By Dave Kopel
Above is the poster for FarenHype 9/11a film released on DVD on October 5, 2004. Dave Kopel appears in the film. Click on the image or go to http://www.fahrenhype911.com/ for details and a trailer. A college student activist website, Must Have Info, promotes campus screenings of FarenHype.
There is a Four-page PDF summary of "Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11," which you may reproduce freely.
You may also photocopy the full text of this report if you give it away for free.
Foreign-language translations of this report:
Czech translation. český překlad.59 lží dokumentu Fahrenheit 9/11. čtyřstránkový souhrn ve formátu PDF. čtyřstránkový souhrn ve formátu HTML.
Dansk/Danish. 59 fejl i Fahrenheit 9/11.
En Francais. Les Erreurs de Michael Moore. Points inclut beaucoup de photographies et graphiques, et commentaire additionnel concernant la France. Items 1-33 of the full article. Includes many photographs and graphics, and additional commentary relevant to France.
Italian translation; traduzione italiana. Cinquantanove Inganni nel film Fahrenheit 911. (Un riassunoto delle 4 pagine.) PDF.HTML
Polksa/Polish: Pięćdziesiąt Dziewięć Oszustw w Filmie Farenheit 9/11
Portuguese: Brazilian newspaper summary of this article; Sumário do artigo no português.
Spanish translation; Traducción española. Cincuenta y nueve Falacias en Fahrenheit 911. En HTML. En PDF. (Resumen de 4 páginas.)
Swedish translation; Svensk översättning. (4-sida förkortad version.)
This report was first posted on the web on the morning of July 1. Since then, I've revised several sections in response to reader requests for clarifications, and have added additional deceits which have been pointed out by readers or journalists. As a result, the number of listed deceits has been raised from 56 to 59. As of October 2, 2004, there have been 1,036,219 page views of the full report.
Thanks to the readers who have written to point out additional deceits or to point out items which need clarification. Also thanks to the readers who have written in defense of Moore. Many such readers have been rational and civil. Moore's reasonable defenders have made two main points:
First, notwithstanding the specific falsehoods, isn't the film as a whole filled with many important truths?
Not really. We can divide the film into three major parts. The first part (Bush, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan) is so permeated with lies that most of the scenes amount to lies. The second, shortest part involves domestic issues and the USA PATRIOT Act. So far, I've identified only one clear falsehood in this segment (Rep. Porter Goss's toll-free number). So this part, at least arguably, presents useful information. The third part, on Iraq, has several outright falsehoods--such as the Saddam regime's murder of Americans, and the regime's connection with al Qaeda. Other scenes in the third part--such as Iraqi casualties, interviews with American soldiers, and the material on bereaved mother Lila Lipscomb--are not blatant lies; but the information presented is so extremely one-sided (the only Iraqi casualties are innocents, nobody in Iraq is grateful for liberation, all the American soldiers are disillusioned, except for the sadists) that the overall picture of the Iraq War is false.
Second, say the Moore supporters, what about the Bush lies?
Well there are lies from the Bush administration which should concern everyone. For example, the Bush administration suppressed data from its own Department of Health and Human Services which showed that the cost of the new Prescription Drug Benefit would be much larger than the administration claimed. This lie was critical to passage of the Bush drug benefit bill. Similarly, Bush's characterization of his immigration proposal as not granting "amnesty" to illegal aliens is quite misleading; although the Bush proposal does not formally grant amnesty, the net result is the same as widespread amnesty. As one immigration reform group put it, "Any program that allows millions of illegal aliens to receive legal status in this country is an amnesty." Readers who want a scathing, and factually reliable, critique of the Bush administration might enjoy James Bovard's new book The Bush Betrayal (Palgrave MacMillan, 2004). (Free excerpt here.) Another good choice is All the President's Spin: George W. Bush, the Media, and the Truth, by Ben Fritz, Bryan Keefer, and Brendan Nyhan (Touchstone, 2004).
But two wrongs don't make a right, and the right response to Presidential lies is not more lies from his political opponents. Moreover, regarding the issues presented in Fahrenheit 9/11, the evidence of Bush lies is extremely thin. Moore shows Bush claiming that a particular day at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, was a working vacation, but Bush appears to be dissembling. Later, after Osama bin Laden was driven into hiding but was not captured, Bush unconvincingly claims not to spend much time thinking about bin Laden. Within Fahrenheit 9/11, most of the rest of alleged Bush administration lies actually involve Moore's fabrications to create the appearance of a lie--such as when Moore chops a Condoleezza Rice quote to make her say something when she actually said the opposite.
The one significant Bush administration lie exposed in the film involves the so-called USA PATRIOT Act; as Fahrenheit accurately claims, at least some of the material in the USA PATRIOT Act had nothing to do with 9/11, and instead involved long-sought items on the FBI agenda which had previously been unable to pass Congress, but which were enacted by Congress under Bush administration assurances that they were essential to fighting terrorism.
If you look up the noun "deceit" in the dictionary, you will find that the definitions point you to the verb "deceive." According to Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary, the main (non-archaic or obsolete) definition of "deceive" is "to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid." Although the evidence in this report demonstrates dozens of plain deceits by Moore, there are some "deceits" in this report regarding which reasonable people may disagree. So if you find me unpersuasive on, for example, three alleged deceits, consider this article to have identified "Fifty-six Deceits" rather than fifty-nine. Whether or not you agree with me on every single item, I think you will agree that the evidence is undeniable that Fahrenheit 9/11 is filled with deceit.
Quite obviously, there are many patriotic Americans who oppose George Bush and who think the Iraq War was a mistake. But Moore's deceitful movie offers nothing constructive to help people form their opinions. To use lies and frauds to manipulate people is contrary to the very essence of democracy, which requires people to make rational decisions based on truthful information. It's wrong when a President lies. It's wrong when a talk radio host lies. And it's wrong when a film-maker lies.
Moore's "War Room" has published a lengthy point-by-point defense of the movie. Some of the points relate to issues I've raised; others do not. For each item below, I'll provide a link to Moore's response, when there is one. On two issues (Afghanistan's President Karzai; John Ashcroft's pre-9/11 attitude towards terrorism) Moore's response makes some valid points; not necessarily that Fahrenheit is right on these facts, but at least the facts are disputable. On one issue (the unemployment rate in Flint), Moore is clearly right. On the rest of the items I've identified, Moore's responses are extremely unconvincing, mainly because they so often evade the evidence.
The key to Moore's response, and to the movie itself, is summarized by Boston University Law Professor Randy Barnett:
...I was struck by the sheer cunningness of Moore's film. When you read Kopel, try to detach yourself from any revulsion you may feel at a work of literal propaganda receiving such wide-spread accolades from mainstream politicos, as well as attendance by your friends and neighbors.
Instead, notice the film's meticulousness in saying only (or mostly) "true" or defensible things in support of a completely misleading impression. In this way, Kopel's care in describing Moore's "deceits" is much more interesting than other critiques I have read, including that of Christopher Hitchens. Kopel's lawyerly description of Moore's claims shows the film to be a genuinely impressive accomplishment in a perverse sort of way (the way an ingenious crime is impressive)--a case study in how to convert elements that are mainly true into an impression that is entirely false--and this leads in turn to another thought.
If this much cleverness was required to create the inchoate "conspiracy" (whatever it may be, as it is never really specified by Moore), it suggests there was no such conspiracy. With this much care and effort invested in uncovering and massaging the data, if there really was a conspiracy of the kind Moore suggests, the evidence would line up more neatly behind it, rather than being made to do cartwheels so as to be "true" but oh-so-misleading. If the facts don't fit, shouldn't we acquit?
(By the way, a reader responding to Barnett's July 4 post criticized some aspects of my report. In subsequent drafts, I've revised the article in response to some of those criticisms.)
1. 2000 Election
2. Bush Presidency through Sept. 11
5. Domestic issues
7. The man from Flint and terrorists
There are many articles which have pointed out the distortions, falsehoods, and lies in the film Fahrenheit 9/11. This report compiles the Fahrenheit 9/11 deceits which have been identified by a wide variety of reviewers. In addition, I identify some inaccuracies which have not been addressed by other writers.
The report follows the approximate order in which the movie covers particular topics: the Bush family, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. This report focuses solely on factual issues, and not on aesthetic criticism of the film.
To understand the deceptions, it helps to understand Moore's ideological position. So let us start with Moore's belief that the September 11 attacks on the United States were insignificant.
Edward Koch, the former Democratic Mayor of New York City, writes:
A year after 9/11, I was part of a panel discussion on BBC-TV's "Question Time" show which aired live in the United Kingdom. A portion of my commentary at that time follows:
"One of the panelists was Michael Moore…During the warm-up before the studio audience, Moore said something along the lines of "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 lightning than die from an act of terror."…I mention this exchange because it was not televised, occurring as it did before the show went live. It shows where he was coming from long before he produced "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Edward Koch, "Moore's propaganda film cheapens debate, polarizes nation," World Tribune, June 28, 2004. [Moore response: none.]
By the way, I don't disagree with the point that it is reasonable to consider the number of deaths from any particular problem, including terrorism, in assessing how serious the problem is. Moore's point, however, was willfully oblivious to the fact that al Qaeda did not intend 9/11 to be the last word; the organization was working on additional attacks, and if the organization obtained the right weapons, millions of people might be killed. More fundamentally, even if Moore's argument in London is conceded to be legitimate, it contradicts Fahrenheit 9/11's presentation of Moore as intensely concerned about the September 11 attacks.
As we go through the long list of lies and tricks in Fahrenheit 9/11, keep in mind that Michael Moore has assembled a "war room" of political operatives and lawyers in order to respond to criticism of Fahrenheit 9/11and to file defamation suits. (Jack Shafer, "Libel Suit 9/11. Michael Moore's hysterical, empty threats," Slate.com, June 12, 2004.) One of Moore's "war room" officials is Chris Lehane; Lehane, as an employee of Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark (who was also supported by Moore), is alleged to have spread rumors to the press about John Kerry's alleged extra-marital affair, although Lehane denies doing so.
Of course if there are any genuine errors in this report, the errors will be promptly corrected. On July 5, I removed a complaint about a Presidential approval poll number, which I had wrongly thought was not supported by data.
In this report, I number Moore's deceits. Some of them are outright lies; some are omissions which create a false impression. Others involve different forms of deception. A few are false statements Moore has made when defending the film. Judge for yourself the credibility of Michael Moore's promise, "Every single fact I state in 'Fahrenheit 9/11' is the absolute and irrefutable truth...Do not let anyone say this or that isn't true. If they say that, they are lying."
Fahrenheit 9/11begins on election night 2000. We are first shown Al Gore rocking on stage with famous musicians and a high-spirited crowd. The conspicuous sign on stage reads "Florida Victory." Moore creates the impression that Gore was celebrating his victory in Florida. Moore's voiceover claims, "And little Stevie Wonder, he seemed so happy, like a miracle had taken place." The verb tense of past perfect ("had taken") furthers the impression that the election has been completed.
Actually, the rally took place in the early hours of election day, before polls had even opened. Gore did campaign in Florida on election day, but went home to Tennessee to await the results. The "Florida Victory" sign reflected Gore's hopes, not any actual election results. ("Gore Campaigns Into Election Day," Associated Press, Nov. 7, 2000.)
The film shows CBS and CNN calling Florida for Al Gore. According to the narrator, "Then something called the Fox News Channel called the election in favor of the other guy….All of a sudden the other networks said, 'Hey, if Fox said it, it must be true.'"
We then see NBC anchor Tom Brokaw stating, "All of us networks made a mistake and projected Florida in the Al Gore column. It was our mistake."
Moore thus creates the false impression that the networks withdrew their claim about Gore winning Florida when they heard that Fox said that Bush won Florida.
In fact, the networks which called Florida for Gore did so early in the evening--before polls had even closed in the Florida panhandle, which is part of the Central Time Zone. NBC called Florida for Gore at 7:49:40 p.m., Eastern Time. This was 10 minutes before polls closed in the Florida panhandle. Thirty seconds later, CBS called Florida for Gore. And at 7:52 p.m., Fox called Florida for Gore. Moore never lets the audience know that Fox was among the networks which made the error of calling Florida for Gore prematurely. Then at 8:02 p.m., ABC called Florida for Gore. Only ABC had waited until the Florida polls were closed.
About an hour before the polls closed in panhandle Florida, the networks called the U.S. Senate race in favor of the Democratic candidate. The networks seriously compounded the problem because from 6-7 Central Time, they repeatedly announced that polls had closed in Florida--even though polls were open in the panhandle. (See also Joan Konner, James Risser & Ben Wattenberg, Television's Performance on Election Night 2000: A Report for CNN, Jan. 29, 2001.)
The false announcements that the polls were closed, as well as the premature calls (the Presidential race ten minutes early; the Senate race an hour early), may have cost Bush thousands of votes from the conservative panhandle, as discouraged last-minute voters heard that their state had already been decided; some last-minute voters on their way to the polling place turned around and went home. Other voters who were waiting in line left the polling place. In Florida, as elsewhere, voters who have arrived at the polling place before closing time often end up voting after closing time, because of long lines. The conventional wisdom of politics is that supporters of the losing candidate are most likely to give up on voting when they hear that their side has already lost. Thus, on election night 1980, when incumbent President Jimmy Carter gave a concession speech while polls were still open on the west coast, the early concession was blamed for costing the Democrats several Congressional seats in the West, such as that of 20-year incumbent James Corman. The fact that all the networks had declared Reagan a landslide winner while west coast voting was still in progress was also blamed for Democratic losses in the West; Congress even held hearings about prohibiting the disclosure of exit polls before voting had ended in the any of the 48 contiguous states.
Even if the premature television calls affected all potential voters equally, the effect was to reduce Republican votes significantly, because the Florida panhandle is a Republican stronghold. Most of Central Time Zone Florida is in the 1st Congressional District, which is known as the "Redneck Riviera." In that district, Bob Dole beat Bill Clinton by 69,000 votes in 1996, even though Clinton won the state by 300,000 votes. So depress overall turnout in the panhandle, and you will necessarily depress more Republican than Democratic votes. A 2001 study by John Lott suggested that the early calls cost Bush at least 7,500 votes, and perhaps many more. Another study reported that the networks reduced panhandle turn-out by about 19,000 votes, costing Bush about 12,000 votes and Gore about 7,000 votes.
At 10:00 p.m., which networks took the lead in retracting the premature Florida win for Gore? They were CNN and CBS, not Fox. (The two networks were using a shared Decision Team.) See Linda Mason, Kathleen Francovic & Kathleen Hall Jamieson, "CBS News Coverage of Election Night 2000: Investigation, Analysis, Recommendations" (CBS News, Jan. 2001), pp. 12-25.)
In fact, Fox did not retract its claim that Gore had won Florida until 2 a.m.--four hours after other networks had withdrawn the call.
Over four hours later, at 2:16 a.m., Fox projected Bush as the Florida winner, as did all the other networks by 2:20 a.m.
At 3:59 a.m., CBS took the lead in retracting the Florida call for Bush. All the other networks, including Fox, followed the CBS lead within eight minutes. That the networks arrived at similar conclusions within a short period of time is not surprising, since they were all using the same data from the Voter News Service. (Mason, et al. "CBS News Coverage.") As the CBS timeline details, throughout the evening all networks used VNS data to call states, even though VNS had not called the state; sometimes the network calls were made hours ahead of the VNS call.
Moore's editing technique of the election night segment is typical of his style: all the video clips are real clips, and nothing he says is, narrowly speaking, false. But notice how he says, "Then something called the Fox News Channel called the election in favor of the other guy…" The impression created is that the Fox call of Florida for Bush came soon after the CBS/CNN calls of Florida for Gore, and that Fox caused the other networks to change ("All of a sudden the other networks said, 'Hey, if Fox said it, it must be true.'")
This is the essence of the Moore technique: cleverly blending half-truths to deceive the viewer.
[Moore response: On the Florida victory celebration, none. On the networks calls: provides citations for the early and incorrect Florida calls for Gore, around 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and for the late-evening network calls of Florida for Bush around 2:20 a.m. Doesn't mention the retraction of the Florida calls at 10 p.m., or that CBS led the retraction.]
