Film maker Michael Moore is never one to avoid controversy and after the superb Bowling For Columbine, a film that not only was riveting and highly entertaining, but one that showed an insight into deeper issues that most American mainstream media seemed to have missed, his latest outing Fahrenheit 9/11 has much to live up to. Already courting controversy by having its studio Di$ney balking out due to fears of political reprisal (and the free publicity that goes with that) Fahrenheit 9/11 has broken all box office records – despite having been released in nearly 2000 fewer cinemas than most blockbusters.
Starting with the fiasco that surrounded the 2000 presidential election that resulted in the election of George ‘Dubya’ Bush, the film then shows something that most UK residents were not aware of – the fact that Congress can debate the election as long as just one representative and one senator dispute it. Ironically, Al Gore (having just lost the election) had to preside over the session where a number of black representatives challenge the results but without a single senator’s support.
Moving swiftly on to a series of snippets about how Dubya spent over 42% of his pre-9/11 time on holiday and didn’t read many of the important dossiers that were handed to him – including one regarding a possible threat from Osama Bin Laden involving hijacking planes. Mind you Dubya doesn’t do himself any favours when he discusses terrorism on the golf course followed directly afterwards by “Now watch this drive” and shouting at Moore “Get a real job”.
Moore then shows (or rather doesn’t show) the atrocities of September 11th before cutting to show Dubya vacantly sitting in a classroom reading “My Pet Goat” having just been told over seven minutes earlier that the World Trade Centre was attacked.
The film then moves onto the surprisingly strong relationship between Bush’s family and the Bin Laden’s through the oil connections. This isn’t really a problem if you’re a businessman, but it is an issue if you’re the president of the United States who may or may not have other interests at heart.
Other issues that pop up regarding Dubya’s credibility include his close friends (James R Bath) name mysteriously blacked out from Texas Air National Guard documentation, which leads to the discovery that Bath manages the $1.4 Billion Saudi money that has gushed into the Bush’s enterprises over the years, which also explains why Dubya has been so deferential to the Saudis – even to the extent of flying Bin Laden’s family and friends out of the USA after 9/11 when everyone else was grounded and allowing it to happen so that they were never questioned in the process.
The film then shift to ask why the so called War on Terror has focused on Afghanistan and Iraq, instead of Saudi Arabia where most of the hijackers came from. We even have Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice stating in summer 2001 that Iraq poses no threat whatsoever – so why exactly did Dubya go there? It also outlines the secondary interests of Bush’s relationship with the Middle East and the powerful families within.
Moore then moves onto the story of Lila Lipscomb, a strong patriotic woman whose son was one of the 1000+ American soldiers killed to date in the War on Terror. Lipscomb was initially very much for the ‘liberation’ of Iraq but after the dreaded letter from the Marines she changes her views and demands to know the real reason her son was killed and why Dubya sent US troops into a country that took focus off Bin Laden, the man responsible for 9/11 in the first place.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is without a doubt a very powerful film and regardless of what your political affiliation is it is worth seeing. Images of Donald Rumsfeld talking about the surgical precision of the weapons being used in Iraq before showing a screaming child with stitches across his head are undeniably powerful. Also some US troops describe their assault as a video game and listen to songs like “Burn Motherfucker Burn” during attacks shows their ignorance, but other soldiers talk about being shocked by the horrors of war and question why they are there in the first place shows the divide within the forces in Iraq themselves. If the troops don’t even know why they are out there and are receiving mixed messages then what must the media be pumping into the American people?
Moore manages to put a lot of question out, but might not provide quite as many answers as hoped for, but the shocking aspects of the film are interjected by humour and satire; humour such as the Bush Administration being spoofed as the cast of Bonanza. Even the bile inducing rendition of an excruciating self-composed ditty called “Let the Eagle Soar” by Attorney General John Ashcroft is outweighed by the fact that Dubya seems to have started a war which he has more than a conflict of interest than anything like it before, one has to wonder if there really is smoke without fire and Moore definitely shows a lot of smoke and then some. America is portrayed as the greatest country in the world which is going to hell with a moron and a two-faced administration with ulterior motives at the helm.
The film is weakened by the fact that the questions that are unanswered include things such as why nothing much has been done to make the US more secure (Homeland security is a joke – see the extras on the DVD!), where were the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction, what strings the Saudis really pull when they own 7% of the US economy and will the US ever catch Bin Laden or make any sort of dent in Al-Queda? But to be fair to Moore, these questions are still unanswered by the people who should be brought forward to explain themselves.
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