Kofi Annan, the first to emerge from the hall, appeared taken aback. (136)
It is also notable that during the first gulf war Saddam was not removed because of international and Arab opposition. Former President Bush Senior and former National Security advisor Brent Scrowcroft write they didn't remove Saddam because it:
.....would have split our Arab colleagues from the coalition and, de facto, forced us to change our objectives. (108)
We were disappointed that Saddam's defeat did not break his hold on power, as many of our Arab allies had predicted and we had come to expect. (108)
However, some blame does lie with the first Bush administration for it's lack of boldness and leadership and preservation of the status quo. This is a clear example of what happens when one bends to the will of the international community and doesn't act decisively. I am sure Reagan and Bush Jr. would not have made this mistake. Funny that the awkward closure of the first gulf war is somehow used as an argument against this war.
Of course, Moore repeats the same charge that the media loves to misreport: that we haven't found weapons of mass destruction. This ignores the toxic botulism bacteria found in an Iraqi scientists home, hidden weapons programs, buried nuclear components and chemical weapons. On June 25th the Washington Times reported:
On the chemical munitions, Mr. Deulfer, who replaced David Kay as the head of the Iraq Survey Group earlier this year, said that the group has uncovered 10 to 12 bombs filled with blistering mustard gas or the nerve agent sarin. (61)
Earlier on May 7, another improvised explosive device was found containing mustard agent. All such weapons were supposed to have been destroyed by Saddam's regime under U.N. sanctions and the terms of the cease fire from the 1990-91 Persian Gulf war. (61)
A February 14th Fox news report said:
The Iraqi Survey Group also found that supposed "humanitarian" imports under Oil-for-Food gave Saddam the ability to restart his biological and chemical warfare programs at a moment's notice. Spertzel said what scared him the most in Iraq was the discovery of secret labs to make deadly weapons like the nerve agent, sarin, and the biological poison, ricin, in spray form.
But Spertzel believes Saddam was cooking up an even more sinister plan — putting the poisons on department store shelves across the United States and Europe. He said that plan was "actively pursued" as late as March 2003. And that plan was at least, in part, funded by Saddam's corrupt Oil-for-Food activities.
"Some of the photographs that were obtained from this same laboratory had multiple different shapes of glass spray bottles, perfume spray bottles — presumably to mimic different brand names," (160)
On July 6th the Associated Press reported that:
In a secret operation, the United States last month removed from Iraq nearly two tons of uranium and hundreds of highly radioactive items that could have been used in a so-called dirty bomb, the Energy Department disclosed Tuesday. (104)
Also ferried out of Iraq was 1.95 tons of low-enriched uranium, the department said. (104)
''It speeds up the process,'' Oelrich said, adding that 1.95 tons of low-enriched uranium could be used to produce enough highly enriched uranium to make a single nuclear bomb. (104)
It is unclear what if any of these radioactive sources were in violation of U.N. inspections, or how pure the Uranium was.
So Moore's statement that no WMD have been found is false. What does seem to be true is that Saddam did not possess the great cache of chemical and biological weapons that the United States, the United Nations and almost all countries, including France, Germany and Russia thought he possessed (113). However, even small amounts of Sarin and mustard gas, if used creatively by terrorists, could kill large numbers of people. Of course, it is still possible that larger caches of weapons remain hidden in Iraq or, according to some unsubstantiated rumors, may have been shipped off to Syria or Lybia.
Fahrenheit shifts to show a ditzy sounding Britney Spears saying she supported the president and the war. This was news to me, because as a regular digester of news and current events from a wife variety of sources, I had never heard this endorsement! I was more familiar with Madonna, the Dixie chicks and the countless other actors and celebrities who constantly make news when they bash the Bush administration. Let's see, we all know who the liberal CEOs are, George Soros, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner and Steve Jobs. Go ahead, name some conservatives... should be easy; after all, there's a lot more of 'em....
Moore then embarks on a long and convoluted denigration of United States military personal, portraying soldiers alternatively as bloodthirsty, resentful, embittered, fearful and impoverished. First, a few macho, kick-ass type soldiers are shown, who seem to love killing and listen to heavy metal in combat. Then the scene shifts to soldiers berating the administration, climaxing with a soldier demanding Rumsfeld's resignation. Hospital scenes record wounded soldiers talking pessimistically about the war and abhorring the incompetence of the administration. Moore also takes swipes at Haliburton and Cheney, ignoring the 41 Haliburton employees who have given their lives (77).