How did Bush win Florida? "Second, make sure the chairman of your campaign is also the vote count woman." Actually Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (who was Bush's Florida co-chair, not "the chairman") was not the "vote count woman." Vote counting in Florida is performed by the election commissioners in each of Florida's counties. The Florida Secretary of State merely certifies the reported vote. The office does not count votes.
A little while later, Fahrenheit shows Jeffrey Toobin (a sometime talking head lawyer for CNN) claiming that if the Supreme Court had allowed a third recount to proceed past the legal deadline, "under every scenario Gore won the election."
Fahrenheit shows only a snippet of Toobin's remarks on CNN. What Fahrenheit does not show is that Toobin admitted on CNN that the only scenarios for a Gore victory involved a type of recount which Gore had never requested in his lawsuits, and which would have been in violation of Florida law. Toobin's theory likewise depends on re-assigning votes which are plainly marked for one candidate (Pat Buchanan) to Gore, although there are no provisions in Florida law to guess at who a voter "really" meant to vote for and to re-assign the vote.
A study by a newspaper consortium including the Miami Herald and USA Today disproves Fahrenheit's claim that Gore won under any scenario. As USA Today summarized, on May 11, 2001:
"Who would have won if Al Gore had gotten manual counts he requested in four counties? Answer: George W. Bush."
"Who would have won if the U.S. Supreme Court had not stopped the hand recount of undervotes, which are ballots that registered no machine-readable vote for president? Answer: Bush, under three of four standards."
"Who would have won if all disputed ballots -- including those rejected by machines because they had more than one vote for president -- had been recounted by hand? Answer: Bush, under the two most widely used standards; Gore, under the two least used."
Throughout the Florida election controversy, the focus was on "undervotes"--ballots which were disqualified because the voter had not properly indicated a candidate, such as by punching out a small piece of paper on the paper ballot. The recounts attempted to discern voter intentions from improperly-marked ballots. Thus, if a ballot had a "hanging chad," a recount official might decide that the voter intended to vote for the candidate, but failed to properly punch out the chad; so the recounter would award the candidate a vote from the "spoiled" ballot. Gore was seeking additional recounts only of undervotes. The only scenario by which Gore would have won Florida would have involved recounts of "overvotes"--ballots which were spoiled because the voter voted for more than one candidate (such as by marking two names, or by punching out two chads). Most of the overvotes which were recoverable were those on which the voter had punched out a chad (or made a check mark) and had also written the candidate's name on the write-in line. Gore's lawsuits never sought a recount of overvotes, so even if the Supreme Court had allowed a Florida recount to continue past the legal deadline, Bush still would have won the additional recount which Gore sought.
A separate study conducted by a newspaper consortium including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal found that if there had been a statewide recount of all undervotes and overvotes, Gore would have won under seven different standards. However, if there had been partial recounts under any of the various recounts sought by Gore or ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, Bush would have won under every scenario.
A very interesting web widget published by the New York Times allows readers to crunch the data any way they want: what standards for counting ballots, whose counting system to apply, and how to treat overvotes. It's certainly possible under some of the variable scenarios to produce a Gore victory. But it's undeniably dishonest for Fahrenheit to assert that Gore would win under any scenario.
Moore amplifies the deceit with a montage of newspaper headlines, purporting to show that Gore really won. One article shows a date of December 19, 2001, with a large headline reading, "Latest Florida recount shows Gore won Election." The article supposedly comes from The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. But actually, the headline is merely for a letter to the editor--not a news article. The letter to the editor headline is significantly enlarged to make it look like an article headline. The actual printed letter looked nothing like the "article" Moore fabricated for the film. The letter ran on December 5, not December 19. The Pantagraph contacted Moore's office to ask for an explanation, but the office refused to comment.
The Pantagraph's attorney sent Fahrenheit's distributor a letter stating that Moore's use of the faked headline and story was "unauthorized" and "misleading" and a" misrepresentation of facts." The letter states that Moore infringed the copyright of The Pantagraph, and asks for an apology, a correction, and an explanation. The letters asks Moore to "correct the inaccurate information which has been depicted in your film." Moore's law firm wrote back and claimed that there was nothing "misleading" about the fabricated headline.
Richard Soderlund, an Illinois State University history professor, who wrote the letter to the editor that The Pantagraph published, told the Chicago Tribune, "It's misrepresenting a document. It's at odds with history."
[Moore response: Cites articles consistent with my explanation. Fails to acknowledge that the only scenarios for a Gore victory involved recounting methods which Gore never requested in his lawsuits. To tell viewers that Gore would have won "under every scenario" is absurd. No explanation for The Pantagaph fraud.]
According to Fahrenheit, Bush cronies hired Data Base Technologies to purge Florida voters who might vote for Gore, and these potential voters were purged from the voting rolls on the basis of race. ("Second, make sure the chairman of your campaign is also the vote count woman. And that her state has hired a company that's gonna knock voters off the rolls who aren't likely to vote for you. You can usually tell 'em by the color of their skin.") As explained by the Palm Beach Post, Moore's suggestion is extremely incomplete, and on at least one fact, plainly false.
The 1998 mayoral election in Miami was a fiasco which was declared void by Florida courts, because--in violation of Florida law--convicted felons had been allowed to vote. The Florida legislature ordered the executive branch to purge felons from the voting rolls before the next election. Following instructions from Florida officials, Data Base Technologies (DBT) aggressively attempted to identify all convicted felons who were illegally registered to vote in Florida.
There were two major problems with the purge. First, several states allow felons to vote once they have completed their sentences. Some of these ex-felons moved to Florida and were, according to a court decision, eligible to vote. Florida improperly purged these immigrant felons.
Second, the comprehensive effort to identify all convicted felons led to a large number of false positives, in which persons with, for example, the same name as a convicted felon, were improperly purged. Purged voters were, in most cases, notified months before the election and given an opportunity to appeal, but the necessity to file an appeal was in itself a barrier which probably discouraged some legitimate, non-felon citizens from voting. According to the Palm Beach Post, at least 1,100 people were improperly purged.
The overbreadth of the purge was well-known in Florida before the election. As a result, election officials in 20 of Florida's counties ignored the purge list entirely. In these counties, convicted felons were allowed to vote. Also according to the Post, thousands of felons were improperly allowed to vote in the 20 non-purging counties. Analysis by Abigail Thernstrom and Russell G. Redenbaugh, dissenting from a report by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, suggests that about 5,600 felons voted illegally in Florida. (The Thernstrom/Redenbaugh dissent explains why little credit should be given to the majority report, which was produced by flagrantly ignoring data.)
When allowed to vote, felons vote approximately 69 percent Democratic, according to a study in the American Sociological Review. Therefore, if the thousands of felons in the non-purging 20 counties had not been illegally allowed to vote, it is likely that Bush's statewide margin would have been substantially larger.
Regardless, Moore's suggestion that the purge was conducted on the basis of race was indisputably false. As the Palm Beach Post details, all the evidence shows that Data Base Technologies did not use race as a basis for the purge. Indeed, DBT's refusal to take note of a registered voter's race was one of the reasons for the many cases of mistaken identity.
DBT's computers had matched these people with felons, though in dozens of cases they did not share the same name, birthdate, gender or race...[A] review of state records, internal e-mails of DBT employees and testimony before the civil rights commission and an elections task force showed no evidence that minorities were specifically targeted. Records show that DBT told the state it would not use race as a criterion to identify felons. The list itself bears that out: More than 1,000 voters were matched with felons though they were of different races.
The appeals record supports the Palm Beach Post's findings. Based on the numbers of successful appeals, blacks were less likely to have been improperly placed on the purge list: of the blacks who were purged, 5.1 percent successfully appealed. Of Hispanics purged, 8.7 percent successfully appealed. Of whites purged, 9.9 percent successfully appealed. John R. Lott, Jr.,"Nonvoted Ballots and Discrimination in Florida, "Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 32 (Jan. 2003), p. 209. Of course it is theoretically possible that the appeals officials discriminated against blacks, or that improperly purged blacks were not as likely to appeal as were people of other races. But no one has offered any evidence to support such possibilities.
[Moore response: Cites various articles about the felon purge. Offers no evidence to support the claim that voters were targeted on the basis of race.]
The movie lauds an anti-Bush riot that took place in Washington, D.C., on the day of Bush's inauguration. He claims that protestors "pelted Bush's limo with eggs." Actually, it was just one egg, according to the BBC. According to Moore, "No President had ever witnessed such a thing on his inauguration day. " According to CNN, Richard Nixon faced comparable protests in 1969 and 1973. According to USA Today, the anti-Bush organizers claimed that they expected 20,000 protesters to show up, whereas the anti-Nixon protest in 1973 drew 60,000 people. (USA Today, Jan. 20, 2001).
Moore says, "The plan to have Bush get out of the limo for the traditional walk to the White House was scrapped. But according to the BBC, "Mr. Bush delighted his supporters by getting out of his limousine and walked the last block of the parade, holding hands with his wife Laura."
Moore continues: "And for the next eight months it didn't get any better for George W. Bush. He couldn't get his judges appointed; he had trouble getting his legislation passed; and he lost Republican control of the Senate. His approval ratings in the polls began to sink."
Part of this is true. Once Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican party, Democrats controlled the Senate, and stalled the confirmation of some of the judges whom Bush had nominated for the federal courts.
Congress did enact the top item on Bush's agenda: a large tax cut. During the summer, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives easily passed many of Bush's other agenda items, including the bill whose numbering reflected the President's top priority: H.R. 1, the Bush "No Child Left Behind" education bill. The fate of the Bush bills in the Democratic-controlled Senate, as of August 2001, was uncertain. The Senate later did pass No Child Left Behind, but some other Bush proposals did not pass.
Moore says that Bush's "approval ratings in the polls began to sink." This is not entirely accurate, although I haven't counted this issue as a "deceit." From January 2001 to September 2001, Bush's approval ratings in almost all polls fluctuated pretty narrowly in a 50-59% range. Moore accurately cites a Christian Science Monitor poll with 45 percent approval for Bush on September 5, 2001, but the low result here is an outlier compared to the overall poll trend. What really changed for Bush, pollwise, was not that his approval ratings were sinking, but that his disapproval ratings had risen. The national polls showed that the approve/disapprove gap for Bush was much larger in January 2001 than in the late summer of 2001. So Moore is correct that Bush's polls numbers had deteriorated, although Moore's phrasing is not correct.
"He was already beginning to look like a lame duck President." Maybe in Moore's imagination. No serious political commentator made such a claim in 2001.
Bush is quoted as saying, "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." What Moore fails to note, though, is that the quote, from July 26, 2001, is a facetious joke, like Moore's claim in Dude, Where's my Country? That he did not have sex until age 32.
Another Bush joke is presented as an obvious joke, although important context is missing. Near the end of the movie, Bush speaks to a tuxedoed audience. He says, "I call you the haves and the have-mores. Some call you the elite; I call you my base." The joke follows several segments in which Bush is accused of having started the Iraq war in order to enrich business. As far the movie audience can tell, Bush is speaking to some unknown group of rich people. The speech actually comes from the October 19, 2000, Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. The 2000 event was the 55th annual dinner, which raises money for Catholic hospital charities in New York City. Candidates Bush and Gore were the co-guests of honor at the event, where speakers traditionally make fun of themselves.
Gore joked, "The Al Smith Dinner represents a hallowed and important tradition, which I actually did invent." Lampooning his promise to put Social Security in a "lock box," Gore promised that he would put "Medicare in a walk-in closet," put NASA funding in a "hermetically sealed Ziploc bag" and would "always keep lettuce in the crisper." Mary Ann Poust, "Presidential hopefuls Gore and Bush mix humor and politics at Al Smith Dinner," Catholic New York, Oct. 26, 2000. So although Fahrenheit presents the joke as epitomizing Bush's selfishness, the joke really was part of Bush helping to raise $1.6 million for medical care for the poor. Although many a truth is said in jest, Bush's joke was no more revealing than was Gore's claim to have founded the dinner in 1946, two years before he was born. (CBS News story on the same event.)
[Moore response: Cites articles predicting that Bush would have trouble with Congress on Arctic drilling, campaign finance, and faith-based charity. Cites a California poll in which Bush's disapproval rating equaled his approval rating. Cites a couple of additional polls, selecting Bush's worst results. No response on the distortion of the Alfred E. Smith Dinner. Although Moore claims that his website provides line-by-line citations for the movie, there is no citation for the quote from the Al Smith Dinner, even though it would be easy to cite newspapers which reported the dinner. Apparently Moore fails to provide citations because any citation would show that Bush was speaking at a charity fund-raiser.]
Fahrenheit 9/11 states, "In his first eight months in office before September 11th, George W. Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time."
Shortly before 9/11, the Post calculated that Bush had spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route, including all or part of 54 days at his ranch. That calculation, however, includes weekends, which Moore failed to mention.
Tom McNamee, "Just the facts on ‘Fahrenheit 9/11' Chicago Sun-Times, June 28, 2004. See also: Mike Allen, "White House On the Range. Bush Retreats to Ranch for ‘Working Vacation'," Washington Post, August 7, 2001 Many of those days are weekends, and the Camp David stays have included working visits with foreign leaders. Since the Eisenhower administration, Presidents have usually spent many weekends at Camp David, which is fully equipped for Presidential work. Once the Camp David time is excluded, Bush's "vacation" time drops to 13 percent.
Much of that 13 percent was spent on Bush's ranch in Texas. Reader Scott Marquardt looked into a random week of Bush's August 2001 "vacation." Using public documents from www.whitehouse.gov, here is what he found:
Monday, August 20
Spoke concerning the budget while visiting a high school in Independence, Missouri.
Spoke at the annual Veteran's of Foreign Wars convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Signed six bills into law.
Announced his nominees for Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Agriculture, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management, member of the Federal Housing Finance Board, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disabled Employment Policy, U.S. Representative to the General Assembly of the U.N., and Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development for the Bureau of Humanitarian Response.
Spoke with workers at the Harley Davidson factory.
Dined with Kansas Governor Bill Graves, discussing politics.
Tuesday, August 21
Took press questions at a Target store in Kansas City, Missouri.
Spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on the matter of free trade and tariffs on Canadian lumber.
Wednesday, August 22
Met with Karen Hughes, Condi Rice, and Josh Bolten, and other staff (more than one meeting).
Conferenced with Mexico's president for about 20 minutes on the phone. They discussed Argentina's economy and the International Monetary fund's role in bringing sustainability to the region. They also talked about immigration and Fox's planned trip to Washington.
Communicated with Margaret LaMontagne, who was heading up a series of immigration policy meetings.
Released the Mid-Session Review, a summary of the economic outlook for the next decade, as well as of the contemporary economy and budget.
Announced nomination and appointment intentions for Ambassador to Vietnam, two for the Commission on Fine Arts, six to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, three for the Advisory Committee to the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation, one to the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and one to the National Endowments for the Arts.
Issued a Presidential Determination ordering a military drawdown for Tunisia.
Issued a statement regarding the retirement of Jesse Helms.
Thursday, August 23
Briefly spoke with the press.
Visited Crawford Elementary School, fielded questions from students.
Friday, August 24
Officials arrived from Washington at 10:00 AM. Shortly thereafter, at a press conference, Bush announced that General Richard B. Myers will be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and General Pete Pac will serve as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He also announced 14 other appointments, and his intentions for the budget. At 11:30 AM these officials, as well as National Security Council experts, the Secretary of Defense, and others, met with Bush to continue the strategic review process for military transformation (previous meetings have been held at the Pentagon and the White House). The meeting ended at 5:15.
Met with Andy Card and Karen Hughes, talking about communications issues.
Issued a proclamation honoring Women's Equality Day.
Saturday, August 25
Awoke at 5:45 AM, read daily briefs.
Had an hour-long CIA and national security briefing at 7:45
Gave his weekly radio address on the topic of The Budget.
Having shown a clip from August 25 with Bush explaining how he likes to work on the ranch, Moore announces "George Bush spent the rest of the August at the ranch." Not so, as Scott Marquardt found by looking at Bush's activity for the very next day.
