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Fahrenheit 9/11

This is a very powerful and important film.   It’s rigorously factual (not always Moore’s strong suit in the past), although there’s nothing objective about it: Moore’s avowed purpose is to remove from office George W. Bush.   ‘Fahrenheit’ may even appeal to those with reservations about Moore’s tendency towards self-aggrandizement, as he’s not in it much, staying mostly behind the camera as narrator.  

I’ve read Hitchens’ attempted takedown of the film but I think he left its salient points standing.   Among these points, which have been verified by the likes of the 9/11 commission and Bush’s own former chief of counter-terrorism, Richard Clarke, are these:

*   Being an oil family, the Bushes have had longtime financial relationships with Saudi Arabian elites, including the bin Laden family, who have invested over $1.4 billion in various Bush-affiliated interests

*   A key investor in W. Bush’s oil company Arbusto was James R. Bath, the Texas money manager for the bin Ladens

*   The Saudi government was able to get the Bush administration to allow members of the bin Laden family to fly out of the U.S. after 9/11 (although, counter to the impression given in the film, they actually left after the ban on air travel was lifted)

*   Bush was explicitly warned in an Aug. 6, 2001 CIA brief that bin Laden was about to attack the U.S. but did nothing about it (and recall, as this film does in passing, that the Reagan administration funded the Islamic militias that would go on to become al-Qaida)

* Administration-affiliated corporations stand to profit enormously from opened-up Afghanistan and Iraq

And there’s much more, from the stolen election to the present moment.   Like ‘Bowling for Columbine’, this film takes as one of its themes the culture of fear and those who profit from it, chiefly the administration (in that frightened people are easily manipulated into going along with its policies).

It is by turns hilarious and shattering, particularly when it focuses on a mother from Flint, Michigan, a self-described “conservative Democrat” with kids in the military who says that she used to hate the protestors.   Then her son is killed in Iraq and she begins to question everything.   She reads aloud a letter from her son in which he rails against the “fool” Bush for having them in Iraq for nothing.   We feel the heartbreaking tragedy of a life wasted.  

This movie is extremely ambitious.   Themes and facts stream and swirl, all of them reinforcing, reiterating and resounding with one basic message: we’ve been duped.

- Jun 30, 2004

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