Then Marine recruiters are shown going to the "poor" mall in a two mall town and unscrupulously trying to coerce young kids to join. This is shown just after battle field scenes of wounded soldiers being rushed to hospitals. The recruiters seem to be targeting minorities and often joke and laugh as they tell people how great the Marines are.
In the same town, a group of six or seven African American kids are interviewed in a school gym and they describe being approached by military recruiters and how the military is one of the few ways out for them. When asked how many have family in the military about half raise their hands. Another scene shows a white women, who has a son in the military describing similar situations. This woman and her family (she is married to an African American) are extensively, exhaustedly and exclusively, featured as representing the family of service men and women. We will return to her later.
Similar to the Florida recount in the beginning of the movie, Moore is again playing the race card. But only 9-10% of frontline infantry troops are African American, as compared to 11.8% of military age in the general population (62). In 1995, 79 percent of the frontline troopers were white, compared with 74.3 percent the general population. (62) In looking at the total army we find a different picture, with African Americans constituting about 29% of the total army and women 15%. The discrepancies between the number of frontline troops and total troops suggests that African Americans tend to gravitate towards supporting roles. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Black soldiers gravitate towards jobs with skills transferable to the civilian economy, says Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. (63)
Interesting that Moore (and other Democrats, notably New York Rep. Charlie Rangel) disparage minorities in the military with these misleading statistics and ignore the aid and support the military can give to low income families, especially minorities, while ignoring the failures of their own policies, such as the terrible toll Congressionally enacted welfare has had on low income and minority families. (72) Here is my own lenghty analysis of Welfare
On January 31st 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell described his experience in the military:
I have to tell the story. I was a "C" student and managed to get into college. They didn't have SAT scores in those days, thank heavens. And I got into college and found ROTC, the Reserve Officers Training Program, the Army. And the Army turned me on. Nothing else in college was really doing it for me. The Army turned me on. And a lot of the things I just talked about, discipline, hard work, sticking with it, you know, developing a reputation -- those are sort of the early lessons I picked up in my cadet years in ROTC. (71)
Yet, because the war in Iraq is a guerrilla war with no clear boundaries, support troops are often targeted and engage in combat. This probably accounts for the fact that African Americans account for 20% of the casualties in the present Iraq conflict (64), as compared to the Vietnam war, where they accounted for 12.5% of deaths, from an age group in which blacks comprised 13.1% percent of the population. (62) But wait! According to official military statistics up to June 26th, 88 African Americans have been killed out of 712 total deaths or 12.36%. (115) Upon further research, my original source (64) was referring to casualties not deaths. He is also a liberal so-called civil rights leader, so perhaps he just slanted the figures for his own reasons (as Jackson, Sharpton and Rangel later does). Today blacks make up 12.3% of the population.
It is ridiculous that Moore propagates such fiery racial rhetoric. But, as is the theme throughout the movie, it is not Moore's statements that are most surprising, it who he is echoing that is most telling. In this case, the most prominent 'civil rights' figure in America:
Even as late as the Gulf War in 1991, Jesse Jackson, addressing a largely black audience, claimed that "when that war breaks out, our youth will burn first." (62)
Moore's portrayal of the troops as young is also misleading. The average age in the military is 27 and a majority of enlisted personal are married (63). Current military and veterans vote overwhelmingly Republican, support the war by a large margin and raucously cheer when addressed by administration officials, notably Bush, Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld. The Washington times reports:
President Bush could not have won the Electoral College in 2000 without the military vote, and that vote is shaping up to go his way again on Nov. 2, military analysts and pollsters from both sides say. (112)
If the election were held tomorrow, those active-duty, reserve and veteran votes would go to Mr. Bush by a margin of 52 percent to 44 percent, according to the June 20 to 23 bipartisan Battleground Poll of likely voters that Ms. Lake conducted with Mr. Goeas. (112)
"If Eglin [Air Force Base] were in Alabama instead of Florida, Al Gore would be in the White House," he said. "The margin was that close, and the military vote went heavily Republican." (112)
Moore than shows himself traveling around Capitol Hill asking various Congressmen if their sons or daughters would serve in the military. At the end, Moore declares, “Not a single member of Congress wanted to sacrifice their child for the war in Iraq.” An elderly Republican Congressmen responds to the question by saying, "..but they have kids" - implying that his children have kids and therefore can't serve. This, of course, is insensitive to the fact that many servicemen and women serving have kids. But, because of Moore's history of hatch jobs on quotations, we can't be sure of exactly what context the Congressmen was making this remark. For example, the second Congressmen he interviews, Mark Kennedy, a Minnesota Republican is asked the question and looks stupefied for a brief second before the film cuts out. Kennedy later complained about Moore's editing saying that soon after this "pause" he remarked, "I have a nephew on his way to Afghanistan." (67) (88)
According to David Kopel's review (87), Fahrenheit shows Moore calling out to Delaware Republican Michael Castle, who is talking on a cell phone and waves Moore off. Castle is presented one of the Congressmen who would not sacrifice his children. What the film omits is that Rep. Castle does not have any children. (89).