Sunday, August 26
Speaks at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Speaks at the U.S. Steel Group Steelworkers Picnic at Mon Valley Works, southeast of Pittsburgh. He also visits some employees still working, not at the picnic.
Marquandt looked up Bush's activities for the next three days:
Declared a major disaster area in Ohio and orders federal aid. This affects Brown, Butler, Clermont and Hamilton counties.
Sent a report on progress toward a "solution of the Cyprus question" to the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Announced his intention to nominate Kathleen Burton Clarke to be Director of the Bureau of Land Management (Department of the Interior).
Spoke at the American Legion's 83rd annual convention in San Antonio, discussing defense priorities. Decommissioned the Air Force One jet that flew 444 missions, from the Nixon administration to Bush's retirement ceremony for the plane in Waco, Texas.
Attended the dedication ceremony of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in San Antonio.
Announced appointment of 13 members of the Presidential Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nations Veterans.
It is true in a sense that the Presidency is a "24/7" job. But this does not mean that the President should be working every minute. A literal "24/7" job would mean that the President should be criticized for "sleeping on the job 33 percent of the time" if he slept for eight hours a day.
Christopher Hitchens notes:
[T]he shot of him "relaxing at Camp David" shows him side by side with Tony Blair. I say "shows," even though this photograph is on-screen so briefly that if you sneeze or blink, you won't recognize the other figure. A meeting with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, or at least with this prime minister, is not a goof-off.
The president is also captured in a well-worn TV news clip, on a golf course, making a boilerplate response to a question on terrorism and then asking the reporters to watch his drive. Well, that's what you get if you catch the president on a golf course.
Christopher Hitchens, "Unfairenheit 9/11: The lies of Michael Moore," Slate.com, June 21, 2004. (Some of Moore's defenders have denounced Hitchens as a member of the vast-right wing conspiracy. Hitchens, however, wrote an obituary of Ronald Reagan recalling his lone meeting with Reagan, when he asked a question which made Reagan angry: "The famously genial grin turned into a rictus of senile fury: I was looking at a cruel and stupid lizard." Hitchens also wrote a book and produced a movie, The Trials of Henry Kissinger, urging that Kissinger be tried for war crimes.)
By the way, the clip of Bush making a comment about terrorism, and then hitting a golf ball, is also taken out of context, at least partially:
Tuesday night on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Brian Wilson noted how "the viewer is left with the misleading impression Mr. Bush is talking about al-Qaeda terrorists." But Wilson disclosed that "a check of the raw tape reveals the President is talking about an attack against Israel, carried out by a Palestinian suicide bomber."
"Cyberalert," Media Research Center, July 1, 2004, item. 3.
Interestingly, as detailed in Bill Clinton's autobiography My Life, in November 1995. when President Clinton learned that Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been shot, Clinton went out to the White House lawn and hit golf balls while he waited to learn if Rabin would live. That Clinton played golf after learning of a terrible crime in Israel obviously does not mean that he did not care about the crime. If a television station had recorded some footage of Clinton hitting golf balls that awful night, it would have easy for a hyper-partisan film-maker to use the footage against Clinton unfairly.
Moore wraps up the vacation segment: "It was a summer to remember. And when it was over, he left Texas for his second favorite place." The movie then shows Bush in Florida. Actually, he went back to Washington, where he gave a speech on August 31.
[Moore response: Accurately quotes the Washington Post: "if you add up all his weekends at Camp David, layovers at Kennebunkport and assorted to-ing and fro-ing, W. will have spent 42 percent of his presidency 'at vacation spots or en route.'" Does not attempt to defend Fahrenheit's mischaracterization of the Post's meaning. Does not explain why the Israeli context was removed from the Bush quote. Does not defend the claim that Bush went from Texas to Florida.]
Fahrenheit presents a powerful segment on the September 11 attacks. There is no narration, and the music is dramatic yet tasteful. The visuals are reaction shots from pedestrians, as they gasp with horrified astonishment.
Moore has been criticized for using the reaction shots as a clever way to avoid showing the planes hitting the buildings, and some of the victims falling to their deaths. Even if this is true, the segment still effectively evokes the horror and outrage that every decent human being still feels about September 11.
But as New York's former Mayor Edward Koch reported, Moore says, "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 lightning than die from an act of terror." If there is some additional context which would explain Moore's remarks, he has not supplied such context on his website. It seems unlikely that Moore's "war room" is unaware of the highly critical review written by former NYC Mayor Koch.
Moore's first public comment about the September 11 attacks was to complain that too many Democrats rather than Republicans had been killed: "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!" (The quote was originally posted as a "Mike's Message" on Moore's website on September 12, but was removed not long after. Among the many places where Moore's quote has been repeated is The New Statesman, a leftist British political magazine.)
A person might feel great personal sympathy for the victim of a lightning strike, but the same person might feel that, overall, the "lightning problem" is not worth making a big fuss over. Fahrenheit presents September 11 as a terrible tragedy (in which Moore lost one a professional colleague, and many other people lost loved ones), and as something worth making a big fuss. On this latter point, Fahrenheit's purported view does not appear to be the same as Moore's actual view.
[Moore response: none.]
Fahrenheit mocks President Bush for continuing to read the book My Pet Goat to a classroom of elementary school children after he was told about the September 11 attacks. Actually, as reported in The New Yorker, the book was Reading Mastery 2, which contains an exercise called "The Pet Goat." The title of the book is not very important in itself, but the invented title of My Pet Goat makes it easier to ridicule Bush.
What Moore did not tell you:
Gwendolyn Tose'-Rigell, the principal of Emma E. Booker Elementary School, praised Bush's action: "I don't think anyone could have handled it better." "What would it have served if he had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?"…
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."
"Sarasota principal defends Bush from ‘Fahrenheit 9/11' portrayal," Associated Press, June 24, 2004. Also, since the President knew he was on camera, it was reasonable to expect that if he had suddenly sped out of the room, his hasty movement would have been replayed incessantly on television; leaving the room quickly might have exacerbated the national mood of panic, even if Bush had excused himself calmly.
Moore does not offer any suggestion about what the President should have done during those seven minutes, rather than staying calm for the sake of the classroom and of the public. Nor does Moore point to any way that the September 11 events might have turned out better in even the slightest way if the President had acted differently. I agree with Lee Hamilton, the Vice-Chair of the September11 Commission and a former Democratic Representative from Indiana: "Bush made the right decision in remaining calm, in not rushing out of the classroom."
Moreover, as detailed by the Washington Times, Ari Fleischer was in the back of the classroom, holding up a legal pad with the words, "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET." The Secret Service may well have been cautious about moving Bush, not only because of hijackings, but also because on the morning of September 11, a Middle Eastern man had tried to gain personal access to the President by falsely claiming that he was a journalist with a scheduled interview, and by asking for a Secret Service agent by name
[Moore response: Defends the factual accuracy of the segment, which no one has ever disputed, except regarding the book's title.]
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is shown surreptitiously licking his comb in preparation for Congressional testimony under the cameras. I know: Eeeuuww! Moore's point is that this proves Wolfowitz is a low life, a sleazy guy whose policy opinions should be devalued accordingly. And, of course, it's funny to see the famous and powerful embarrass themselves. Yet not one among us hasn't had dozens of questionable hygiene moments that we would be mortified to have witnessed by anyone, not to mention see featured in a nationally released documentary. Moore knows that Wolfowitz's desperate act in attempting to tame unruly hair for a public appearance will look much worse on movie screen than it really is, and he must know that periodic hygiene failings are not any kind of proof of depravity: after all, we're talking about a director here who habitually appears in public unshaven and sloppily dressed. To Moore's likely retort that Wolfowitz deserves to be gratuitously ridiculed for doing nothing worse than any member of his audience could easily recall doing himself, the answer is that nobody deserves to be treated this way. It is cruel and hypocritical, and violates basic ethical reciprocity. Doing so is wrong, and far more wrong, and infinitely more harmful to others, than licking one's own comb.
Jack Marshall, "Fahrenheit 911," Ethics Scoreboard, June 30, 2004.
Castigating the allegedly lazy President, Moore says, "Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001 that said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes."
Moore supplies no evidence for his assertion that President Bush did not read the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief. Moore's assertion appears to be a complete fabrication.
Moore smirks that perhaps President Bush did not read the Briefing because its title was so vague. Moore then cuts to Condoleezza Rice announcing the title of the Briefing: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Here, Moore seems to be playing off Condoleezza Rice's testimony of the September 11 Commission that the contents of the memo were vague.
However, no-one (except Moore) has ever claimed that Bush did not read the Briefing, or that he did not read it because the title was vague. Rather, Condoleezza Rice had told the press conference that the information in the Briefing was "very vague." National Security Advisor Holds Press Briefing, The White House, May 16, 2002.
The content of the Briefing supports Rice's characterization, and refutes Moore's assertion that the Briefing "said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes." The actual Briefing was highly equivocal:
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" ‘Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
(Some readers have wondered how this short segment qualifies as three deceits: 1. that Bush did not read the memo, 2. that the memo's title was offered as an excuse for not reading the memo, 3. omitting that the memo was equivocal, and that the hijacking warning was something that the FBI said it was "unable to corroborate.")
[Moore response: Tacitly acknowledges that Bush had read the August 6 PDB: "he (unlike the rest of America) was already aware that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes, per the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief (PDB)." Does not directly address Fahrenheit's lie that Bush hadn't read the PDB, or the lie that Bush had used the "vague" PDB title as an excuse for not reading it. Accurately quotes the PDB, without acknowledging that the PDB was much more equivocal than Fahrenheit claims.]
Moore is guilty of a classic game of saying one thing and implying another when he describes how members of the Saudi elite were flown out of the United States shortly after 9/11.
If you listen only to what Moore says during this segment of the movie--and take careful notes in the dark--you'll find he's got his facts right. He and others in the film state that 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country after Sept. 13.
The date--Sept. 13--is crucial because that is when a national ban on air traffic, for security purposes, was eased
But nonetheless, many viewers will leave the movie theater with the impression that the Saudis, thanks to special treatment from the White House, were permitted to fly away when all other planes were still grounded. This false impression is created by Moore's failure, when mentioning Sept. 13, to emphasize that the ban on flights had been eased by then. The false impression is further pushed when Moore shows the singer Ricky Martin walking around an airport and says, "Not even Ricky Martin would fly. But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens."
But the movie fails to mention that the FBI interviewed about 30 of the Saudis before they left. And the independent 9/11 commission has reported that "each of the flights we have studied was investigated by the FBI and dealt with in a professional manner prior to its departure."
McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times.(Note: The Sun-Times article was correct in its characterization of the Ricky Martin segment, but not precisely accurate in the exact words used in the film. I have substituted the exact quote. On September 13, U.S. airspace was re-opened for a small number of flights; charter flights were allowed, and the airlines were allowed to move their planes to new airports to start carrying passengers on September 14.)
Tapper: [Y]our film showcases former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, using him as a critic of the Bush administration. Yet in another part of the film, one that appears in your previews, you criticize members of the Bush administration for permitting members of the bin Laden family to fly out of the country almost immediately after 9/11. What the film does not mention is that Richard Clarke says that he OK'd those flights. Is it fair to not mention that?
Moore: Actually I do, I put up The New York Times article and it's blown up 40 foot on the screen, you can see Richard Clarke's name right there saying that he approved the flights based on the information the FBI gave him. It's right there, right up on the screen. I don't agree with Clarke on this point. Just because I think he's good on a lot of things doesn't mean I agree with him on everything.
Jake Tapper interview with Michael Moore, ABC News, June 25, 2004. In an Associated Press interview, Clarke said that he agreed with much of what Moore had to say, but that the Saudi flight material was a mistake. Clarke testified to the September 11 Commission, on September 3, 2003, that letting the Saudis go "was a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House." It's possible to read Clarke's 2003 statement as consistent with his 2004 statements; if you believe that what Clarke is saying now contradicts what he said in 2003, then Clarke is a liar, and all other claims he makes in Fahrenheit are discredited. Although he really did not make those claims for Fahrenheit; according to National Public Radio:
"I think Moore's making a mountain of a molehill," he said. Moreover, said Mr. Clarke, "He never interviewed me." Instead, Mr. Moore had simply lifted a clip from an ABC interview.
Fahrenheit includes a brief shot of a Sept. 4, 2003, New York Times article headlined "White House Approved Departures of Saudis after Sept. 11, Ex-Aide Says." The camera pans over the article far too quickly for any ordinary viewer to spot and read the words in which Clarke states that he approved the flights.
Like Clarke, most of the political figures in Fahrenheit 9/11were not filmed by Moore; he used footage which had been shot by news organizations. The Internet Movie Database lists 40 public figures in the "cast" of Fahrenheit; of these, 37 are listed as from "archival footage."
Some Saudis left the U.S. by charter flight on September 14, a day when commercial flights had resumed, but when ordinary charter planes were still grounded. When did the bin Ladens actually leave? Not until the next week, as the the 9/11 Commission staff report explains:
Fearing reprisals against Saudi nationals, the Saudi government asked for help in getting some of its citizens out of the country….we have found that the request came to the attention of Richard Clarke and that each of the flights we have studied was investigated by the FBI and dealt with in a professional manner prior to its departure.
No commercial planes, including chartered flights, were permitted to fly into, out of, or within the United States until September 13, 2001. After the airspace reopened, six chartered flights with 142 people, mostly Saudi Arabian nationals, departed from the United States between September 14 and 24. One flight, the so-called Bin Ladin flight, departed the United States on September 20 with 26 passengers, most of them relatives of Usama Bin Ladin. We have found no credible evidence that any chartered flights of Saudi Arabian nationals departed the United States before the reopening of national airspace.
The Saudi flights were screened by law enforcement officials, primarily the FBI, to ensure that people on these flights did not pose a threat to national security, and that nobody of interest to the FBI with regard to the 9/11 investigation was allowed to leave the country. Thirty of the 142 people on these flights were interviewed by the FBI, including 22 of the 26 people (23 passengers and 3 private security guards) on the Bin Ladin flight. Many were asked detailed questions. None of the passengers stated that they had any recent contact with Usama Bin Ladin or knew anything about terrorist activity.
The FBI checked a variety of databases for information on the Bin Ladin flight passengers and searched the aircraft. It is unclear whether the TIPOFF terrorist watchlist was checked. At our request, the Terrorist Screening Center has rechecked the names of individuals on the flight manifests of these six Saudi flights against the current TIPOFF watchlist. There are no matches.
The FBI has concluded that nobody was allowed to depart on these six flights who the FBI wanted to interview in connection with the 9/11 attacks, or who the FBI later concluded had any involvement in those attacks. To date, we have uncovered no evidence to contradict this conclusion.
The final Commission Report confirms that Clarke was the highest-ranking official who made the decision to let the Saudis go, and that Clarke's decision had no adverse effect on September 11 investigations. See pages 328-29 of the Report.
Finally, Moore's line, "But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens," happens to be a personal lie. Stranded in California on September 11, Michael Moore ended up driving home to New York City. On September 14, he wrote to his fans "Our daughter is fine, mostly frightened by my desire to fly home to her rather than drive." Moore acceded to the wishes of his wife and daughter, and drove back to New York. It is pretty hypocritical for Moore to slam the Saudis (who had very legitimate fears of being attacked by angry people) just because they wanted to fly home, at the same time when Moore himself wanted to fly home.
(Deceits: 1. Departure dates for Saudis, 2. Omission of Richard Clarke's approval for departures, 3. Lying to Jake Tapper about whether Clarke's role was presented in the movie, 4. Moore himself wanted to fly when he says only the bin Ladens did.)
[Moore response: Provides citations showing that "the White House" approved the Saudi departures; does not cite or acknowledge Clarke's statement that he was the guy in the White House who approved the departures. Does not respond to Clarke's statement that the Saudi departures segment in Fahrenheit is "a mistake." Provides accurate citations for the dates of Saudi departures; does not address how the film misled viewers about when the departures took place. Cites the September 11 Commission (which says that the pre-departure interviews were "detailed" and other sources, including National Review, which say they were not).
