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by Gary Gordon
Published in the Santa Monica Mirror, July, 2004
Is 911 degrees the temperature at which truth burns?
I ask because the fire this time seems to feed off the arguments over what is and isn’t true.
To know the truth has been a self-evident value. But has knowing the truth ever really served us?
Let’s assume for a moment that President Eisenhower was right to lie to us about U-2 flights over the Soviet Union, even after the Soviets shot one down, and that the Kennedy administration was right to conceal their involvement in the Diem assassination.
Let’s assume we’re better off because of LBJ’s lies about Vietnam, and Nixon’s lies the invasion of Cambodia, the Watergate break-in and cover-up, and Chile.
Let’s stipulate Reagan’s lies about Iran-Contra and so many other things, and Bush I’s lies about being “out of the loop” and the need to invade Panama were in the highest service of our country.
Let’s decide that every claim of “National defense” and “National Security” was not only justified, it was mandatory, with the nation’s fate at stake.
And what of the other lies that have been ferreted out and undone? Black people are inferior. The poor don’t want to work. Jews control the money. The rich don’t have it so good. The free hand of the marketplace will indeed provide. Nuclear power is perfectly safe. Women are incapable of anything but childbirth and housework.
Wouldn’t we be better off if these lies had been left undisturbed?
Michael Moore’s new film, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, is about lies, money and connections.
It’s about lies told by those who run the country, lies told by those who prey on people’s patriotism for personal gain; it is about the use of the Federal Government for personal gain.
He suggests that we are plainly not better off being ignorant. But whether or not the revelation of these lies is more important to the public than the fears that facilitate the acceptance of the lies is up to the viewers and voters to decide.
As has been noted in other reviews and commentaries, much of the information in “9/11” about the lies of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz et al, and the connections between the Bush family (father and son) and the Saudi Royal family and the bin Laden family and the Carlyle group and Cheney’s connections to Halliburton, and the connections between the Taliban and now the new (U.S. Prime selected) government in Afghanistan and Unocal (who wanted the pipeline), is already known by those in the public who choose to keep up.
But knowing that the U.S. and the Bush family have long slept with the Saudis and did business with the Taliban is just not the same as seeing film of Taliban government visitors and film of the public beheadings conducted in Saudi Arabia not by terrorists (per se), but by the government.
With an artful barrage of facts and a clever soundtrack, Moore’s contention that the war in Iraq is about oil and power and money and has nothing to do with fighting terrorism is reasonably supported and is convincing, I suspect, to anyone who isn’t firmly committed to the fatuous notion that Saddam Hussein was indeed Hitler incarnate, that his war machine was poised to destroy the free world, and that Bush is too honorable a man to engage in the deceits he is charged with in the film.
But film is an emotional medium, and it is here that Moore moves entertainingly and effectively between wonderfully graphic and humorous presentation and discussion of evidence to more somber presentations of the flesh & blood impact of these lies.
There are interviews soldiers in Iraq, some of whom question their own actions and are confused by what they’ve seen, others who celebrate adrenalin, destruction and death. He interviews wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. There is footage of an Iraqi woman who has lost her family and home to American attacks.
In a disturbing sequence laced with dark humor, he follows two predatory Marine recruiters as they mine the low-income and no-income areas of Flint, Michigan in search of prospects for enlistment, and he interviews Lila Lipscomb, a proud American who puts her flag out every day and now feels lost and betrayed because her son has died in Iraq and she doesn’t know why.
It could be argued that the case Moore makes is circumstantial, lacks the necessary smoking gun, and ultimately fails because the word “is” is never defined.
After all, just because there are all these connections, all these lies, that doesn’t prove these men in power are corrupt, immoral, self-serving, criminal.
Is it audacious to imply otherwise, or do those in the administration and their corporate cohorts have the corner on audacity?
It does seem at times that these Republican rhetoriticians learned more from Lenny Bruce (“If they’ve got pictures, deny it”) and Tim Robbins’ movie “Bob Roberts” than they did from Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt. (In “Bob Roberts”, when a reporter persistently asks a candidate a question the candidate doesn’t want to answer, the candidate first falsely claims to have already answered, then accuses the reporter of not being objective.)
Moore’s critics accuse him of being an ambush journalist, trapping innocent Congressmen and CEOs and asking them… questions. But what is the appropriate response to politicians who conceal, stiff-arm, obfuscate, and prevaricate? Is it possible that an ambush is the only response? His critics glory in what they perceive to be his errors and sleight of hand, and fervently pronounce the whole film, as one talking head did on CNN, “crap”.
Christopher Hitchens, for example, who accurately denounced Henry Kissinger as a war criminal, is so eager to support this war in Iraq that he has seized upon one of Moore’s statements, that Iraq never killed an American (prior to the Gulf War) and shouted in response “What about their harboring of Abu Nidal?” It is up to the viewer to decide whether Hitchens has bested Moore by referring to Iraq’s support of a terrorist at the same time Iraq was an ally receiving U.S. aid and whether this negates the entire movie.
Other critics assert the film is a hit piece, so much so that ads for it should not be allowed to run during the presidential campaign. Clearly Moore posits the Saudis and Bush Regime are bad guys— but are the Democrats the good guys? In an anguishing sequence, Moore presents information to suggest that looking for spine among Democratic Senators is like looking for bone in jello.
The fact is, “Faherenheit 9/11” is more than a movie, it is an event. People are turning out to see it in record numbers for purely American reasons—they don’t like Bush, they don’t like the war in Iraq, they don’t like being lied to about things that matter—like war, they like Moore, they don’t like Disney for screwing with the distribution of the film, and while standing in line or waiting for the movie to begin, they’re talking politics.
And Moore—is he a film-maker? propagandist? charlatan? a con man? an agitator? son of a bitch?—well, isn’t that really beside the point?
Moore didn’t make up the lies told by the Bush crime family (to use Mike Malloy’s label), nor did he make up the war in Iraq and the limbless now living in Baghdad and at Walter Reed. It could be argued the smoking gun is in Iraq, in the hands of the U.S. military.
Regardless of his label, Moore does not have power. Bush does. Moore may stimulate some people to think, or help people rally around already adopted positions, he cannot send young men and women to fight and die in another country, he cannot bomb another country to smithereens and reward his friends the reconstruction contracts.
In any discussion of lies and liars, magnitude and the magnitude of impact must be part of the equation.
Or not. There must be a documentarian or pundit (P.J. O’Rourke? Ann Coulter? Lynne Cheney? Mike Savage? Rush Limbaugh? G. Gordon Liddy? Oliver North?) poised to argue either that all lies are equal or lies about sex are more important or, worst of all, that lies told to forward the war on terrorism are the most patriotic lies of all and therefore are not lies at all, that there is no need to know, and Moore is guilty of treason.
It is said we are a 50-50 country and the election in November will be decided in the swing states—if the election is on the up and up. I don’t know if this documentary will change anyone’s mind. Coupled with two other documentaries that received much less attention—“Uncovered” and “Unprecedented”, there is plenty of damning information about the lies, money and connections shaping our lives, relieving us of our democracy.
Near the end of the movie, Moore states that he is always astounded that it is the young, disadvantaged men and women who join the army and eagerly serve our country and it is the Ruling Class who always takes advantage of them, manipulating economic circumstances and breaking the vow to never put them in harm’s way unless it is the last resort.
Yes, Disney was right to ditch the film. It is not a Disney movie. It is not a fairytale.
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