Besides trying to embarrass Republican Congressmen, Moore's real point is to draw outrage to the fact that only one member of Congress has a child in the military, or perhaps (according to Kopel (87)) he words this in such a way to technically mean specifically the war in Iraq, but that wasn't the impression I got. First, it doesn't seem to be an outrage to much of the American public that elected them, secondly, friends, family and staffers of Congressmen certainly have children in the present conflict, thirdly, many Congressmen are veterans (101 in the House and 36 in the Senate) (87) themselves, fourthly, Congress makes decisions about any number of topics that it's members aren't involved in and, fifthly, the average age of members of Congress is 56 (68). This means many members have children who are much older than the average (27 years) age of a member of the military. Although he is investigating the wrong issue, it is true that Congressmen do create perks and exemptions that should be questioned by the public, most notably their healthcare and retirement benefits.
We then see that of 535 Congressional families, there are two with a child who served in Iraq. How does this compare with American families in general? In the summer of 2003, U.S. troop levels in Iraq were raised to 145,000. If we factor in troop rotation, we could estimate that about 300,000 people have served in Iraq at some point. According to the Census Bureau, there were 104,705,000 households in the United States in 2000. (See Table 1 of the Census Report.) So the ratio of ordinary U.S. households to Iraqi service personnel is 104,705,000 to 300,000. (87)
This reduces to a ratio of 349:1.
In contrast the ratio of Congressional households to Iraqi service personnel is 535:2. This reduces to a ratio of 268:1.
Stated another way, a Congressional household is about 23 percent more likely than an ordinary household to be closely related to an Iraqi serviceman or servicewoman.
Of course my statistical methodology is very simple. A more sophisticated analysis would look only at Congressional and U.S. households from which at least one child is legally eligible to enlist in the military. Moore, obviously, never attempted such a comparison; instead, he deceived viewers into believing that Congressional families were extremely different from other families in enlistment rates. (87)
Moore is just recycling exposed, but unreported, Democratic political strategy. For example, African American Representative Charles Rangel, with 14 other Democrats, sponsored legislation attempting to bring back the draft. Rangel said in a statement:
I truly believe that decision-makers who support war would more readily feel the pain of conflict and appreciate the sacrifice of those on the front lines if their children were there, too. I don't make too much of the fact that only four members of the 107th Congress, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of war with Iraq, had children in the military. (70) (italics added)
Perhaps Moore is referring to a different Congress then Rangel? Or is this a matter of definition as to what and where constitutes "serves"? From Kopel's critique (87) we find:
Sergeant Brookes Johhnson, the son of South Dakota Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, serves in the 101st Airborne Division and fought in Iraq in 2003 (84). The son of California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter quit his job after September 11, and enlisted in the marines; his artillery unit was deployed to Iraq. (85) Delaware Senator Joseph Biden's son Beau is on active duty, although not in Iraq. (86)
How about Cabinet members? Fahrenheit never raises the issue, because the answer would not fit Moore’s thesis. Attorney General John Aschcroft's son is serving on the U.S.S. McFaul in the Persian Gulf. (86) (87)
In any case, despite it's origin, fear of the draft has been pushed by media reports and Democrats for political gain, often portraying either the Bush administration or Republicans as secretly driving the proposals and legislation. (69) Secretary Rumsfeld and all administration officials and Republican congressional leaders have all said there is no intention or need to bring back the draft as all services are fulfilling recruiting quotas and reenlistment. Moreover Secretary Rumsfeld has stated:
"We have in the active force about 1.4 million people. And in the Guard and the Reserve and if you include the Individual Ready Reserve, the people who are not training in ready units, we go up to somewhere over 2.3 million people." (65)
"The force is stressed and we’re only sustaining 200,000-plus in the Central Command region out of a total of 2 million. So the question is, well, why is that?" (65)
"We’ve got probably 300,000 military people who are engaged in tasks that could every bit as easily be conducted by civilians." (65)
Asked about the draft Rumsfeld replied:
"....goodness no, we’re perfectly capable of increasing the incentives and the inducements to attract people into the armed services." (65)