Updated Moore response: In an impressively brazen display of mendacity, Moore claims that the September 11 Commission finding that Clarke approved the Saudi departures and that the decision went no higher proves that Fahrenheit is factually accurate.]
Moore mentions that Bush's old National Guard buddy and personal friend James Bath had become the money manager for the bin Laden family, saying, [that after the bin Ladens invested in James Bath,] "James Bath himself in turn invested in George W. Bush." The implication is that Bath invested the bin Laden family's money in Bush's failed energy company, Arbusto. He doesn't mention that Bath has said that he had invested his own money, not the bin Ladens', in Bush's company.
Matt Labash, "Un-Moored from Reality," Weekly Standard, July 5, 2004. See also: Thomas Frank, "Film offers limited view," Newsday, June 27, 2004; Michael Isikoff & Mark Hosenball, "More Distortions From Michael Moore. Some of the main points in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11' really aren't very fair at all," MSNBC.com, June 30, 2004.
Moore makes a big point about the name of James Bath being blacked out from Bush National Guard records which were released by the White House. The blackout might appear less sinister if Moore revealed that federal law (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA) required the National Guard to black out the names any Guardsmen whose medical information was on the same pages as the records which the Guard released regarding George Bush's health records. In Bath's case, he had been suspended for failing to take an annual physical exam. So what Moore presents as a sinister effort to conceal the identity of James Bath was in fact the legally-required compliance with federal law.
Moore gloats: "What Bush didn't know was that I already had a copy of his military records--uncensored--obtained in the year 2000." Moore creates the impression that he is an investigative sleuth. Actually, the records had been released in 2000. The privacy regulations for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) went into effect on April 14, 2003, and so did not apply when the National Guard records were released in 2000.
[Moore response: Shows that Bath and Bush were friends, a fact which was never disputed. Does not address the fact that the black-out of Bath's name was required by new federal law. Does not defend the insinuation that Bath used bin Laden money to invest in Bush. Does not address the fact that Craig Unger's book House of Bush, House of Saud reports that there is no evidence that Bath used bin Laden money for the Arbusto investment.]
Moore points out the distressingly close relationship between Saudi Arabia's ambassador, Prince Bandar, and the Bush family. But Moore does not explain that Bandar has been a bipartisan Washington power broker for decades, and that Bill Clinton repeatedly relied on Bandar to advance Clinton's own Middle East agenda. (Elsa Walsh, "The Prince. How the Saudi Ambassador became Washington's indispensable operator," The New Yorker, Mar. 24, 2003.)
President Clinton's former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Wyche Fowler, has been earning a lucrative living as a Saudi apologist and serving as Chairman of the Middle East Institute--a research organization heavily funded by Saudi Arabia. (Joel Mowbray, "Feeding at the Saudi Trough," Townhall.com, Oct. 1, 2003.) Former President Clinton received $750,000 for giving a speech in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis have donated a secret sum (estimated between $1 million and $20 million) to the Clinton Library.
Former President Carter (who sat next to Moore at the 2004 Democratic Convention) met with 10 bin Laden brothers in 2000, and came away with a $200,000 donation from the bin Ladens to the Carter Center in Atlanta.
I am not suggesting that Mr. Fowler or former President Carter are in any way corrupt; I'm sure that they are sincere (although, in my view, mistaken) in their pro-Saudi and anti-Israel viewpoint. Nor is there anything illegal about former President Clinton's receipt of huge Saudi largesse. What is misleading is for Moore to look at the web of Saudi influence in Washington only in regard to the Republican Bushes, and to ignore the fact that Saudi influence and money are widespread in both parties.
Bush once served on the Board of Directors of the Harken Energy Company. According to Fahrenheit:
Moore: Yes, it helps to be the President's son. Especially when you're being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
TV reporter: In 1990 when M. Bush was a director of Harken Energy he received this memo from company lawyers warning directors not to sell stock if they had unfavorable information about the company. One week later he sold $848,000 worth of Harken stock. Two months later, Harken announced losses of more than $23 million dollars.
Moore:…Bush beat the rap from the SEC…
What Moore left out: Bush sold the stock long after he checked with those same "company lawyers" who had provided the cautionary memo, and they told him that the sale was all right. Almost all of the information that caused Harken's large quarterly loss developed only after Bush had sold the stock.
Despite Moore's pejorative that Bush "beat the rap," no-one has ever found any evidence suggesting that he engaged in illegal insider trading. He did fail to file a particular SEC disclosure form on time. (Byron York, "The Facts About Bush and Harken. The president's story holds up under scrutiny," National Review Online, July 10, 2002.) For a detailed factual timeline, see James Dunbar, "A Brief History of Bush, Harken and the SEC," Center for Public Integrity, Oct. 16, 2002.
Moore's film suggests that Bush has close family ties to the bin Laden family--principally through Bush's father's relationship with the Carlyle Group, a private investment firm. The president's father, George H.W. Bush, was a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group's Asian affiliate until recently; members of the bin Laden family--who own one of Saudi Arabia's biggest construction firms--had invested $2 million in a Carlyle Group fund. Bush Sr. and the bin Ladens have since severed ties with the Carlyle Group, which in any case has a bipartisan roster of partners, including Bill Clinton's former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt. The movie quotes author Dan Briody claiming that the Carlyle Group "gained" from September 11 because it owned United Defense, a military contractor. Carlyle Group spokesman Chris Ullman notes that United Defense holds a special distinction among U.S. defense contractors that is not mentioned in Moore's movie: the firm's $11 billion Crusader artillery rocket system developed for the U.S. Army is one of the only weapons systems canceled by the Bush administration.
Michael Isikoff, "Under the Hot Lights. Moore's movie will make waves. But it's a fine line between fact and fanaticism. Deconstructing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11." Newsweek, June 28, 2004. (Isikoff appears to be wrong on one fact; the Crusader uses a self-propelled gun, and does not fire rockets.)
Moore claims that refusing to mention the Crusader cancellation was all right because the cancellation came after the United Defense initial public offering (stock sale to the public). But the cancellation had a serious negative financial impact on Carlyle, since Carlyle still owns 47% of United Defense.
Moore tells us that when Carlyle took United Defense public, they made a one-day profit of $237 million, but under all the public scrutiny, the bin Laden family eventually had to withdraw (Moore doesn't tell us that they withdrew before the public offering, not after it).
Labash, Weekly Standard.
There is another famous investor in Carlyle whom Moore does not reveal: George Soros. (Oliver Burkeman & Julian Borger, "The Ex-Presidents' Club," The Guardian (London), Oct. 31, 2000.) But the fact that the anti-Bush billionaire has invested in Carlyle would detract from Moore's simplistic conspiracy theory.
Moore alleges that the Saudis have given 1.4 billion dollars to the Bushes and their associates.
Moore derives the $1.4 billion figure from journalist Craig Unger's book, "House of Bush, House of Saud." Nearly 90 percent of that amount, $1.18 billion, comes from just one source: contracts in the early to mid-1990's that the Saudi Arabian government awarded to a U.S. defense contractor, BDM, for training the country's military and National Guard. What's the significance of BDM? The firm at the time was owned by the Carlyle Group, the powerhouse private-equity firm whose Asian-affiliate advisory board has included the president's father, George H.W. Bush.
...The main problem with this figure, according to Carlyle spokesman Chris Ullman, is that former president Bush didn't join the Carlyle advisory board until April, 1998--five months after Carlyle had already sold BDM to another defense firm.
Isikoff & Hosenball, MSNBC.com. (The full text of the article contains the counter-argument by Moore's "war room" and the replies by Isikoff and Hosenball. Moore's staff points out that at the time of the bin Laden $1.18 billion investment, Carlyle included some Bush associates).
Craig Unger points out that George H.W. Bush still receives daily C.I.A. briefings. As Unger points out, Bush has the right to do, but he is the only former President who does. The suggestion is made that Bush uses the C.I.A. information for personal business purposes. We have no way of knowing, and it is possible the Bush does so. On the other hand, this segment of Fahrenheit omits a very relevant fact which would supply an alternative explanation: Bush served as C.I.A. Director in 1976. It would not be surprising for him to want to follow C.I.A. activities in retirement. Earlier in the film, however, Moore does state, in passing, that "Bush's dad was head of the CIA."
[Moore response: Provides extensive citations for facts about Carlyle which were never disputed. Does not address the fact that Democrats and George Soros are also involved in Carlyle. Does not address how Bush administration severely harmed Carlyle by cancelling the Crusader. Reiterates the points made in response to Isikoff & Hosenball, that Bush friends were involved in Carlyle before George H.W. Bush was.]
Moore asks Craig Unger: "How much money do the Saudis have invested in America, roughly?"
Unger replies, "Uh, I've heard figures as high as $860 billion dollars."
What is the basis of Unger's claim? The $860 billion figure appears on page 28 of Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud. He cites two sources: The Saudi Ambassador's 1996 speech to the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council. In that speech, Prince Bandar discussed the Saudi economy, but said nothing about the size of Saudi investment in the U.S.
Unger's other cited source is a February 11, 2002, Washington Post story, titled "Enormous Wealth Spilled Into American Coffers." The $860 billion figure does not appear there, either. The article states:
After nearly three decades of accumulating this wealth, the group referred to by bankers as "high net worth Saudi individuals" holds between $500 billion and $1 trillion abroad, most of it in European and American investments. Brad Bourland, chief economist of the Saudi American Bank (one-quarter owned by Citibank), said in a speech in London last June that his bank's best estimate of the total is about $700 billion, with the possibility that it is as much as $1 trillion.
Raymond Seitz, vice chairman of Lehman Brothers in London and a former U.S. ambassador to Britain, gave a similar estimate. Seitz said Saudis typically put about three-quarters of their money into the United States, the rest in Europe and Asia. That would mean that Saudi nationals have invested perhaps $500 billion to $700 billion in the American economy.
In short, Unger's cited sources do not support his $860 billion figure. He may have "heard" the figure of $860 billion dollars, but only from people who were repeating the factoid which he invented.
According to the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (a pro-Saudi think tank which tries to emphasize the importance of Saudi money to the United States), in February 2003 total worldwide Saudi investment was at least $700 billion, conservatively estimated. Sixty percent of the Saudi investments were in the United States, so the Saudis had at least 420 billion dollars invested in the U.S. (Tanya C. Hsu, "The United States Must Not Neglect Saudi Arabian Investment," Sept. 23, 2003.)
Unger is asked "what percentage of our economy is that?" (Meaning the supposed $860 billion.)
He replies, "Well, in terms of investments on Wall Street, American equities, it's roughly six or seven percent of America. They own a fairly good slice of America." A little bit later, Moore states that "Saudi Prince Bandar is perhaps the best protected ambassador in the US...Considering how he and his family, and the Saudi elite own seven percent of America, it's probably not a bad idea."
According the Census Bureau, the top countries which own U.S. stocks and bonds are the United Kingdom and Japan. Foreign investors owned $1,690 billion in corporate bonds in 2002. The Census Bureau lists the major national holders, and then groups all the minor holders--including Saudi Arabia--into "Other Countries." All of these other countries combined (including Saudi Arabia) account for only 6 percent of total foreign ownership of U.S. corporate bonds. Likewise, all "Other Countries" combined account for only 7 percent of total foreign ownership of corporate stocks. (And of course the large majority of U.S. corporate stocks and bonds are owned by Americans.) Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, table 1203.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, 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."
[Moore response: Cites Unger's book, and a lawyer who filed an anti-Saudi lawsuit and repeated the Unger figure. Does not address the fact that Unger's sources do not support his claim. Points out that the capitalization of the New York Stock Exchange composite is $12 trillion and that $860 billion amounts to approximately 7 percent of that. But even if the Saudis owned 7% of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange, the NYSE does not include all of America's wealth--which includes real estate, businesses which are not traded on the NYSE because they are privately owned, and so on. The data show that the Saudis own between 4% (420 billion) and 7% (700 billion) of total foreign investment in the U.S. Moore's assertion that Saudis "own seven percent of America" is completely false.]
Moore shows himself filming the movie near the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C.:
Moore as narrator: Even though we were nowhere near the White House, for some reason the Secret Service had shown up to ask us what we were doing standing across the street from the Saudi embassy….
Officer: That's fine. Just wanted to get some information on what was going on.
Moore on camera: Yeah yeah yeah, I didn't realize the Secret Service guards foreign embassies.
Officer: Uh, not usually, no sir.
But in fact:
Any tourist to Washington, DC, will see plenty of Secret Service Police guarding all of the other foreign embassies which request such protection. Other than guarding the White House and some federal buildings, it's the largest use of personnel by the Secret Service's Uniformed Division.
Debbie Schlussel, "FAKEN-heit 9-11: Michael Moore's Latest Fiction," June 25, 2004.
According to the Secret Service website:
Uniformed Division officers provide protection for the White House Complex, the Vice-President's residence, the Main Treasury Building and Annex, and foreign diplomatic missions and embassies in the Washington, DC area.
So there is nothing strange about the Secret Service protecting the Saudi embassy in Washington--especially since al Qaeda attacks have taken place against Saudi Arabia. According to Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, an international agreement which has been ratified by the United States, every host country (including the United States) is obliged to protect every embassy within its borders.
[Moore response: None.]
Moore asks, "Is it rude to suggest that when the Bush family wakes up in the morning they might be thinking about what's best for the Saudis instead of what's best for you?" But his Bush/Saudi conspiracy theory is contradicted by very obvious facts:
…why did Moore's evil Saudis not join "the Coalition of the Willing"? Why instead did they force the United States to switch its regional military headquarters to Qatar? If the Bush family and the al-Saud dynasty live in each other's pockets…then how come the most reactionary regime in the region has been powerless to stop Bush from demolishing its clone in Kabul and its buffer regime in Baghdad? The Saudis hate, as they did in 1991, the idea that Iraq's recuperated oil industry might challenge their[s]....They fear the liberation of the Shiite Muslims they so despise. To make these elementary points is to collapse the whole pathetic edifice of the film's "theory."
Hitchens, Slate. This isn't to say that concerns about the wishes and interests of the Saudi rulers play too large a role in American foreign policy--especially in the U.S. State Department, which has been notoriously supportive of pro-U.S. Arab dictatorships for many decades. I would much prefer that the State Department and other American foreign policymakers spent less time worrying about friendly relations with the governments of Saudi Arabia, China, and other dictatorships, and more time supporting the aspirations of people who want to free themselves from dictatorship. But complaining about the historic pro-Saudi tilt in U.S. foreign policy, a tilt which is partly the result of extensive business relations between the two countries, is not the same as propounding a tin-hat conspiracy theory that George Bush is a servile tool of the bin Laden family.
Interestingly, Fahrenheit omits one of the leading evildoers in Moore's grand conspiracy theory. As he told an audience in Liverpool, England, "It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton." The oil companies and Halliburton are prominent villains in Fahrenheit, but there is no mention at all of Israel. Indeed, a Bush quote about terrorism in Israel is chopped to remove the Israel reference. That Moore ignores Israel in Fahrenheit makes sense, given Moore's stated intention of using the movie to defeat George Bush in November. Most American Jews are Democrats; if they found out what Moore believes about Israel they might be considerably more skeptical about Moore's claims regarding other alleged global conspirators. (Moore is strongly anti-Israel; he has called for the U.S. to cut off all aid to Israel, and to use the money to buy weapons for the Palestinians. His latest book, Dude, Where's My Country, is dedicated to the memory of Rachel Corrie, an American who traveled to Israel, burned an American flag for some Palestinian children, and served as an activist for a terrorist support group called the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The ISM which is run by the Palestinian Communist Party and which advocates the extermination of the state of Israel. She died trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from removing some shrubbery which was thought to cover tunnels used by terrorist bombers to enter Israel. Thus Moore dedicated his book to someone who deliberately sought to assist the terrorist murder of civilians in Israel.)
[Moore response: None]
This segment is introduced with the question, "Or was the war in Afghanistan really about something else?" The "something else" is shown to be a Unocal pipeline.
Moore mentions that the Taliban visited Texas while Bush was governor, over a possible pipeline deal with Unocal. But Moore doesn't say that they never actually met with Bush or that the deal went bust in 1998 and had been supported by the Clinton administration.
Labash, Weekly Standard.
