Home > 9/11 News, Media & Reviews, Political Ranting > Fahrenheit 9/11: Review, Part I

Fahrenheit 9/11: Review, Part I

July 23rd, 2004

So I saw the film on Tuesday at the Democrats Abroad Japan-sponsored press screening at the Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills, with a crowd of about 150, 110 of them guests of the DAJ. It was enjoyable just to be going to an event like that, but I appreciated much more being able to see the film before mid-August. And to see the film without commercials was even better.

Like most people, I had preconceptions about what the film was going to be like. We’ve seen the trailers and commercials showing some of Dubya’s less-than-elegant moments. I expected a lot of funny moments, many I’ve which I’d already seen elsewhere, and a lot of biting, humorous commentary. I’d heard the reviews which talked about Lila Lipscomb, and her being the emotional heart of the film. But just by hearing about these things, you can’t really even begin to get a sense of what you’ll experience when watching this film.

Moore begins with the 2000 election in Florida. Even with a two-hour-long film, he has to gloss over quite a but: he doesn’t explain that the angry mobs of “Floridians” at the recount are really Washington D.C. staffers for the GOP bussed in to shut down the vote count. He doesn’t have time to cover the absentee-ballot fraud in Seminole and Broward counties, or how African-Americans were intimidated by the police presence on election day. He does mention how Harris got tend of thousands of legitimate voters, mostly Democrats, kicked off the voter rolls as “felons,” and quickly mentions how the Supreme Court got Bush into office.

But he doesn’t have to cover these too much in detail; he knows that many Americans are familiar with that territory, and wanted to show us some things most of us did not know–a style that he follows for the rest of the film. Much of what we see in Fahrenheit are things we never saw or heard or read about before, and that’s a big part of what makes the film important. There are things the media doesn’t tell us. Whether you agree with Moore’s conclusions or not, it is fully worth seeing this movie just to see all the things that have been happening which you were not aware of.

For example, he shows us the joint session of the House and Senate meeting, and African-American House members, one after the other, raising objections to the certification of the election results. Each one calls into question the validity of the election–and each one is told to sit down, by none other than Al Gore (as President of the Senate), because none of the objections has been signed by the single required Senator in order to make the objection valid. The entire proceeding reeks of irony–the winner of the election certifying the loser as president, the Bush victory declared valid while the objections of those who represent the unjustly disenfranchised being told they had no voice. “The Senate is missing.”

Moore continues the prologue with Bush’s swearing in an subsequent fall in the polls, and then his long vacations–42% of his first nine months. The credits roll as Bush and his staff are dolled up for the cameras: it’s showtime. And then he comes to 9/11. Artfully, he never shows us a plane hitting a building or a tower collapsing. He blacks out the film and gives us audio only, making the experience far more intense–and when he does show us the aftermath, he shows us only the faces of the witnesses, and the paper and other debris roiling in the clouds of smoke.

I was hoping to see the entire 7 minutes of video showing Bush sitting in the Florida classroom, having the minutes tick by as Moore commented on what was going on, perhaps even split-screen. Moore was much more merciful than that, instead flashing through the time with a clock showing at the bottom of the screen, then launching into how the Saudis–among them the bin Ladens, who despite their claims did indeed still have ties with their errant sibling.

Moore brings their departure–without the kind of interviews and screening that would have been mandatory in a case of far lesser impact–and uses it to introduce the Bush family history: Bush’s ties with James R. Bath, a connection to the Saudis and bin Ladens, who financed Bush’s early companies, which led to the Carlyle Group, which had strong ties with Bush Sr. and the Saudis, and so forth and so on. The ties are labyrinthine and damning, and you wonder how people could excuse the obvious influence. During the Clinton-Gore years, the GOP railed about the administration ties to the Chinese, which were almost completely fictional–and yet here we are in a War on Terror™, covering for the Saudis who finance and support those out to kill us, and no one has a problem with the president having the Saudis, and even the bin Ladens, as his financial backers throughout his career?

Surprising also is what you hear from Bush’s own mouth: “When you’re the president’s son, and you got unlimited access, combined with some credentials from a prior campaign, in Washington D.C., people tend to respect that. Access is power. And I can find my dad and talk to him any time of the day.” There he is, talking about abusing his family position to buy influence and power, as if this were appropriate.

You have to pay close attention during this sequence, because Moore moves back and forth between the pre- and post-9/11 days–perhaps intentionally blurring the lines to show us the relationships. Whether that was intentional, it works; we see the ties with Saudis and the censored 28 pages of the report; we see “Bandar Bush” and we see the secret service guarding the Saudi embassy. The 15 Saudi hijackers and Bush and Bandar dining as the Pentagon burned in the distance. Even without the juxtaposition, it would be hard to miss the connections, reeking of corruption.

And despite the necessity of going to war with Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda, Moore makes clear the ulterior motives behind the war there–Bush’s prior meetings with Taliban officials and Unocal to build a pipeline through the country–and point out that the legitimate goals were never achieved while Bush’s backdoor dealings were. This is perhaps the weakest assertion in the film, and yet it is still strongly supported, albeit circumstantially. After taking over Afghanistan, Bush put into power Hamid Karzai–a former Unocal advisor–as president, and appointed Zalmay Khalilzad, former chief consultant to Unocal, as the United State’s special envoy to Afghanistan.

Within a few months of the invasion, Karzai signed an agreement to build the pipeline that Unocal wanted. Bush achieved that much. But the Taliban mostly got away (they are presently fighting back and taking territory) and Osama bin Laden and most of al Qaeda, its ranks swelling with new volunteers, also slipped the dragnet (Bush: “I don’t know where [bin Laden] is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.”). So why did we invade Afghanistan? If it was to disable the Taliban and capture Osama and al Qaeda, Bush failed miserably. If it was to take effective control of the country, secure a military presence and build a pipeline, then mission accomplished. But that’s not supposed to be why we went.

Moore also spends time on how the Bush administration uses the War on Terror™to frighten the public–something that most Americans discount or refuse to believe. After all, who would want to say that they could be frightened into toeing the line? But it is a strongly valid point, a technique used by oppressive governments throughout history, and Moore does an excellent job of showing how Bush gets the job done.

End of Part I of the review. Part II coming soon.

  1. Pat
    July 24th, 2004 at 01:23 | #1

    Take a look at #14 on this link.


    It’s the same pic of Washington staffers, with their names and affiliations listed. The bespectacled guy in black looking down in the forefront, for instance is Tom Pyle, from the office of Majority Whip Tom Delay. I was surprised that MM didn’t include this info as a visual.

  2. pp
    August 3rd, 2004 at 02:55 | #2

    Tom Pyle hasn’t been with DeLay for years. Get over it.

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