It is also notable that the military, due to cutbacks in the first Bush and Clinton years, is about one-third smaller than the one that existed just 12 years ago in the Gulf war. (73) [to read more of my analysis of 'the draft myth' click here]
Earlier in the film Moore also paid a visit to Congress to read them the Patriot act, which he apparently opposes, which they passed "without reading". He prefaces this visit with three accounts of homeland security bunglings. The first describes how a harmless peace group in San Francisco was infiltrated by the FBI, the second illustrates how a mother was forced to drink bottled breast milk she was bringing for her baby and the third narrates the experiences of a long time left wing activist who thought Bush was worse than Saddam and had an altercation in a local gym which resulted in an FBI visit to his house. We can't trust what he is or isn't leaving out of these incidents, but if these are the absolute WORST (which we can assume they are) examples that demonstrate the tyranny of the patriot act then we are in good hands. Besides, because Moore NEVER talks about the substantive details of the patriot act, it is unclear if any of these incidents resulted from application of the new legislation.
Moore drives around the Capital in a truck reading the Patriot Act through a microphone. Bills in congress are often hundreds of pages long, littered with arcane legal jargon designed to prevent loopholes and clarify the law in minute detail. It would be a waste of time for a Congressmen to read every bill. Instead, he or she relies on aides and their colleagues for summaries. There are thousands of bills stored that Congress can quickly retrieve and, if necessary, pass on short notice. For example, Rep Rangel's aforementioned draft bill could quickly be passed in the event of a national emergency. If this occurred, a member of Congress might ask a few questions, "How would the draft be conducted?", "How much does it cost?", "When does it start?". If these questions were answered by a trusted individual, and the member of Congress had no objections, he or she could vote for the bill in full confidence without having read a word of it.
Because Moore never brings up any specific objections he has to the act, I too will refrain from a detailed analysis, but point out that there appear to be safeguards that prevent intrusive government snooping. Crime rates have fallen, but it's true we don't know to what role the Patriot Act played in this (74). Ashcroft said in a speech on September 15th, 2003,
The fact is that our laws are very particular and very demanding. There are strict legal requirements. A federal judge must first determine that there is an existing investigation of an international terrorist or spy, or a foreign intelligence investigation into a non-U.S. person, and that the business records being sought are relevant to that investigation. Without meeting these legal requirements, obtaining business records, including library records, is not even an option. (74)
Moore than shows a brief clip of Republican Congressmen Porter Goss describe in a rising voice tone his certainty that the bill is a necessary tool to catch terrorist. According to the Central Florida Futures:
One of the most obvious distortions in the film is Moore's claim that Rep. Porter Goss doesn't really have an "800-number" for people to call to discuss problems with the Patriot Act. Moore then flashes Goss' regular line. Goss doesn't have a literal 1-800-number. He simply used the more common term for "toll-free number" - which Goss does have. That number, which can be found on the House of Representatives Web site, is 877-858-9040. (75)
The film comes to a close with Moore returning to the women whose son was in the military. She discovers that he has been killed. She sobs hysterically and clips are shown of the family members in grief and all give statements against the war and the Bush administration. The woman [with Moore] visit Washington D.C. and they have a brief encounter with an anti-war demonstrator and a pro-war bystander before she stands wailing in front of the white house. Apparently this visit gives her closure because she holds Bush personally responsible for the death of her son. It is pathetic that Moore uses this family, that is so devastated and vulnerable to further his own agenda.
He also claims he is from Flint, Michigan, the same town as the weeping widow. According to Kopel, Moore calls "my hometown." In fact, Moore grew up in Davidson, Michigan (91), a suburb of Flint. Davison is much wealthier than Flint. According to the Census Bureau (90), 6 percent of children in the Davison public schools are from families living in poverty, whereas in Flint, 31 percent of children are. Calling Flint your "hometown" when you really grew up in Davison is like calling the Bronx "my hometown" when you really grew up in Westchester County. (87)
As the film closed, scattered but sustained applause could be heard throughout the theatre. I let out a loud "Booooooooooo!", but I appeared to be alone in this reaction, much to the distress of my liberal minded friend who accompanied me.