Moore asserts that the Afghan war was fought only to enable the Unocal company to build a pipeline. In fact, Unocal dropped that idea back in August 1998.
Jonathan Foreman, "Moore's The Pity," New York Post, June 23, 2004.
In December 1997, a delegation from Afghanistan's ruling and ruthless Taliban visited the United States to meet with an oil and gas company that had extensive dealings in Texas. The company, Unocal, was interested in building a natural gas line through Afghanistan. Moore implies that Bush, who was then governor of Texas, met with the delegation.
But, as Gannett News Service points out, Bush did not meet with the Taliban representatives. What's more, Clinton administration officials did sit down with Taliban officials, and the delegation's visit was made with the Clinton administration's permission.
McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times.
Whatever the motive, the Unocal pipeline project was entirely a Clinton-era proposal: By 1998, as the Taliban hardened its positions, the U.S. oil company pulled out of the deal. By the time George W. Bush took office, it was a dead issue--and no longer the subject of any lobbying in Washington.
Isikoff & Hosenball, MSNBC.com.
Moore claims that "Enron stood to benefit from the pipeline." To the contrary, Enron was not part of the consortium which expressed interest in working with Unocal on the pipeline.
On December 9, 2003, the new Afghanistan government did sign a protocol with Turkmenistan and Pakistan to facilitate a pipeline. Indeed, any Afghani government (Taliban or otherwise) would rationally seek the revenue that could be gained from a pipeline. But the protocol merely aims to entice corporations to build a new pipeline; no corporation has has agreed to do so. Nor does the new proposed pipeline even resemble Unocal's failed proposal; the new pipeline would the bring oil and gas from the Caspian Sea basin, whereas Unocal's proposal involved deposits five hundred miles away, in eastern Turkmenistan.
Fahrenheit showed images of pipeline construction, but the images have nothing to do with the Caspian Sea pipeline, for which construction has never begun. Nor do they have anything to do with the Unocal pipeline, which never existed except on paper.
According to Fahrenheit, Afghanistan's new President, Hamid Karzai, was a Unocal consultant. This is false. Sumana Chatterjee and David Goldstein, "A lowdown on the facts behind the allegations in 'Fahrenheit 9/11'," Knight-Ridder newspapers, July 2, 2004. The origin of the claim appears to be a December 6, 2001 story in the center-left French newspaper Le Monde. The story does not cite any source for its claim. (The story is available on-line from Le Monde's website; registration and payment are required.) Unocal has denied that Karzai was ever a consultant.
(Deceits: 1. Governor Bush never met the Taliban; 2. The Unocal pipeline idea was abandoned; 3. The new pipeline is different from the Unocal proposal; 4. Construction has not begun. Bonus deceit: Enron.)
[Moore response: Regarding Karzai, cites the article in Le Monde, and two later articles which appear to use Le Monde's information. Moore's translation is: "He was a consultant for the American oil company Unocal, while they studied the construction of a pipeline in Afghanistan." The actual sentence was "Après Kaboul et l'Inde ou il a étudié le droit, il a parfait sa formation aux Etats-Unis ou il fut un moment consultant de l'enterprise pétrolière américaine Unocal, quand celle-ci étudiant la construction d'un oléduc en Afghanistan." Translated: After Kabul and India where he had studied law, he completed his training in the United States where he was briefly (literally: "for a moment") a consultant for the American petroleum business Unocal, when it was studying the construction of a pipeline in Afghanistan." Neither Le Mondenor Moore has provided any evidence to substantiate the claim about Unocal and Karzai.
Regarding Enron, Moore cites a 1997 speech by a professor, in which the professor said that Enron would be interested in helping to build the Unocal pipeline. There is no reason to doubt the professor, but the fact is that Enron was not among the companies which Unocal chose to work with. There is no evidence supporting Moore's assertion that Enron would benefit from the new Caspian Sea basin pipeline.
Moore does not attempt to defend the other falsities which are detailed in this section: that Unocal had abandoned the project in 1998, that the 2003 Protocol involves an entirely different pipeline, and that the pipeline footage in the movie has nothing to do with either the 1998 or 2003 proposals.]
Moore also tries to paint Bush as sympathetic to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until its overthrow by U.S.-led forces shortly after Sept. 11. Moore shows a March 2001 visit to the United States by a Taliban envoy, saying the Bush administration "welcomed" the official, Sayed Hashemi, "to tour the United States to help improve the image of the Taliban."
Yet Hashemi's reception at the State Department was hardly welcoming. The administration rejected his claim that the Taliban had complied with U.S. requests to isolate Osama bin Laden and affirmed its nonrecognition of the Taliban.
"We don't recognize any government in Afghanistan," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on the day of the visit.
[Moore response. Quotes some articles showing that the Taliban visited the U.S. in 2001 to appeal for the lifting of sanctions on their government. Shows no evidence that the Taliban were "welcomed" by the Bush administration. Does not explain why Fahrenheit omits the fact that the Bush administration rebuffed all the Taliban's requests.]
Fahrenheit 9/11attempts in every way possible to link Osama bin Laden to George Bush. Moore even claims that Bush deliberately gave bin Laden "a two month head start" by not putting sufficient forces into Afghanistan soon enough. (On HBO, Moore explicitly claimed that the U.S. is protecting bin Laden in order to please the Saudis.) However, Moore has not always been so fierce demanding that the Afghanistan War be prosecuted with maximal power in order to get bin Laden:
In late 2002, almost a year after the al-Qaida assault on American society, I had an onstage debate with Michael Moore at the Telluride Film Festival. In the course of this exchange, he stated his view that Osama Bin Laden should be considered innocent until proven guilty. This was, he said, the American way. The intervention in Afghanistan, he maintained, had been at least to that extent unjustified. Something--I cannot guess what, since we knew as much then as we do now--has since apparently persuaded Moore that Osama Bin Laden is as guilty as hell. Indeed, Osama is suddenly so guilty and so all-powerful that any other discussion of any other topic is a dangerous "distraction" from the fight against him. I believe that I understand the convenience of this late conversion.
Hitchens, Slate. That Osama, if captured and tried in an American court, would be entitled to a presumption of innocence (in the sense that the prosecution would have to prove guilt) does not mean that the U.S. should be morally foreclosed from destroying Osama's base in Afghanistan and attempting to capture or kill Osama based on facts demonstrating his guilt.
Three days after September 11, Moore demanded that no military action be taken against Afghanistan:
"Declare war?" War against whom? One guy in the desert whom we can never seem to find? Are our leaders telling us that the most powerful country on earth cannot dispose of one sick evil f---wad of a guy? Because if that is what you are telling us, then we are truly screwed. If you are unable to take out this lone ZZ Top wannabe, what on earth would you do for us if we were attacked by a nation of millions? For chrissakes, call the Israelis and have them do that thing they do when they want to get their man! We pay them enough billions each year, I am SURE they would be happy to accommodate your request....
But do not declare war and massacre more innocents. After bin Laden's previous act of terror, our last elected president went and bombed what he said was "bin Laden's camp" in Afghanistan -- but instead just killed civilians.
Michael Moore, "War on Whom?" AlterNet, Sept. 14, 2001.
The next day he wrote:
Trust me, they are talking politics night and day, and those discussions involve sending our kids off to fight some invisible enemy and to indiscriminately bomb Afghans or whoever they think will make us Americans feel good.
...I fear we will soon be in a war that will do NOTHING to protect us from the next terrorist attack.
"Mike's Message," Sept. 15, 2001. Although Moore vehemently opposed the Afghanistan War, Fahrenheit criticizes Bush for not putting more troops into Afghanistan sooner.
Are we any safer because the U.S. military eliminated the al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, removed a government which did whatever al Qaeda wanted, and killed or captured two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership? Fahrenheit's thesis that the Afghanistan War was solely for the pipeline and to distract attention from Saudi Arabia is inconsistent with the well-known results of the war. A sincere patriot could have opposed the Afghanistan War for a variety of reasons, such as fear that the invasion might stir up even more anti-American sentiment. But the only reason which Fahrenheit offers for opposing the war is the claim that not enough force was used in the early stages (a criticism contrary to Moore's 2001 opposition to the use of any force), and the factually indefensible claim that the results of the war did not help American security or harm terrorists.
[Moore response: none.]
[When] we turn to the facts that are deliberately left out, we discover that there is an emerging Afghan army, that the country is now a joint NATO responsibility and thus under the protection of the broadest military alliance in history, that it has a new constitution and is preparing against hellish odds to hold a general election, and that at least a million and a half of its former refugees have opted to return….[A] highway from Kabul to Kandahar--an insurance against warlordism and a condition of nation-building--is nearing completion with infinite labor and risk. We also discover that the parties of the Afghan secular left--like the parties of the Iraqi secular left--are strongly in favor of the regime change. But this is not the sort of irony in which Moore chooses to deal.
[Moore response: none]
Moore: But when Congress did complete its own investigation, the Bush White House censored twenty-eight pages of the report.
Reporter: The President is being pressed by all sides to declassify the report. US officials tell NBC news most of the secret sources involve Saudi Arabia.
President Bush: We have given extraordinary cooperation with Chairmen Kean and Hamilton.
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean: We haven't gotten the materials we needed, and we certainly haven't gotten them in a timely fashion. The deadlines we set have passed.
Bravo to Moore for raising the point about censorship of the 28 pages. It's possible that all the censorship was necessary to protect confidential sources, but it's also possible that at least some of the censorship was unnecessary, and was the result of the White House being overprotective of the Saudis. As I've said before, Moore is right to call attention to excessive Saudi influence in the U.S.; he's just wrong with many of his claims about particular issues, and is ridiculous in his claim that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were undertaken for the benefit of the Saudis.
The second part of the quoted dialogue, however, is deceptive. The sequencing makes it appear that Kean was rebutting Bush's claim of extraordinary cooperation. In fact, Kean complained on July 9, 2003, that several "government agencies" (Justice and Defense) were not being cooperative.
On February 8, 2004, Bush told MSNBC that his administration had given extraordinary cooperation. So rather than rebutting Bush's claim, Kean's complaint helped spur the administration to, belatedly, fulfill the Committee's requests. Kean stated that the Commission had been given "unprecedented" access to records. Frank, Newsday.
Moore mocks Attorney General John Ashcroft by pointing out that Ashcroft once lost a Senate race in Missouri to a man who had died three weeks earlier. "Voters preferred the dead guy," Moore says, delivering one of the film's biggest laugh lines.
It's a cheap shot. When voters in Missouri cast their ballots for the dead man, Mel Carnahan, they knew they were really voting for Carnahan's very much alive widow, Jean. The Democratic governor of Missouri had vowed to appoint Jean to the job if Mel won.
McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times.
When Mel Carnahan was alive, polls showed him to be tied with Ashcroft.
[Moore response: Provides a newspaper quote: "Sen. John Ashcroft on Wednesday graciously conceded defeat in his re-election campaign against the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and urged fellow Republicans to call off any legal challenges." Does not address the fact that voters knew that if they voted the late Mel Carnahan, his widow Mrs. Jean Carnahan would become their Senator.]
Much worse than Moore's petty slam of Senate candidate Ashcroft is Moore's false charge that Attorney General Ashcroft ignored warnings about the September 11 attacks:
[A]fter suggesting that Ashcroft was unconcerned about terrorism before September 11, Moore uses phrasing that exaggerates how widespread knowledge of the Al Qaeda plot was before the attacks inside the FBI and Justice Department:[Ashcroft's] own FBI knew that summer that there were Al Qaeda members in the US and that Bin Laden was sending his agents to flight schools around the country. But Ashcroft's Justice Department turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.
This implies far more prior knowledge about flight school activity than actually existed. As the 9/11 Commission found in a staff statement (72K Adobe PDF), the so-called "Phoenix memo" from an FBI agent in Arizona suggesting a possible effort by Bin Laden to send agents to flight schools was not widely circulated within the FBI and did not reach Ashcroft's desk:His memo was forwarded to one field office. Managers of the Osama Bin Laden unit and the Radical Fundamentalist unit at FBI headquarters were addressees, but did not even see the memo until after September 11. No managers at headquarters saw the memo before September 11. The New York field office took no action. It was not shared outside the FBI.
Before Sept. 11, the Minneapolis FBI also investigated Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, who was enrolled in a flight school there, but no Al Qaeda connections were discovered until after the attacks. Again, saying the FBI "knew" of a plot to send agents to flight schools is overstated.
Brendan Nyhan, "Fahrenheit 9/11: The temperature at which Michael Moore's pants burn," Spinsanity.org, July 2, 2004.
Moore claims that Bush "cut terrorism funding from the FBI." Not so. In 2001, the Department of Justice was operating under the budget established in the last year of the Clinton administration, so any proposed change in future budgets obviously could not have prevented September 11. For the 2002 budget, the Bush administration did not propose cutting the FBI counter-terrorism budget. The relevant documents are collected at the website for the Center for American Progress, a self-declared "progressive" think tank which is scathing in denouncing Ashcroft for not agreeing (before September 11) to various FBI proposals for increasing FBI counter-terrorism funding. Rejecting an increase is not the same as imposing a cut.
Fahrenheit shows a document highlighting the one significant cut which Ashcroft proposed (in a Sept. 10 memo; see p. 25). Contrary to Fahrenheit's claim, that cut was not for the FBI budget. The funding was for grants to states to buy equipment; as the memo detailed, the equipment fund already had more than two years worth of money which had not been spent, because states had not yet complied with grant requirements that the states produce state-wide preparedness plans in order to receive funding.
There was also a cut in a special Attorney General fund which had been set up to pay Department of Justice field offices for costs related to the Oklahoma City Bombing. The Senate had voted to eliminate this fund.
[Moore response: Cites the Phoenix Memo warning about al Qaeda trainees in flight schools. Does not attempt to rebut the evidence that the memo was "not widely circulated within the FBI and did not reach Ashcroft's desk." Cites a Chicago Tribune article summarizing September 11 Commission hearings in which former acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard claims that Ashcroft told Pickard he did not want to hear any more about terrorism. Omits Ashcroft's denial of Pickard's claim--and the possibility that Pickard might have been attempting to shift blame away from the FBI. Claims that the September 11 Commission supports Pickard's claim; actually, the Commission said that it could not determine whether Pickard or Ashcroft's versions were correct. Moore's response does not attempt to defend the false claim about budget cuts.]
Defending the USA PATRIOT Act, Representative Porter Goss says that he has an "800 number" for people to call to report problems with the Act. Fahrenheit shoots back with a caption "Not really true." The ordinary telephone number (area code 202) for Goss's office is then flashed on the screen.
You'd never know by watching Fahrenheit, but Rep. Goss does have a toll-free number to which USA PATRIOT Act complaints can be reported. The number belongs to the Committee which Goss chairs, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The number is (877) 858-9040.
Although the Committee's number is toll-free, the prefix is not "800," and Moore exploits this trivial fact to create the false impression that Goss lied about having a toll-free number.
As far as I can tell, the slam on Rep. Goss is the only factual error in the segment on the misnamed USA PATRIOT Act. While there are a few good things in the Act, Moore's general critique of the Act is valid. The Act does contain many items which had long been on the FBI wish-list, which do not have real relation to the War on Terror, and which were pushed through under the pretext of 9/11. Similar critiques are also valid for the Clinton "terrorism" bill which was pushed through Congress in 1996.
[Moore response: None.]
(April 4, 2005): Several people e-mailed me to let me know that the House Committee web page which provides the toll-free number only does so (according to web archives files, which are not comprehensive, but which are usually reliable) on versions of the page from June 2004 or later. Accordingly, it is possible that Fahrenheit, which finished production before June 2004, was accurate when it was made. I called a secretary at the House Committee to find out if there was additional information about when the toll-free number was created. I never received a response. Accordingly, I do not believe that clear and convincing evidence shows that Moore was deceptive on this matter, and I withdraw the charge.
There are several scenes involving Oregon state troopers who patrol coastal areas in the state. The Troopers are presented as underfunded and spread far too thinly.
