Sunday, June 27, 2004


Saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this weekend in New Orleans (a 2 hour drive away). It was really good--very moving, surprisingly detail-oriented (statistically speaking), and funny and eerie all at the same time. The showing we attended (7:40 Sat. night) was sold out. A separate line had to be formed for just F9/11 ticketholders, and it must've stretched at least 50 yards around the mall food court.

I thought the reviews (even the relatively positive ones) were unfair at heart. Of course, Hitchen's attempted evisceration is clumsy, bitter, and quite long.

But here are some points in the movie to which he took exception:

Fahrenheit 9/11 makes the following points about Bin Laden and about Afghanistan, and makes them in this order:

1) The Bin Laden family (if not exactly Osama himself) had a close if convoluted business relationship with the Bush family, through the Carlyle Group.

2) Saudi capital in general is a very large element of foreign investment in the United States.

3) The Unocal company in Texas had been willing to discuss a gas pipeline across Afghanistan with the Taliban, as had other vested interests.

4) The Bush administration sent far too few ground troops to Afghanistan and thus allowed far too many Taliban and al-Qaida members to escape.

5) The Afghan government, in supporting the coalition in Iraq, was purely risible in that its non-army was purely American.

6) The American lives lost in Afghanistan have been wasted. (This I divine from the fact that this supposedly "antiwar" film is dedicated ruefully to all those killed there, as well as in Iraq.)

Well okay, but...
1) This is widely documented and cannot be argued--and the relationship was not just through the Carlyle Group, it was through Harken and Arbusto as well.

2) Yes--see, it's generally not a great idea to have foreigners who have their own interests at heart (i.e., getting rich and promoting militant Islam) having a stake in roughly a tenth of a country's economy.

3) So before 9/11 it's perfectly okay to talk to the Taliban, to bring them into our country, even though we knew of their connections to terror, their oppression of women, and so on. It's only after 9/11, after we've let them have a good look around, fly on some planes, maybe check out the security situation, and given them the whole dignitary treatment, that we can fairly criticize the Taliban?

4) Of course, here is a favorite jab of the rightwing--"Oh, I thought you were anti-war, so why are you complaining about there being too few troops, huh? Maybe you really are a warmonger like us and just can't bring yourself to admit it." And of course it misses the point, which is, in the context of the movie, there was only a token effort made to "go after al-Qaeda" and this is demonstrated by the fact that, relative to say, Iraq (120,000 troops +), a tenth of the troops were sent to Afghanistan (11,000).

5) Right! How convenient that the installed president and former Unocal rep would be in favor of attacking a fellow Muslim country with our Army! That's ludicrous by any standard.

6) First of all, the film never says that. Moore is fair and sympathetic to U.S. soldiers and shows the human costs of the war on both sides. And secondly, when one is killed in a poorly planned invasion fighting people who were openly embraced by some of the most powerful and influential members of one's society before said invasion when one could've been doing anything else--feeding the poor, raising a family, painting a house, etc.--yes, that's a waste.

Here's the first draft of a letter I'm mailing to the Hattiesburg American, my hometown newspaper:

Dear Editor,
Michael Moore’s new movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” should be seen by every voter before the election in November, as it is a brilliant synopsis of what should have been in the major news media since 2000. Unfortunately, Tupelo is currently the only city in Mississippi where the movie is playing, so I went to see it in New Orleans with my wife and some friends. Why any theater owner or distributor in this area would not want to make some money from this movie is beyond me—the showings in New Orleans were sold out Friday and Saturday (the night I went), and reports are much the same across the country. The movie is as “fair and balanced” as any Rush Limbaugh broadcast, and it shows the ill effects the Iraq war has had on the Iraqi people as well as the toll it has taken on our country and our brave soldiers. There is no need to fear “Fahrenheit 9/11”—unless your name is George W. Bush.


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