On his website Moore assures us:
Every single fact I state in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the absolute and irrefutable truth. This movie is perhaps the most thoroughly researched and vetted documentary of our time. No fewer than a dozen people, including three teams of lawyers and the venerable one-time fact-checkers from The New Yorker went through this movie with a fine-tooth comb so that we can make this guarantee to you. Do not let anyone say this or that isn't true. If they say that, they are lying. (99)
Hopefully, from what I have written it is clear that this statement illustrates the character of this film more than anything I could say. Having been a liberal myself, I am generally sympathetic to the liberal mindset and understand how certain positions and policies can, at first glance, be innately appealing. Good debate is what this country is all about and I would welcome a documentary that legitimately debated the issues, or even exclusively featured a point of view. For example Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor to President Clinton, laid out an intelligent alternative view in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs. (82) I don't think this approach is wrong because it's stupid; in fact, starting from scratch I probably would endorse this plan first. But from the escalating terrorist attacks throughout the 90's it is clear this view has failed. [You can read my in-depth analysis of John Kerr's Foreign Policy here] The status quo cannot stand or else we risk another 9/11... or worse. [Read these articles for chilling worse case scenarios (133), (134), (135).]
In discussions I have heard people say, "well, the film is a bit distorted, but at least it showed the other side". If anything, the distortions and falsehoods coupled with the lack of commendation and constant acclimation by the nation's prominent Democrats should give a hint of what the other side really is.
The most amazing unbelievable aspect of this movie is not it's distortions, untruths, or even it's relative popularity, but the fact that nationally prominent Democrats attended this film and that it was praised, especially by the Chairmen of the Democratic National Committee. How can THEY, informed, respected, distinguished, leaders of this country associate themselves with such a production?!? The lack of outrage indicates to me that this country is in much worse shape than I thought. To read the reviews of some in the press which praise it and the movie critics who love it, it appears that all common sense has left this country. Am I the only one that feels this way? I cannot imagine I would stay a Republican if such a thing happened on the right. I would not associate or vote for any candidate or party which did not condemn a similar rightist film.
For example, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the story of the FBI follow-up of the activist at the weight room on Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry's website. (98) For weeks Kerry was careful to give no public comment about it, but had this to say on Larry King (114),
KING: Have you seen "Fahrenheit 9/11"?
KERRY: No, I haven't. I haven't.
KING: Do you plan to?
KERRY: I don't plan to, right now.
KING: Don't plan to?
KERRY: No, I don't plan to.
KING: Wouldn't you be curious to want to see it?
KERRY: I've seen it. I've watched it for the last four years.
KING: But you haven't seen it put together like Moore put it together.
KERRY: I've got it put together in my head, Larry, and I know why I'm running president. I believe we can do better. I think the country wants to move in a different direction, with leadership that really brings people together, tries to solve problems, and that's what I intend to do.
KING: Have you seen it?
HEINZ KERRY: No.
KING: Don't plan to see it?
HEINZ KERRY: Maybe when all this is over, but we don't have much time. (114)
Sadly, we now hear that Moore has been invited to speak at the Democratic National convention:
But it's the invitation of Moore that has created a buzz in Boston. A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Democratic Party told the Boston Herald that having Moore in town "adds a lot of excitement to everything else going on." (124)
Moore sat in the Presidential box of ex President Jimmy Carter.
A July 23rd headline in a New York Times article flashes: "Kerry Sees Hope in Gaining Edge on Terror Issue" (132). Hmmm... For the life of me I can't figure out why he wouldn't have this edge....
To be fair there were some positives that can be taken out of the film. The Saudi US alliance needs to be shaken up and that nation's relationship with us reevaluated. Unfortunately, Moore's focus on the Bush administration may lead many to overlook this grain of underlying truth. If it hadn't been so distorted I would have said the general argument against Bush's reaction to 9/11 is fair criticism. I also thought that the bloody burns and wounds of both civilians and US and Iraqi soldiers was good to see. Similar to my wish that the news media would show more of the good developments that have been occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wish they would show the horrors of war as well. The American people are well grounded enough to know and see terrible things and still understand there are wars worth fighting.