But this has nothing to do with Fahrenheit's claim that the Bush administration is not sincerely interested in homeland security. The Oregon State Police are paid by the Oregon state government (which has been suffering from a budget crisis). Whatever the problems with Trooper funding, the problems are the responsibility of the Oregon state government, not the federal government. Moore's point makes no more sense than blaming the Oregon state government for shortages of FBI personnel in Eugene.
Moreover, the job of protecting the Oregon coastline from foreign invaders is not a job of the Oregon State Police. That job is the responsibility of the United States Coast Guard and the United States Navy. For the Oregon-Washington coast, the Coast Guard has 1,287 personnel on active duty, 459 Coast Guard Reserves, and 1,600 volunteers in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
[Moore response: Cites an article about Oregon state budget cuts. Continues to ignore the fact that the Oregon State Police budget is not the responsibility of the federal government.]
Fahrenheit asserts that Saddam's Iraq was a nation that "had never attacked the United States. A nation that had never threatened to attack the United States. A nation that had never murdered a single American citizen." Each of these assertions is false.
Jake Tapper (ABC News): You declare in the film that Hussein's regime had never killed an American …
Moore: That isn't what I said. Quote the movie directly.
Tapper: What is the quote exactly?
Moore: "Murdered." The government of Iraq did not commit a premeditated murder on an American citizen. I'd like you to point out one.
Tapper: If the government of Iraq permitted a terrorist named Abu Nidal who is certainly responsible for killing Americans to have Iraq as a safe haven; if Saddam Hussein funded suicide bombers in Israel who did kill Americans; if the Iraqi police--now this is not a murder but it's a plan to murder--to assassinate President Bush which at the time merited airstrikes from President Clinton once that plot was discovered; does that not belie your claim that the Iraqi government never murdered an American or never had a hand in murdering an American?
Moore: No, because nothing you just said is proof that the Iraqi government ever murdered an American citizen. And I am still waiting for you to present that proof.
You're talking about, they provide safe haven for Abu Nidal after the committed these murders, uh, Iraq helps or supports suicide bombers in Israel. I mean the support, you remember the telethon that the Saudis were having? It's our allies, the Saudis, that have been providing help and aid to the suicide bombers in Israel. That's the story you should be covering. Why don't you cover that story? Why don't you cover it?
Note Moore's extremely careful phrasing of the lines which appear to exonerate Saddam, and Moore's hyper-legal response to Tapper. In fact, Saddam provided refuge to notorious terrorists who had murdered Americans. Saddam provided a safe haven for Abu Abbas (leader of the hijacking of the ship Achille Lauro and the murder of the elderly American passenger Leon Klinghoffer), for Abu Nidal, and for the 1993 World Trade Center bombmaker, Abdul Rahman Yasin. By law, Saddam therefore was an accessory to the murders. Saddam order his police to murder former American President George Bush when he visited Kuwait City in 1993; they attempted to do so, but failed. In 1991, he ordered his agents to murder the American Ambassador to the Philippines and, separately, to murder the employees of the U.S. Information Service in Manila; they tried, but failed. Yet none of these aggressions against the United States "count" for Moore, because he has carefully framed his verbs and verb tenses to exclude them.
According to Laurie Mylroie, a former Harvard professor who served as Bill Clinton's Iraq advisor during the 1992 campaign (during which Vice-Presidential candidate Gore repeatedly castigated incumbent President George H.W. Bush for inaction against Saddam), the ringleader of the World Trade Center bombings, Ramzi Yousef, was working for the Iraqi intelligence service. Laurie Mylroie, The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge(N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2d rev. ed. 2001).
Also, Saddam's military constantly shot at (and therefore attempted to kill) American and British pilots enforcing the "no-fly zone" over portions of Iraq. The no-fly zone was created to prevent Saddam's air force from being able to mass murder Iraqis; Saddam agreed to the no-fly zone as a condition of the ceasefire in the 1991 Gulf War, but then refused to abide by the ceasefire conditions. (As he likewise refused to abide by the conditions requiring him to prove that he had destroyed all his weapons of mass destruction.) One could argue about whether it is attempted "murder" to break the terms of a ceasefire and to attempt to kill foreign soldiers who are attempting to prevent you from perpetrating mass murder.
But even with Moore's clever phrasing designed to elide Saddam's culpability in the murders and attempted murders of Americans, Tapper still catches him with an irrefutable point: Saddam did perpetrate the premeditated murder of Americans. Every victim of every Palestinian terrorist bomber who was funded by Saddam Hussein was the victim of premeditated murder--including the American victims. Because Saddam's reward system for the families of deceased terrorists was known and publicized, the reward system amounted to a before-the-fact inducement for additional terrorist bombings.
So what does Moore do? He tries to change the subject. Moore makes the good point that the U.S. media should focus more attention on Saudi financial aid to Palestinian terrorists who murder Americans in Israel. On NRO, I've pointed to Saudi terror funding, as have other NRO writers. But pointing out Saudi Arabia's guilt does not excuse Moore's blatant lie about Saddam Hussein's innocence.
[Moore response: Quotes a think tank writer: "Iraq has never threatened nor been implicated in any attack against U.S. territory and the CIA has reported no Iraqi-sponsored attacks against American interests since 1991." The statement does not address Iraqi payments to the families of terrorists who murdered Americans in Israel. Nor does it address the undeniable fact that Iraq was providing a hide-out for terrorists who had murdered Americans.]
Moore's pro-Saddam allegation that Saddam "never threatened to attack the United States" is true in the narrow sense that Saddam never gave a speech in which he threatened to, for example, send the Iraqi navy and army to conduct an amphibious invasion of Florida. But although Saddam never threatened the territorial integrity of America, he repeatedly threatened Americans. For example, on November 15, 1997, the main propaganda organ for the Saddam regime, the newspaper Babel (which was run by Saddam Hussein's son Uday) ordered: "American and British interests, embassies, and naval ships in the Arab region should be the targets of military operations and commando attacks by Arab political forces." (Stephen Hayes, The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2004), p. 94.) On November 25, 2000, Saddam declared in a televised speech, "The Arab people have not so far fulfilled their duties. They are called upon to target U.S. and Zionist interests everywhere and target those who protect these interests."
On the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a weekly newspaper owned by Uday Hussein said that Arabs should "use all means-and they are numerous-against the aggressors...and considering everything American as a military target, including embassies, installations, and American companies, and to create suicide/martyr [fidaiyoon] squads to attack American military and naval bases inside and outside the region, and mine the waterways to prevent the movement of war ships..."
Moreover, the Saddam regime did not need to make verbal threats in order to "threaten" the United States. The regime threatened the United States by giving refuge to terrorists who had murdered Americans, and by funding terrorists who were killing Americans in Israel. Saddam gave refuge to terrorists who had attacked the United States by bombing the World Trade Center. In addition:
In 1991, a large number of Western hostages were taken by the hideous Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and held in terrible conditions for a long time. After that same invasion was repelled--Saddam having killed quite a few Americans and Egyptians and Syrians and Brits in the meantime and having threatened to kill many more…
….Iraqi forces fired, every day, for 10 years, on the aircraft that patrolled the no-fly zones and staved off further genocide in the north and south of the country. In 1993, a certain Mr. Yasin helped mix the chemicals for the bomb at the World Trade Center and then skipped to Iraq, where he remained a guest of the state until the overthrow of Saddam….On Dec. 1, 2003, the New York Times reported--and the David Kay report had established--that Saddam had been secretly negotiating with the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il in a series of secret meetings in Syria, as late as the spring of 2003, to buy a North Korean missile system, and missile-production system, right off the shelf. (This attempt was not uncovered until after the fall of Baghdad, the coalition's presence having meanwhile put an end to the negotiations.)
Hitchens, Slate. The cited article is David E. Sanger & Thom Shanker, "A Region Inflamed: Weapons. For the Iraqis, a Missile Deal That Went Sour; Files Tell of Talks With North Korea, New York Times, Dec. 1, 2003.
As French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin stated on November 12, 2002, "The security of the United States is under threat from people like Saddam Hussein who are capable of using chemical and biological weapons." (Hayes, p. 21.) De Villepin's point is indisputable: Saddam was the kind of person who was capable of using chemical weapons, since he had actually used them against Iraqis who resisted his tyrannical regime. As de Villepin spoke, Saddam was sheltering terrorists who had murdered Americans, and was subsidizing the murder of Americans (and many other nationalities) in Israel.
[Moore response: Cites a column by Maureen Dowd and an article for a former Australian Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs And Trade asserting that Iraq never threatened the United States. Does not address the extensive threats detailed in this section.]
Moore declares that George Bush fabricated an Iraq/al Qaeda connection in order to deflect attention from his Saudi masters. But consider the facts presented in Stephen F. Hayes's book, The Connection : How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2004). The first paragraph of the last chapter (pp. 177-78) sums up some of the evidence:
Iraqi intelligence documents from 1992 list Osama bin Laden as an Iraqi intelligence asset. Numerous sources have reported a 1993 nonaggression pact between Iraq and al Qaeda. The former deputy director of Iraqi intelligence now in U.S. custody says that bin Laden asked the Iraqi regime for arms and training in a face-to-face meeting in 1994. Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Hajer al Iraqi met with Iraqi intelligence officials in 1995. The National Security Agency intercepted telephone conversations between al Qaeda-supported Sudanese military officials and the head of Iraq's chemical weapons program in 1996. Al Qaeda sent Abu Abdallah al Iraqi to Iraq for help with weapons of mass destruction in 1997. An indictment from the Clinton-era Justice Department cited Iraqi assistance on al Qaeda "weapons development" in 1998. A senior Clinton administration counterterrorism official told the Washington Post that the U.S. government was "sure" Iraq had supported al Qaeda chemical weapons programs in 1999. An Iraqi working closely with the Iraqi embassy in Kuala Lumpur was photographed with September 11 hijacker Khalid al Mihdhar en route to a planning meeting for the bombing of the USS Cole and the September 11 attacks in 2000. Satellite photographs showed al Qaeda members in 2001 traveling en masse to a compound in northern Iraq financed, in part, by the Iraqi regime. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, senior al Qaeda associate, operated openly in Baghdad and received medical attention at a regime-supported hospital in 2002. Documents discovered in postwar Iraq in 2003 reveal that Saddam's regime harbored and supported Abdul Rahman Yasin, an Iraqi who mixed the chemicals for the 1993 World Trade Center attack...
Hayes is a writer for The Weekly Standard and much of his writing on the Saddam/Osama connection is available there for free; simply use the search engine and look for articles by Hayes.
The preliminary staff report of the September 11 Commission states, "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." Some critics, including the chief prosecutor of the World Trade Center bombers, have argued that the staff report inexplicably ignores substantial evidence of Iraqi involvement in the September 11 attacks. The final Commission Report finds that there were "friendly contacts" between Al Qaeda and the Saddam regime. The Commission does not find that there was a "collaborative operational relationship" for "carrying out attacks against the United States." Whether you agree with the preliminary staff report, the staff's critics, or the final commission report, there is no dispute that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with al Qaeda, an organization whose only activity was terrorism. Fahrenheit dishonestly pretends that there was no relationship at all.
Fahrenheit shows Condoleezza Rice saying, "Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11." The audience laughs derisively. Here is what Rice really said on the CBS Early Show, Nov. 28, 2003:
Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11. It's not that Saddam Hussein was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9/11, but, if you think about what caused 9/11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York. This is a great terrorist, international terrorist network that is determined to defeat freedom. It has perverted Islam from a peaceful religion into one in which they call on it for violence. And they're all linked. And Iraq is a central front because, if and when, and we will, we change the nature of Iraq to a place that is peaceful and democratic and prosperous in the heart of the Middle East, you will begin to change the Middle East....
Moore deceptively cut the Rice quote to fool the audience into thinking she was making a particular claim, even though she was pointedly not making such a claim. And since Rice spoke in November 2003, her quote had nothing to do with building up American fears before the March 2003 invasion, although Moore implies otherwise.
[Moore response: None.]
Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it's a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes. When he exploits and lingers on the tears of a mother who lost her soldier-son in Iraq, and she wails, "Why did you have to take him?" Moore does not cut to images of the murderers/terrorists (pardon me, "insurgents") in Iraq…or even to God; he cuts to George Bush. When the soldier's father says the young man died and "for what?", Moore doesn't show liberated Iraqis to reply, he cuts instead to an image of Halliburton.
Jeff Jarvis, "Watching Michael Moore," Buzz Machine weblog, June 24, 2004.
The most offensive sequence in "Fahrenheit 9/11"'s long two hours lasts only a few minutes. It's Moore's file-footage depiction of happy Iraq before the Americans began their supposedly pointless invasion. You see men sitting in cafes, kids flying kites, women shopping. Cut to bombs exploding at night.
What Moore presumably doesn't know, or simply doesn't care about, is that the building you see being blown up is the Iraqi Ministry of Defense in Baghdad. Not many children flew kites there. It was in a part of the city that ordinary Iraqis weren't allowed to visit--on pain of death.
…Iraq was ruled by a regime that had forced a sixth of its population into fearful exile, that hanged dissidents (real dissidents, not people like Susan Sontag and Tim Robbins) from meathooks and tortured them with blowtorches, and filled thousands of mass graves with the bodies of its massacred citizens.
Yes, children played, women shopped and men sat in cafes while that stuff went on--just as people did all those normal things in Somoza's Nicaragua, Duvalier's Haiti and for that matter Nazi Germany, and as they do just about everywhere, including in Iraq today.
Foreman, New York Post. For more, see the weblog of Iraqi Sarmad Zanga (part of which cites this report).
Fahrenheit points out, correctly, that the Saudi monarchy is "a regime that Amnesty International condemns as a widespread human rights violator." Fahrenheit does not mention that the Saddam regime was likewise condemned by Amnesty International. As AI's 2002 annual report noted, in April 2002 "the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution strongly condemning 'the systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror.'''
[Moore response: None.]
According to the footage that ensues, our pilots seem to have hit nothing but women and children.
Labash, Weekly Standard.
Then--wham! From the night sky come the terror weapons of American imperialism. Watching the clips Moore uses, and recalling them well, I can recognize various Saddam palaces and military and police centers getting the treatment…I remember asking Moore at Telluride if he was or was not a pacifist. He would not give a straight answer then, and he doesn't now, either. I'll just say that the "insurgent" side is presented in this film as justifiably outraged, whereas the 30-year record of Baathist war crimes and repression and aggression is not mentioned once. (Actually, that's not quite right. It is briefly mentioned but only, and smarmily, because of the bad period when Washington preferred Saddam to the likewise unmentioned Ayatollah Khomeini.)
A National Public Radio reporter describes a scene in which an Iraqi woman wails about the death of a loved one:
reporters who were taken around to see the sites of civilian deaths during the bombing of Baghdad also observed that some of those errant bombs were fired by Iraqi anti-aircraft crews. Mr. Moore doesn't let the audience know when and where this bomb was dropped, or otherwise try to identify the culprit of the tragedy.
Fahrenheit includes some material in which American soldiers explain what kind of music they listen to. Seventeen selections in Fahrenheit are taken from the an Australian war documentary, Soundtrack to War, and were used against the objection of film-maker George Gittoes:
"I was concerned of course for my soldiers because their interviews were taken out of context," Mr Gittoes told the Nine Network.
"There are about 17 scenes from my documentary in his film. I wouldn't go so far as to say he lifted (them). Michael got access to my stuff and assumed that I would be happy for it to be in 9/11. I would actually have been quite happy for it not to be in 9/11."...
Mr Gittoes said he had some contact with a company Westside Productions associated with Michael Moore but had no idea his work was in Fahrenheit 9/11until it was screened at the Cannes film festival.
Fahrenheit shows Bush giving a speech on the aircraft carrier, with the famous "Mission accomplished" banner in the background. Bush says, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." The scene immediately shifts to an explosion in Iraq. But Bush never promised that all fighting was over. His next words were "And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." He also stated, "We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous."
[Moore response: none.]
Q: You mock the "coalition of the willing" by only showing the tiny countries that have voiced support. But you leave out England, Spain, Italy and Poland. Why?
Moore: "This film exists as a counterbalance to what you see on cable news about the coalition. I'm trying to counter the Orwellian nature of the Big Lie, as if when you hear that term, the ‘coalition,' that the whole world is behind us."
