It has been said that Harriet Beecher Stowe helped start the Civil War with her novel, Uncle Toms Cabin, which enumerated the evils of slavery in shocking detail to a nation that had all but turned a blind eye to what was known as the peculiar institution. It may just be the idealist in my soul, but I can only hope that Michael Moores documentary FAHRENHEIT 9/11 might be able to stop a war, the one in Iraq. Both works have much in common. They are partisan, fervent, and biased in the extreme, not allowing any other point of view than the one each expounds. In Moores case, the direct link between the House of Saud and the Bush dynasty.
He uses the attacks on 9/11, which we hear rather than see as the screen goes black for several minutes, as his focal point. Looking back from them, Moore follows the money trail from the Saudis to George W.s first failed oil business in Midland Texas. Picking up right after the Towers fell, he shows how the government got all the members of the Bin Laden family who were here at that time out of the country on the same day with a minimum of passport control. This at a time, recall, when no flights other than military ones were allowed.
Make no mistake, Moore is angry. Very angry. With the sort of anger that burns white hot until it is distilled down to a cold and very deliberate purpose. With careful and ample documentation, he draws a very clear line between the Saudi desire for influence in the richest country in the world, that would be the United States, and the desire of the Bush family and their cronies for money. A whole lot of money. As Moore puts it with his distinct brand of folksy vitriol, if the American people are paying you $400,000 a year to be President, and the Saudis have paid your family over a billion over the last decade or so with no signs of the payments stopping, whos your Daddy?
The answer is a war in Afghanistan not to get Osama Bin Laden, but rather to clear the way for a natural gas pipeline across that country and into Iraq. Why? For the Saudis who want a way to move the product and for the fat contracts for all your pals who run companies like Halliburton. Where Stowe had only her fertile and fevered imagination in the form of melodramatic fiction, Moore has the advantage of being able to use the principles involved to convict themselves with their own words. Condeleeza Rice and Colin Powell, for example, in February of 2001 stating that Iraq isnt a threat, and then, with equal assurance, taking the opposite view a year or so later. How Moore got the conference footage of representatives taking turns gloating over how much money they were going to make rebuilding Iraq is a coup of the first order.
No one gets a free ride here. Not the Republicans, whose top dog, Bush, is depicted as an airhead propped up by his Daddys rich friends. The sequence showing him being told that the second tower has been hit on 9/11 and then spending seven minutes just sitting there, looking like a deer in the headlights sums that up nicely, though Moores narration, opining that because there was no one there to tell him what to do, he just kept reading the childrens book aloud at the photo op in Florida, is a piquant commentary. Not the Democrats who rolled over and passed a Patriot Act without reading what it did to civil liberties. Not the media that rolled over and then jumped on the jingoistic bandwagon in search of ratings. Not to mention how they fell asleep at the wheel before 9/11. Just why was it that the Taliban making a visit to an oil companys headquarters in Washington before 9/11 wasnt on the front page? And why was it never brought up afterwards?
If Moore had just done his homework and reported what he had found, such as Bush sending soldiers to die in Iraq while cutting their pay and benefits, it would have been a disturbing film, but this is a guy who is the modern master of political theater. He can drive home a point with such deadly precision, that the opposition is left blindsided and speechless. He uses this talent to make us laugh, reading the Patriot Act aloud through the PA system of an ice cream truck, jingle playing, as it circles the Capitol Dome. He makes us think by cornering members of Congress and asking them have their kids enlist and go to Iraq. The way on of those cornered congressmen looks at Moore as though hes lost his mind says it all. Then he breaks our hearts while making the blood in them boil by showing us the father of a soldier killed in Iraq asking what the kid died for, and then abruptly cutting to a PR speech by the CEO of
Even without all the hoopla of Disney trying to squash the films distribution in this country, even without the Palme DOr at Cannes, FAHRENHEIT 9/11 would be a film that is impossible to ignore or to dismiss. If only 1/10 of what Moore charges is true about Bushs actions and motives for them at home and abroad, we have nothing less than a criminal in office. At the very least, this muckraker par excellence has delivered a broadsheet that may cause rioting in the streets. He concludes with an extended quote from George Orwells 1984 and the passage he chooses, about victory not being the point of war, but rather using war to keep the social hierarchy in place, takes on a tone more ominous than even Orwell could have imagined.