Moore also shows himself and the aforementioned distraught woman hanging up American flags and describing their patriotism. I don't question liberal's patriotism or even Michael Moore's patriotism, although he certainly doesn't admire what America is today. But no matter what one believes it is important to acknowledge that the ends never justifies the means, especially in ideological disputes. From collective evidence and research I have done on the facts of this film I can say with good confidence that Moore knew that his film contained distortions and falsehoods and for this I cannot forgive him. In spending only a few hours over a few days I was able to clearly debunk almost every major claim his movie made. How can he not have seen any of this? Perhaps he just didn't care. Was it for the lure of money, the lure of fame or the ideological ends he was most driven by? I just can't say.
In light of all this, I return to one of my original reasons for seeing the film: the accuracy of the conservative commentators and columnists. If anything they understated the degree of deception and falsehoods found in the film. In fact, despite re-reading some of the reviews I have not found any strong examples of over exaggerations or counter distortions by the right. I was hoping to find some concrete examples in order to cement my objective review of this, but the best I could find was a Bill O'Reilly statement from the liberal site (which hilariously believes there is a conservative bias in the media) Media Matters:
This is Michael Moore. He believes this. He believes that we are an evil country. (103)
And Rush Limbaugh gave false statements about the Bin Laden families standing in Saudi Arabia and said something akin to "Moore thinks Saddam is better than Bush". But both Rush and O'Reilly's statements are generalizations about what they think of Moore and these opinions and may or may not have been said in jest.
This brings up another topic I see being written about: that Fahrenheit 911 is comparable to The Passion and that Moore is the left's Limbaugh. Limbaugh may occasionally be wrong or may distort or leave out relevant information, but such an event is rare and, to my knowledge, he has never knowingly deceived his audience or lied about any given event. Actually, often times his unique perspectives and refreshing viewpoints are more to the point then that of the mainstream press! But I digress, this is anyone's judgment call.
Regarding The Passion (which I saw but didn't particularly enjoy), first, Mel Gibson did not attempt to stir up controversy to increase sales, rather, media attention came to him from the right and the left. (101) Secondly, although theologians may have disagreements with Gibson and each other over the historical validity of the film, the film isn't riddled with blatant lies and deceptions. Thirdly, after The Passion, Gibson was viciously attacked by some on the left for being anti-Semitic, a religious zealot, having a temper and as just being weird. Fahrenheit 911 deserves every criticism that I have seen and most criticism has focused on the content. It is true that Moore has been personally attacked as Fat, Stupid, Naive and Unpatriotic... but besides Unpatriotic, which is really a matter of definition and opinion, all of these descriptions, in my opinion, are completely accurate!
But I can see how the case can be made for describing Moore as unpatriotic or even backing up O'Reilly's claim that he thinks we are an "evil country". He seems to denigrate America when he speaks around the world.
. We, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants...Don't be like us,’ he told a crowd in Berlin. ‘You've got to stand up, right? You've got to be brave.’ (113)
In an open letter to the German people in Die Zeit, Moore asked, ‘Should such an ignorant people lead the world?’ (113)
“I don’t know why we are making so much of an act of terror. It is three times more likely that you will be struck by lightening than die from an act of terror.” (113)
In an interview with a Japanese newspaper, Moore helped citizens of that country understand why the United States went to war in Iraq: ‘The motivation for war is simple. The U.S. government started the war with Iraq in order to make it easy for U.S. corporations to do business in other countries. They intend to use cheap labor in those countries, which will make Americans rich.’ (113)
“Before a delighted Cambridge crowd, Moore reflected on the tragedy of human existence: ‘You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe.’
We abhor terrorism -- unless we're the ones doing the terrorizing. (102)
[Americans are]... "possibly the dumbest people on the planet" (92)
I wonder if he will say any of these things at the Democratic National convention next week?