Patrick Goldstein, "Truth teller or story stretcher?" Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2004.
If it is a "Big Lie" to mention only the powerful and important members of the Coalition (such as the United Kingdom and Australia), then it is an equally "Big Lie" to mention only the small and insignificant members of the Coalition.
[Moore response: Provides a citation showing that the small countries which Fahrenheit mocks were part of the Coalition. Does not attempt to justify omission of other countries.]
The family of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone was shocked to learn that video footage of the major's Arlington National Cemetery burial was included by Michael Moore in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Maj. Stone was killed in March 2003 by a grenade that officials said was thrown into his tent by Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is on trial for murder.
"It's been a big shock, and we are not very happy about it, to say the least," Kandi Gallagher, Maj. Stone's aunt and family spokeswoman, tells Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson.
"We are furious that Greg was in that casket and cannot defend himself, and my sister, Greg's mother, is just beside herself," Miss Gallagher said. "She is furious. She called him a 'maggot that eats off the dead.'"
The movie, described by critics as political propaganda during an election year, shows video footage of the funeral and Maj. Stone's fiancee, Tammie Eslinger, kissing her hand and placing it on his coffin.
The family does not know how Mr. Moore obtained the video, and Miss Gallagher said they did not give permission and are considering legal recourse.
She described her nephew as a "totally conservative Republican" and said he would have found the film to be "putrid."
"I'm sure he would have some choice words for Michael Moore," she said. "Michael Moore would have a hard time asking our family for a glass of water if he were thirsty."
John McCaslin, "Inside the Beltway," Washington Times, July 13, 2004. Sgt. Stone was killed by an American Muslim soldier, who threw a grenade in his tent while he was sleeping.
Fahrenheit shows an interview in Walter Reed Army Medical Center with Massachusetts National Guardsman Peter Damon. Damon lost parts of both his arms in Iraq, and is learning how to use prosthetic arms. The footage comes from an interview Damon granted to NBC Nightly News. Damon's wife says that he never granted Moore permission to use the footage, was never asked, and strongly objects to being used in the film. As of July 15, it is not clear whether Moore's usage of the footage was illegal. But it hardly seems ethical for a film-maker who dedicates his film to the soldiers in Iraq to put a double-amputee veteran into the film without even bothering to ask for permission. Damon complained, "The whole movie makes soldiers look like a bunch of idiots...I'm not a child. We sent ourselves over there...It was all our own doing. I don't appreciate him calling us children...."I agree with the President 100%. A lot of the guys down at Walter Reed feel the same way."
In very selectively edited clips, Moore poses the absurd notion that the main news anchors--Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Ted Koppel--wholeheartedly support Bush and the War in Iraq….Has Moore forgotten the hour-long Saddam softball interview Rather did just prior to the war, [or] Jennings' condescending coverage…?
Jennings is shown delivering a broadcast in which he says, "Iraqi opposition has faded in the face of American power." But Jennings was simply stating an undeniable fact, as he stood next to a map showing that Saddam's army had collapsed everywhere, and all Iraqi cities were in Coalition hands. Despite what Moore implies, Jennings strongly opposed the liberation of Iraq. (Tim Graham, "Peter's Peace Platoon. ABC's Crusade Against ‘Arrogant' American Power," Media Research Center, March 18, 2003.)
[Moore response: None.]
Long before Fahrenheit was released, Moore promised that he had videos of Iraqi prisoner abuse. Fahrenheit presents a video of making fun of a prostrate Iraqi. To the audience, it seems like another Abu Ghraib. Moore told an audience, "You saw this morning the first footage of abuse and humiliation of Iraqi detainees." Fahrenheit claims: "Immoral behavior breeds immoral behavior. When a President commits the immoral act of sending otherwise good kids into a war based on a lie, this is what you get."
Not really. As reported in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail:
He revealed that a scene in which American soldiers appear to be desecrating a corpse beneath a blanket may be misleading. In fact, the soldiers had picked up an old man who had passed out drunk and they poked at his visible erection, covered by a blanket.
It's not very respectful to make fun of a drunk who has passed out on a street. But such teasing has nothing to do with the kind of bizarre sexual abuse perpetrated at Abu Ghraib. All over the world, law enforcement officers make fun of comatose drunks.
Such teasing is an abuse of power. (Although it's a relatively harmless abuse of power, since the only victim can't hear the disrespectful words.) Insulting a drunk who can't hear you is not like torturing a conscious victim. And such insults are not the result of "sending otherwise good kids into a war based on a lie"; the insults are the result of the fact that law enforcement personnel all over the world have to remove comatose drunks from the streets, and law enforcement personnel sometimes make fun of the drunks.
[Moore response: None.]
Bush "supported closing veterans hospitals" says Moore. The Bush Department of Veterans Affairs did propose closing seven hospitals in areas with declining populations where the hospitals were underutilized, and whose veterans could be served by other hospitals. Moore does not say that the Department also proposed building new hospitals in areas where needs were growing, and also building blind rehabilitation centers and spinal cord injury centers. (For more, see the Final Report of the independent commission on veterans hospitals, which agrees with some of the Bush proposals, and with some of the objections raised by critics.)
According to Moore, Bush "tried to double the prescription drug costs for veterans." What Bush proposed was raising the prescription co-pay from $7 to $15, for veterans with incomes of over $24,000 a year. Prescription costs would have remained very heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Some, not all, veterans would have faced a doubling of their prescription co-pay, but only to a level which is common for many people with prescription insurance, and hardly a large enough increase to make a great difference in most cases.
Bush, announces Moore, "proposed cutting combat soldiers' pay by 33%." Not exactly. In addition to regular military salaries, soldiers in certain areas (not just combat zones) receive an "imminent danger" bonus of $150 a month. In April 2003, Congress retroactively enacted a special increase of $75, for the fiscal year of Oct. 1, 2002 through Sept. 30, 2003. At first, the Bush administration did not support renewing the special bonus, but then changed its position.
Likewise, Congress had passed a special one-year increase in the family separation allowance (for service personnel stationed in places where their families cannot join them) from $100 to $250. Bush's initial opposition to extending the special increase was presented by Moore as "cutting assistance to their families by 60%." (Edward Epstein, "Pentagon reverses course, won't cut troops' pay," San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 15, 2003.)
Even if one characterizes not renewing a special bonus as a "cut," Fahrenheit misleads the viewer into thinking that the cuts applied to total compensation, rather than only to pay supplements which constitute only a small percentage of a soldier's income. An enlisted man with four months of experience receives an annual salary more than $27,000. (Rod Powers, "What the Recruiter Never Told You: Military Pay." The figure includes the value of health care, housing, and so on.) So allowing the $75 per month supplemental bonus to expire would have amounted to a "cut" of only about 3 percent of total compensation, even at the lowest levels. So Moore claim of a "33%" cut is a ten-fold exaggeration.
Although Moore presents Bush as cutting military pay, Bush did the opposite: in 2003, Congress enacted a Bush administration proposal to raise all military salaries by 3.7%, with extra "targeted" pay increases for non-commissioned officers. NCOs are lower-ranking officers who typically join the military with lower levels of education than commissioned officers. (Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, "Defense Department Targets Military Pay Increases for 2004," American Forces Press Service.)
(Deceits: 1. Closing veterans hospitals without mentioning of opening of veterans hospitals, 2. Cutting combat soldiers' small bonus as if it were a cut in total salary, 3. Omission of Bush pay increase for military. Prescription drugs not counted as deceit, although important context is missing.)
[Moore response: Quotes the movie as referring to "combat soldiers' bonus pay." The theatrical movie I have seen does not include the word "bonus." On other matters, Moore provides citations which are consistent with my explanation of the facts, and does not attempt to explain or justify the deceits or omissions.]
Early in this segment, Moore states that "out of the 535 members of Congress, only one had an enlisted son in Iraq." The action of the segment consists of Moore accosting Congressmen to try to convince them to have their children enlist in the military. At the end, Moore declares, "Not a single member of Congress wanted to sacrifice their child for the war in Iraq."
Moore's second statement is technically true, but duplicitous. Of course no-one would want to "sacrifice" his child in any way. But the fact is, Moore's opening ("only one") and his conclusion ("not a single member") are both incorrect. Sergeant Brooks Johnson, the son of South Dakota Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, serves in the 101st Airborne Division and fought in Iraq in 2003. The son of California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter quit his job after September 11, and enlisted in the Marines; his artillery unit was deployed in the heart of insurgent territory in February 2004. Delaware Senator Joseph Biden's son Beau is on active duty in the Judge Advocate General Corps; although Beau Biden has no control over where he is deployed, he has not been sent to Iraq, and therefore does not "count" for Moore's purposes. Seven members of Congress have been confirmed to have children in the military.
How about Cabinet members? Fahrenheit never raises the issue, because the answer would not fit Moore's thesis. Attorney General John Ashcroft's son is serving on the U.S.S. McFaul in the Persian Gulf.
Why not count Duncan Hunter's son? Note the phrasing: "only one had an enlisted son in Iraq." Although Hunter's son "enlisted" in the Marines, he is a Second Lieutenant, which means that he is above the rank of an "enlisted man." But why hide from the viewers how many Congressmen really have sons serving in the military in Iraq?
The editing of the Congressional scenes borders on the fraudulent:
….Representative Kennedy (R-MN), one of the lawmakers accosted in Fahrenheit 9/11, was censored by Michael Moore.
According to the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune, Kennedy, when asked if he would be willing to send his son to Iraq, responded by stating that he had a nephew who was en-route to Afghanistan. He went on to inform Moore that his son was thinking about a career in the navy and that two of his nephews had already served in the armed forces. Kennedy's side of the conversation, however, was cut from the film, leaving him looking bewildered and defensive.
What was Michael's excuse for trimming the key segment? Kennedy's remarks didn't help his thesis: "He mentioned that he had a nephew that was going over to Afghanistan," Moore recounted. "So then I said ‘No, no, that's not our job here today. We want you to send your child to Iraq. Not a nephew.'"
Kennedy lambasted Moore as a "master of the misleading" after viewing the interview in question.
George Stephanopoulos, of ABC News, asked Moore about the selective cuts in the Kennedy footage:
Stephanopoulos: You have a scene when you're up on Capitol Hill encountering members of Congress, asking them if they would ask their sons and daughters to enlist … in the military. And one of those members of Congress who appears in the trailer, Mark Kennedy, said you left out what he told you, which is that he has two nephews serving in the military, one in Afghanistan. And he went on to say that, "Michael Moore doesn't always give the whole truth. He's a master of the misleading."
Moore: Well, at the time, when we interviewed him, he didn't have any family members in Afghanistan. And when he saw the trailer for this movie, he issued a report to the press saying that he said that he had a kid in--
Stephanopoulos: He said he told you he had two nephews.
Moore:… No, he didn't. And we released the transcript and we put it on our Web site. This is what I mean by our war room. Any time a guy like this comes along and says, "I told him I had two nephews and one was going to Iraq and one was going to Afghanistan," he's lying. And I've got the raw footage and the transcript to prove it. So any time these Republicans come at me like this, this is exactly what they're going to get. And people can go to my Web site and read the transcript and read the truth. What he just said there, what you just quoted, is not true.
This Week followed up with the office of Rep. Kennedy. He did have two nephews in the military, but neither served in Iraq. Kennedy's staff agrees that Moore's Website is accurate but insists the movie version is misleading. In the film, Moore says, "Congressman, I'm trying to get members of Congress to get their kids to enlist in the Army and go over to Iraq." But, from the transcript, here's the rest:
Moore: Is there any way you could help me with that?
Kennedy: How would I help you?
Moore: Pass it out to other members of Congress.
Kennedy: I'd be happy to -- especially those who voted for the war. I have a nephew on his way to Afghanistan.
This Week, ABC News, June 20, 2004.
So while Fahrenheit pretended that Kennedy just stupidly looked at Moore, Kennedy agreed to help Moore.
Notice also how Moore phrased his reply to Stephanopoulos: "Any time a guy like this comes along and says, 'I told him I had two nephews and one was going to Iraq and one was going to Afghanistan,' he's lying." But Kennedy never claimed that he had a nephew going to Iraq. The insinuation that Kennedy made such a claim is a pure fabrication by Moore.
Fahrenheit shows Moore calling out to Delaware Republican Michael Castle, who is talking on a cell phone and waves Moore off. Castle is presented as one of the Congressmen who would not sacrifice his children. What the film omits is that Rep. Castle does not have any children.
Are Congressional children less likely to serve in Iraq than children from other families? Let's use Moore's methodology, and ignore members of extended families (such as nephews) and also ignore service anywhere except Iraq (even though U.S. forces are currently fighting terrorists in many countries). And like Moore, let us also ignore the fact that some families (like Rep. Castle's) have no children, or no children of military age.
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. 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.
Moore ignores the fact that there are 101 veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives and 36 in the Senate. Regardless of whether they have children who could join the military, all of the veterans in Congress have personally put themselves at risk to protect their country.
During the segment, Moore is accompanied by Corporal Abdul Henderson, a Marine Corps Reservist. Corporal Henderson wears several ribbons and medals on his uniform; interestingly, a Good Conduct ribbon or medal, which is awarded "for the successful completion of a prescribed period of time of service without incident," is not among them.
(Deceits: 1. number of Congressional children in Iraq, 2. Mark Kennedy, 3. Michael Castle, 4. False impression that Congressional families are especially unlikely to serve in Iraq.)
[Moore response: Cites a May 11, 2003 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that only Brooks Johnson had a son who had fought in Iraq. The article was accurate at the time, since Duncan Hunter's son, who had already enlisted, had not yet been sent to Iraq. But Fahrenheit premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2004--two months after it had been reported that Duncan Hunter's son had been sent to Iraq. At the least, Moore could apologize that his claim about "only one" child is inaccurate, and blame the error on his having not noticed the news about Hunter while the movie was in its final production stages. But instead, Moore continues to repeat the "only one" claim, which is indisputably false. Moore offers no defense for the other falsehoods in this section.]
Fahrenheit spends a much time on the grief of Lila Lipscomb, the mother of Sgt. Michael Pederson, who died in Iraq in April 2003. Sgt. Pederson was a child from Mrs. Lipscomb's first marriage. He enlisted in the military in 1996, and was 26 years old when he was killed. There is no room in Fahrenheit for bereaved families who feel different from Mrs. Lipscomb. Not even room for the widow Sgt. Michael Pederson, who believes that "Hating President Bush is not going to bring Michael back." Ben Schmitt, "Flint woman spotlighted in Moore's latest movie," Detroit Free Press, May 29, 2004.(The widow was separated from Sgt. Pederson, and their child was living with the widow at the time of his death.)
Mrs. Lipscomb reads for the camera an angry letter which Sgt. Pederson wrote castigating President Bush. Not shown on camera is the fact that Pederson apologized for the letter shortly afterward.
Moore films Mrs. Lipscomb in Washington, D.C., where she tearfully walks to the White House, where she will, in her words, "put all my pain and all my anger and to release it." On the way, Fahrenheit shows Mrs. Lipscomb arguing with a passerby who says that the whole thing is staged. What Fahrenheit does not show is that the passerby talked with Mrs. Lipscomb, heard her side of the story, and apologized on the spot.
Moore has been paying Mrs. Lipcomb's travel expenses to help promote the movie and criticize President Bush. According to the St. Petersburg Times,
She has been so critical of the Bush administration that she wouldn't be surprised if her house is bugged. When she gets dressed, she sometimes acts as if they are watching and listening, giving a play-by-play as she dons her clothing.
"Look guys," she says. "I'm putting on my bra."
Fahrenheit Fahrenheit wallows in pity for Mrs. Lipscomb. "I was tired of seeing people like Mrs. Lipscomb suffer," Moore claims. Yet Moore's website is not quite so sympathetic:
I'm sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.
Michael Moore, "Heads Up... from Michael Moore," MichaelMoore.com, April 14, 2004.
