Saturday, June 26, 2004

Review: Farenheit 9/11

Michael Moore got his start in movies with muckraking pseudo-journalism, and he's only gotten better at this gig in the fifteen years since Roger and Me was released. In Farenheit 9/11 Moore has seemingly mastered the art of this type of story-telling, and has timed its release perfectly for the greatest effect in this years election cycle (late June, 1 month before the conventions).

Also of interest to viewers of this movie should be The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader by Michael Moore. This book presents all the fact-checking behind the movie. The movie, after all, is a non-stop whirwind of facts that were not well covered by the mainstream media. Much of the movies claims clearly are shocking to most of the audience, but to those of us who have been researching the truth for awhile none of the claims were at all outrageous.

The movie makes a series of assertions which will not be a surprise to readers of this web site. In fact the movie is pretty mild compared to the various assertions that were available for Moore to make in the film. On the other hand, a purely factual movie would not have been so gripping emotionally, and as we know the emotions are much stronger than the mind.

In this movie we witness the horror of the September 11, 2001 attack not directly through watching the airplanes hit the building, but indirectly through the eyes and anguish of the people on the scene. Their horror and overwhelm at watching people leaping to their deaths is very moving. And, as typical of the rest of the movie, the viewer is shifted from that horror to watching what President Bush was doing at that same moment. Namely, making a visit to a elementary school classroom, having just come off a month-long vacation during which he was briefed that al Qaeda was planning an attack using airplanes. Upon being told of airplanes hitting the World Trade Center did the President immediately leap into action? No, he sat there for many minutes listening to the teacher conducting the reading program. People were dying in the streets of Manhattan, and the President did "nothing" for several minutes. Of course, one wonders, what could he have done anyway?

Very emotionally moving and serves to underscore Moore's theme. That this President is a bufoon, that the wrong man was given the Presidency, and that this President's policies have led America greatly astray.

The entire movie is in this vein. Going back and forth between shocking images primarily of the fighting in Iraq, fact-telling, and humor. In one gross-out scene we see Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's favored grooming techniques. Moore must have excellent access to the camera-persons in the news media, for he shows dozens of short clips of the People of Power in moments of embarrasing humanity. Such as the makeup artistry in the moments before appearing on television (hence Wolfowitz's gross grooming techniques).

Some of the facts are interesting, so I will briefly recount them:

  • On September 13, 2001 a large number of private airplane flights were sent across the U.S. to collect high level Saudi's and ferry them out of the country. In the movie this point isn't carefully laid out, and many of the reviewers think that Moore is claiming all aviation was still canceled at the time these flights were ferrying Saudi's out of the country. Craig Unger, who is featured prominently in Moore's movie, is the source of this information and in his book House of Bush, House of Saud details that these flights happened while private aviation was still grounded. Most of these flights were on private aircraft, not commercial, and had to be approved by the White House. What's alarming is that many of these Saudi's were members of the bin Laden family, and in general many of them should have been of interest to the FBI for questioning. Yet none of them were detained for questioning, and the White House is complicit in ferrying them out of the country.
  • In the infamous flap over George W Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, he spent a year of that time AWOL. During that AWOL period he was suspended from service. The Bush Administration released his service records in an attempt to prove that George W had done his service, and on the sheet detailing Bush's suspension from service one name was blacked out of someone else who had been suspended at the same time. However Moore already had a copy of that document, and in his copy the name was not blacked out. That name? James R. Bath, who went on to become a financier, handling the investment activities of Saudi Royals in Texas, one of whom is Osama bin Ladens half-brother. Some of those investments were in the string of failed businesses which George W Bush ran into the ground before going into politics (just like his father). Moore claims the link between the Bush and bin Laden families was formed soley through the James R Bath connection.
  • George H W Bush's involvement in The Carlysle Group is detailed at some length. This company is a major world conglomerate, largely specializing in Defense Industries. It has on staff many former world leaders such as John Major and George H W Bush. George W Bush had worked briefly for this company as well. The bin Laden family had been a major investor in the Carlysle Group, and coincidentally the Carlysle Group was holding a meeting in Washington DC on September 11, 2001. The bin Laden family pulled out of the Group shortly after the attacks. This company is very secretive and steeped in controversy.

A question asked over and over again is Why are we attacking Iraq? The Iraqi's clearly had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks, yet on September 12, 2001 President Bush and others told Richard Clarke in no uncertain terms to find justification to attack Iraq (Against all Enemies). Moore proposes that it is the oil, of course, since Iraq has the second largest reserves of oil in the world (behind the Saudi's).

A little side story to the oil deal is the Oil Pipeline which had been proposed to go through Afghanistan. Central Asia has a large reserve of Oil, but there is no good way to get it to the ocean and thus on the world market. The straightest route is through Iran, but taking the pipeline through Iran would be dangerous to American interests and thus the pipeline has to take a different route. But none of the other routes were particularly interesting either. The agreement reached in the mid 1990's was to take the pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan, which meant that business negotiations were being conducted with the Taliban even while the Taliban was "harboring" Osama bin Laden who was known at that time to be conducting terrorist attacks against the U.S. such as the bombing of our embassies and of the U.S.S. Cole.

And who was placed into power in Afghanistan? Harmid Karzai, an advisor to the oil pipeline deal with Unocal which would have gone through Afghanistan. And what has been the major accomplishment of the Karzai government? Finalizing the agreements to route the pipeline through Afghanistan. And who else was involved with those negotiations? Why, a who's-who of the George W Bush Administration.