What will the effect of this film be across the world? Brisk sales are expected in Western Europe, which should do wonders for the anti-Americanism that already festers there. Communist China is showing the film, the first imported documentary to be played in China. (93) Most disturbing is the effect the film will have across the Middle East, Kopel writes:
In Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore claims to support our troops. But in fact, he supports the enemy in Iraq—the coalition of Saddam loyalists, al Qaeda operatives, and terrorists controlled by Iran or Syria—who are united in their desire to murder Iraqis, and to destroy any possibility of democracy in Iraq. Here is what Moore (87) says [on his website] about the forces who are killing Americans and trying to impose totalitarian rule on Iraq :
"The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. You closed down a friggin' weekly newspaper, you great giver of freedom and democracy!" (94)
Of course if you believe that the people who are perpetrating suicide bombings against Iraqi civilians and American soldiers for the purpose of forcing a totalitarian boot onto Iraq are the moral equivalent of the American Founders, then Moore's claim about the Iraqi insurgents could be valid. But even if that claim were valid (and I do not believe that any reasonable person can equate people fighting for totalitarianism with people fighting for constitutional democracy), then Moore is still being dishonest in Fahrenheit when he pronounces his concern for American troops. To the contrary, he is cheering for the forces which are killing our troops, as he equates the killers with freedom-fighters. And if you think that the people who are slaughtering American soldiers, American civilians, Iraqi soldiers, and Iraqi civilians are terrorists rather than "minutemen," then it is true that Moore supports terrorists. (87)
There are some sincere opponents of the Iraq War who want to "support our troops" by bringing them home, and thereby getting them out danger. But it's deceptive to say that you support the troops if (besides lobbying for troop withdrawal) you are actively recruiting enemy fighters to kill our troops. Moore is doing so, as the next item details. (87)
At least Moore isn't so direct in supporting the insurgency in his film, but viewers in the Middle East will surely connect the dots. The film is getting a boost from some unexpected quarters, British newspaper the Guardian carried a story,
According to Screen International, the UAE-based distributor Front Row Entertainment has been contacted by organizations related to the Hezbollah in Lebanon with offers of help. (95)
And movie industry publication Screen Daily adds,
The film will first be sent out on 18 screens in the United Arab Emirates and will be released in Syria (2 screens), Jordan (3 screens), Lebanon (10 screens) and Egypt (5 screens) six days later on July 20. (97)
Other territories which Front Row will handle include Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – however, all of the above countries are awaiting censorship clearance. (97)
Chacra said: "We’re scared most of these countries will have a problem (with censorship approval) due to the Saudi content in the film. (97)
In terms of marketing the film, Front Row is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah which have rung up from Lebanon to ask if there is anything they can do to support the film. And although Chacra says he and his company feel strongly that Fahrenheit is not anti-American, but anti-Bush, “we can’t go against these organizations as they could strongly boycott the film in Lebanon and Syria.” (97)
Indeed, Moore is, explains Chacra, “considered an Arab supporter,” locally. (97)
So, in all these countries that sensor their films, Moore's is being shown. And if we are to believe the Screen Daily report, Hezbollah, a terror organization sponsored by Iran that has terrorized Lebanon and Israel for decades (and killed Americans, most notably the 241 dead from the bombing of the Marine barracks in the 80s) is offering to aid in it's distribution. After all, we wouldn't want this film to be boycotted in Lebanon and Syria would we? It is always funny to me that Syria opposes the Iraq "occupation", but has itself or through proxy puppets controlled Lebanon for over 20 years. In these countries, where the Bush administration is trying to bring democratic reform and limit the funding and recruitment efforts of Al Qaeda and other like-minded organizations, this film could result in a major public relations setback that hinders this desperate and delicate effort. A setback that not only endangers our troops in Iraq, but our citizens abroad and here at home.
Remember, the opening gala of this film was attended by 9/11 Commissioner, Democrat Richard Ben-Viniste. Stop and think about that.... Now, think about what you've read the past few paragraphs and stop and think about it again.
All of this has not been reported by the mainstream media, but it will filter out. Growing anger is being channeled against the documentary. Pro-military lobby group Move America Forward is campaigning to "Stop Michael Moore from profiting in his attacks on America and our military"; Michael Wilson is making a documentary called Michael Moore Hates America. The rumblings of a backlash? World Net Daily reports that at least one family is livid at footage showing the coffin of their dead soldier son:
"We are furious that Greg was in that casket and cannot defend himself, and my sister, Greg's mother, is just beside herself," Gallagher said. "She is furious. She called [Moore] a 'maggot that eats off the dead.'" (122)
The video footage shows Stone's fiancée, Tammie Eslinger, kissing her hand and touching it to his coffin, the Times reported. (122)
Gallagher says the family doesn't know how Moore got the footage, but is considering taking legal action against the director. (122)
Here in America it is sad is that this film will influence many people who don't take the time to check the facts, or want to so badly believe the conclusions that they skim over the premises. Unfortunately, the majority of these people that fall for this will probably be young people, full of good ideals and hope for change. As they grow older and wiser, maybe, just maybe, they will come across the isle and view this propaganda master and his film with derision and cold fury. Perhaps, most of all, he just deserves our saddened sympathy.