Fahrenheit is correct in pointing out that people who enlist in the military are less likely to be college graduates and more likely to be black than is the general U.S. population. However, Moore's portrayal of the socioeconomics of the U.S. military is false is several respects. First, people who are at the lowest end of the economic spectrum--people who have failed to graduate from high school or to obtain a G.E.D.--are not over-represented in the military. Like college graduates, they are under-represented. In the case of high school drop-outs, the reason is that the all-volunteer military can be selective, and generally prefers not to enlist high-school drop-outs.
Although blacks are about twice as likely to serve in the military as is the general U.S. population, black people do not suffer disproportionate casualties in Iraq. Official casualty statistics for Operation Iraqi Freedom report that--as of June 26, 2004--blacks suffered 111 of the 850 U.S. fatalities (13%). The Census Bureau estimates that blacks comprise 12.3% of the U.S. population. The reason that black enlistment is disproportionate but black fatalities are not is that many blacks in the military serve in support roles (such as providing supplies) which are unlikely to suffer high rates of casualties. Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., "The Fallen: A profile of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan," GovExec.com, May 28, 2004.
Mrs. Lipscomb is from Flint, Michigan, which Moore calls "my hometown." In fact, Moore grew up in Davison, Michigan, a suburb of Flint. Davison is much wealthier than Flint. According to the Census Bureau, 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.
Flint is working class, industrial, down-at-heel, where the majority of the population is black or Latino. It's where the factories are.
Davison, where Moore grew up and attended Davison High School, is comfortable middle class, suburban, and white. Overwhelmingly white. It's where the managers and professionals live. While many of the children of Flint go on to work at the factories...the normal trajectory for the children of Davison is university. Michael Moore went to university (though didn't stick long). Unusually, he also went to Flint and tried his hand on the blue-collar front line with a job on the Buick assembly line for General Motors. He found the conditions under which the working class actually worked so appalling he quit the job after one day.
"Less is Moore," Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 2004.
Discussing unemployment rates, Mrs. Lipscomb states, "But you have to take into account as well that when your unemployment runs out you're no longer counted." (Presumably she means that when your "unemployment insurance benefits" run out, you're no longer counted.) There is no reason to doubt her sincerity, but she is incorrect in this regard. The Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate counts all "Persons 16 years and over who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week." The rate has nothing do with whether the person is receiving unemployment insurance payments. (For more, see the detailed BLS explanation of how unemployment rates are calculated.)
A curious reader of this article wrote to the Michigan Dept. of Labor & Economic Growth/Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives. An official with the Michigan Bureau sent back a document (which is apparently not on the Internet) titled "Labor Force, Employment, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate Estimates For States And Local Areas." The document explains how unemployment rates are calculated. In particular, the document explains the calculated rate specifically includes people who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits, but who are still unemployed. The unemployment rate includes:
An estimate of the number of individuals who have used up all of their unemployment benefits, but are determined, through estimation, to be still unemployed. A formula that utilizes the parallel relationship between the rate of unemployment and the duration of unemployment spells, and a quarterly Current Population Survey average state duration average, yields a survival rate for a particular area depending on that area's current labor market condition. Thus an area with high unemployment will have a larger percentage of its unemployment claims exhaustees included into its jobless total.
(Italics in original.) The Michigan official's letter explained, "In the official statistics we produce (in cooperation with the BLS) for the number of unemployed for the state and local areas, current unemployment claimants account for about 30 to 40 percent of the total unemployed."
[Moore response: Does not attempt to explain why he calls Flint "my hometown." No defense of the misstatement about how unemployment rates are calculated.
In a previous draft, I had cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that Flint's unemployment rate in January 2004 was 10 percent, and said that Fahrenheit's claim about a 17 percent rate was incorrect. Moore's response cited the Michigan Dept. of Labor & Economic Growth for a 17 percent rate. The BLS figure (10 percent) is labeled "Flint," but actually includes all of Genesee Country. The Michigan DLEG figure (17 percent) is for the city of Flint only. So Moore was correct, and I was incorrect.]
Washington Representative Jim McDermott appears in several segments. The McDermott quotes are, obviously, not like the deceitful quote of Condoleezza Rice, in which her words were chopped to mean the opposite of what she really said. McDermott is apparently quite sincere, and there is no indication that anything he said was taken out of context. However, McDermott's quotes about the alleged motivations of the Bush administration are supported by no evidence, and amount to nothing more than the speculative ravings of one of the very few pro-Saddam members of Congress--who also worries that bin Laden has already been captured, and will be brought out at an opportune time before the election. To rely on McDermott to explain the Bush administration's alleged secret intentions is akin to relying on a bitter atheist to describe an alleged secret conspiracy in the Vatican.
In any case, he does make one plain misstatement. McDermott claims, "Well you make them afraid by creating an aura of endless threat. They played us like an organ. They raised the le[vel], the orange up to red than they they dropped it back to orange." To the contrary, the threat level has never been raised above orange (high risk). It takes a highly paranoid mind to conclude that because changes were made in the announced threat levels, the changes must have been for the purpose of psychological warfare on the American people.
[Moore response: None.]
Michael Moore told Time magazine that at the Washington premiere of Fahrenheit, Tom Daschle "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." Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told the Rapid City Journal that he has never even met Moore. Later, an Washington lawyer who looks like Tom Daschle said that he was the hugee, and that Moore had sincerely but mistakenly thought the lawyer was Tom Daschle.
[Moore response: None. Speaking to the Washington Post, Moore has stuck by his claim about Daschle.]
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 says 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.
Michael Moore, "Heads Up... from Michael Moore," MichaelMoore.com, April 14, 2004. 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. By the way, the number of Iraqi victims of Moore's "minutemen" outnumbers American victims by about 10:1.
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.
[Moore response: None.]
As reported in the trade journal Screen Daily, affiliates of the Iranian and Syrian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah are promoting Fahrenheit 9/11,and Moore's Middle East distributor, Front Row, is accepting the terrorist assistance:
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 [Front Row's Managing Director Gianluca] 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."
Nancy Tartaglione, "Fahrenheit to be first doc released theatrically in Middle East," Screen Daily.com, June 9, 2004 (website requires registration). The story is discussed in Samantha Ellis, "Fahrenheit 9/11 gets help offer from Hezbollah," The Guardian, June 17, 2004; and "Moore film distributor OK with terror support: Exec says firm doesn't want to risk boycott of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' in Mideast," WorldNetDaily.com, June 22, 2004.
Salon.com followed up on the story, and reported:
Gianluca Chacra, the managing director of Front Row Entertainment, the movie's distributor in the United Arab Emirates, confirms that Lebanese student members of Hezbollah "have asked us if there's any way they could support the film." While Hezbollah is considered a legitimate political party in many parts of the world, the U.S. State Department classifies the group as a terrorist organization. Chacra was unfazed, even excited, about their offer. "Having the support of such an entity in Lebanon is quite significant for that market and not at all controversial. I think it's quite natural." (Lions Gate did not return calls asking for comment.)
John Gorenfeld, "Michael Moore Terrorizes The Bushies!" Salon.com, June 24, 2004.
According to Screen Daily, Moore's film will open in mid-July on ten screens in Lebanon and two screens in Syria. Syria is a terrorist state which invaded Lebanon in the 1970s and controls the nation through a puppet government. The main al Qaeda commander in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has worked with Hezbollah and has operated out of Syria.
Moore accuses the United States of sacrificing morality because of greed: "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." David Brooks, "All Hail Moore," New York Times, June 28, 2004; translation of original Japanese interview with Moore.
Yet it turns out that the self-righteous Moore is the one who is accepting aid from a terrorist organization which has murdered and kidnapped hundreds of Americans--and also an organization that works with Zarqawi and al Qaeda. Just to avoid a boycott on a dozen screens in a totalitarian terrorist state and its colony?
Moore is, with terrorist assistance, pushing the film in Syria and a Syrian colony, both of which are places which supply some of the fighters who are currently killing Americans and anti-totalitarian Iraqis. Fahrenheit presents the fighters as noble resistance, and the American presence as entirely evil. It's not that the content of Fahrenheit is all that different from the propaganda which pervades the state-controlled Arab media, or on al Jazeera. But Fahrenheit's may be more persuasive, to at least some of its Arab audience, because its denunciations of American and praise for the Iraqi insurgents comes from an American. It is reasonable to expect that such a film, when shown in Syria and Lebanon, will aid in the recruiting of additional fighters to kill Americans and Iraqis. In effect, the presentation of Fahrenheit in Syria and Lebanon--especially with explicit endorsement from a terrorist organization--amounts to a recruiting film for terrorists (or, in Moore's terms, "minutemen") to go to Iraq and kill Americans.
Hezbollah likes the film so much that the terrorist organization has shown it on one of its television stations:
Anti-American Arab television stations, including one owned by the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah, have broadcast chunks of Moore's attack on Bush with commentaries more virulent than the original.
"We may not be able to drive the Americans out of Iraq," says Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader in Lebanon. "But we can drive Bush out of the White House by heating things up in Iraq." Bush is also seen as too pro-Israel in his Middle East policy.
(New York Post, Aug. 18, 2004). Fidel Castro likewise showed the film on Cuban state television, because the film fit his own message of the evil of the United States. (Since Fahrenheit is still in theatrical release, these broadcasts may not have been specifically authorized by Moore. But it does say something that Hezbollah and the Cuban tyrant find Fahrenheit such a congenial movie.)
Because of Syria's oppression of Lebanon and its support for terrorism in Iraq and other nations, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. The Act authorizes the U.S. government to freeze the assets of individuals or organizations "who are determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to be or to have been directing or otherwise significantly contributing to" Syrian sponsorship of terrorist organizations or the destabilization Iraq.
Theoretically, it might be possible that Moore has no personal awareness that his Middle East distributor is working with terrorists. But such ignorance is unlikely for two reasons: First, Moore's "war room" staff monitors controversial articles about the film, and there could hardly be anything more controversial than making common cause with terrorists. Not only has the Hezbollah relationship been publicized in a leading film trade on-line newspaper, the Moore-Hezbollah connection has been reported in one of the very most significant British newspapers, and in an important American on-line newspaper.
Second, Moore was personally questioned about the terrorist connection at a Washington, D.C., press conference. He at first denied the terrorist connection, but was then confronted with the direct quote from his distributor. He stonewalled and refused to answer. So the man who spends so much time getting in other people's faces with tough questions is unwilling to explain why he is accepting aid from Hezbollah.
By way of reply, Moore could have said, "I sold the Middle East distribution rights to FRE, so I can't legally control what they do. But I strongly condemn their relationship with Hezbollah, and I've already told them that if they don't stop cooperating with Hezbollah, they will never distribute another movie of mine. I think it's reprehensible for any business to accept terrorist assistance." But instead, he stonewalls. Likewise, his website has provided no explanation of Moore's conduct regarding Hezbollah.
Fahrenheit stitches together some scattered lines from the screenplay of 1984, written by Ralph Gilbert Bettison and William Templeton. Moore implies that the words are those of George Orwell, although the quotes do not come from George Orwell's novel 1984. The screenplay depicts a totalitarian state perpetually at war, and does accurately capture many of the points made in Orwell's book. As Moore quotes "Orwell" (actually, Bettison and Templeton): "The war is not meant to be won, but it is meant to be continuous...A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance... The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or east Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact." The real purpose of war as "to keep the very structure of society intact." Fahrenheit applies "Orwell's" words to the United States of today.
Moore's purported positions on some issues in Fahrenheit are different from his previous positions: whether people should have made a big deal about September 11, whether Osama bin Laden is guilty of the September 11 attacks, whether American families, including the Lipscombs, deserve to suffer the deaths of their children because they supported the war. But throughout Michael Moore's career, he has remained true to the central theme of Fahrenheit: capitalist America is the real terrorist state. Because America is a capitalist society, American use of force is necessarily evil. (Or as the New Yorker reported, "He believes that the United States should not take military action under any circumstances except emergency self-defense.")
Four days after September 11, Moore announced: "We, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants." (The statement has been deleted from Moore's website, but is available through the web archive service called the Wayback Machine.) This is the view of Fahrenheit 9/11: Iraq under Saddam was fine until America began terrorizing it.
Saddam Hussein agrees; after September 11, his government issued an official statement declaring, "The American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity." Saddam's media showed him telling his generals, "Those who do not want to harvest evil, should not plant evil...Despite the contradictory humanitarian feelings on what happened in America, America is harvesting the thorns that its rulers have planted in the world...Nobody has crossed the Atlantic carrying weapons against America, but it has crossed the Atlantic carrying death and destruction to the whole world."
The Iranian tyranny agrees too. In mid-August,
the mullahs running the Farabi Cinema complex in Tehran scrapped the season's program to screen Moore's "documentary."
"This film unmasks the Great Satan America," a spokesman said. "It tells Muslim people why they are right in hating America. It is the duty of every believer to see [this film] and learn the truth."
For more of Moore's anti-American statements, see the Tacitus weblog entry "Michael Moore in his own words." One of the posters for the European release of Fahrenheit features a burning American flag, with a cloudy death's-head skull in place of the white stripes.
Throughout American history, there have always been patriotic Americans who criticized particular war-time policies, or who believed that a war was a mistake and should be promptly ended. Today, there are many patriotic Americans who oppose some or all aspects of the War on Terror. I am among them, in that I have strongly opposed the USA PATRIOT Act from its first days, have denounced the Bush administration for siding with corporate interests rather than with public safety by sabotaging the Armed Pilots law, and have repeatedly stated that the current Saudi tyranny should be recognized as a major part of the problem in the War on Terror--despite the tyranny's close relationship with America's foreign policy élite.
In contrast to the large number of patriots who have argued against particular wars or wartime policies, a much smaller number of Americans have hated America. They have cheered for the fighters who were killing Americans. They have belittled America's right to protect itself, and they have produced propaganda designed to destroy American morale and to facilitate enemy victory. To advance their anti-American cause, they have sometimes feigned love for the nation they despised.
For example, during the Vietnam War, many sincere patriots--such as George McGovern and Robert Kennedy--opposed the war. But some people actively collaborated with the totalitarian government of Ho Chi Minh, and the totalitarian armies of the Khmer Rouge and the Pathet Lao. These people tried to convince the American public that the soldiers who were killing American troops were fighting in a just cause. They were not; they were fighting for Stalinism and genocide.
Do the many falsehoods and misrepresentations of Fahrenheit 9/11 suggest a film producer who just makes careless mistakes? Or does a man who calls Americans "possibly the dumbest people on the planet" believe that his audience will be too dumb to tell when he is tricking them? Viewers will have to decide for themselves whether the extremist and extremely deceptive Fahrenheit 9/11 is a conscientious work of patriotic dissent, or the cynical propaganda of a man who gives wartime aid to America's murderous enemies, and who accepts their aid in return.
Dave Kopel is Research Director of the Independence Institute and an NRO columnist. He has previously written about the deceptions in "Bowling for Columbine." Like Michael Moore, in 2000 Kopel endorsed and voted for Ralph Nader.
Critiques of Moore or F9/11.Ethics ad Public Policy Center, War, Lies, and Videotape: A Viewer's Guide to Fahrenheit 9/11. MooreLies. Moorewatch. Neoperspectives. Fahrenheit Fact. Centigrade 9/11. Moore Exposed. Bowling for Truth. Fahrenheit 411. Watching Michael Moore. Democratic Leadership Council, "Michael Moore's Truth Problem." Democrats United Against Michael Moore. The Unofficial Michael Moore forums. Kelton Rhoads, Propaganda & Fahrenheit 9/11. Joey Tartakovsky.
Movies about Moore or Fahrenheit: Celsius 41.11.
Critiques of this critique, and/or defenses of Fahrenheit. Anthony Wade. Mr. Graff. Brian Ragle (PDF). Ed on Open Speech. Thread on the Randi Rhodes Show discussion forum. Daily Kos. Defending Fahrenheit 911. Fahrenheit Fact Check.
Media analysis: Professor Ifran Khawaja, Critical Reception: The Meaning of 'Fahrenheit 9-11'. Review of some major media reviews of Fahrenheit.
Collection of e-mails I received from Moore supporters: They're not all Moore-ons: Some folks who defend Fahrenheit 9/11 are thoughtful and constructive
Total page views for this report, as of Oct. 4, 2004: 1,014,517
Copyright © 2012, David B. Kopel