Return to main pageComments
Note: I attempted to make this as complete and unique of a review as possible. After my first draft I viewed other websites and reviews to see what I have may have overlooked. I used these reviews only to expand on points I had already generated and was happy to see that on many occasions my analysis was mirrored by others. Only in the cases of Moore's hometown claim, the Hezbollah connection, and some of Moore's statements from his own website did I add totally new sections. Most of these were provided by Kopel (87). There were a few areas of deception that that I did not cover including:
Moores's false claims regarding Bush's cutting of veterans benefits (it's similar to what happened with the Justice Department cut claims). Information on this can be found at David Kopel's review. (87)
Moore's false claims about Disney and the marketing scheme he used to create controversy, hence ticket sales. Information on this can be found at reference 101. (101)
Critique on Moore's claim of an interview with Editor Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard at reference 100. (100)
Outrageous claims on Moore's website (which often get taken down soon after being put up) and some of his crazier quotes can be found at reference 102. (102) Here is the best one:
Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California -- these were places that voted AGAINST Bush! (102)
For a more detailed account of the distortions of the amount of Saudi money in the US economy see Kopel's critique. (87)
For a more in depth look at the sources that Moore relies on such as Rep. Jim McDermitt and Craig Unger author of “House of Bush, House of Saud” see Kopel. (87)
There were a few others I encountered, but can't remember at the moment. There are also other sites dedicated to deceptions and untruths in his earlier films, "Bowling for Colombine" and "Roger and Me". See Spinsanity.com for reviews on these and other topics. (105)
19/4/09 (By Travis)
Millionaire Filmmaker Michael Moore: ‘Capitalism Did Nothing For Me’
10/1/09 CNS news
Documentary film director Michael Moore, who has become a millionaire thanks to the profits from his movies, told CNSNews.com that “capitalism did nothing” for him.
Other Reviews of Fahrenheit
The best analysis of Moore's film, besides this one :), is David Kopel's great analysis which I have used liberally throughout my own analysis. (87)
A great site for background on Moore and his past flubs is Spinsanity. (105)
Unfairenheit 9/11 The lies of Michael Moore at slate.com is a good summary. (18)
Moorelies.com a previously sited link has a good link to a number of other Moore exposing sites
Democratic ex New York City Mayor Edward Koch writes what all democrats should write and say:113. (113)
Link to a new documentary coming out about Moore himself. Should be a riot. http://www.michaelmoorehatesamerica.com/
A good site with a lot of facts: http://fahrenheit_fact.blogspot.com/
Interesting all of these reviews except the Moorelies.com one are done by people who shade (in one form or another) to the left.
(4) http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/2/13/230302.shtml (from the Associated Press) (word for word from (125))
(8) http://web2.airmail.net/scsr/ (by analogy)
(9) http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/eco_gdp_ppp (from the World Bank, 2002) [GDP US is 9.6 trillion] [GDP of Saudi Arabia is 235 billion]
(24) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1120440.stm (biased)
(58) http://www.geocities.com/pwhce/willing.html [interesting site]
End of Piece.
All References below were added in response to new information, such as the September 11th Commission Report or clarifications requested by readers. To find a reference go to 'edit' in your browser and then 'find' and enter the number of the references. I will try to continue to update and stay as current as possible.
(111) Fareed Zakaria 'Islam, Democracy, and Constitutional Liberalism', Political Science Quarterly. Spring 2004
(113) http://www.jrwhipple.com/war/wmd.html (I know there was a bigger list, looking for it still)
(128) http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch4.pdf (pg 134)
(130) http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=37704 (P) to check the veracity of this I purchased the Washington Post archive article. I can post or email it if anyone is interested.
(154) Natan Sharansky, The Case for Democracy
(155) Various, The Black Book of Communism(156) http://globalpolitician.com/articles.asp?ID=280&t=The+Roots+of+Islamic+Terrorism%3A+How+Communists+Helped+Fundamentalists(157) http://www.redlinerants.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1088491633&archive=&start_from=&ucat=1&(158) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/12/19/wturk19.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/12/19/ixworld.html (159) http://www.neoperspectives.com/quotes.htm (160) http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,147046,00.html
Hit counter posted on 7/16/2004