The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 31           August 31, 2004  
‘Fahrenheit 9/11’: a pro-imperialist screed
aimed at electing Kerry
(Film Review column)
Liberals and radicals have touted Fahrenheit 9/11, the latest film by Michael Moore, as an effective exposé of the “truth” about the Bush administration, from the outcome of the 2000 elections to its role in the U.S.-led war against Iraq. On his web site,, the filmmaker makes the modest claim that it is “perhaps the most thoroughly researched and vetted documentary of our time.”

Telling the truth, however, is not what guided Moore. The so-called documentary is simply a propaganda piece aimed at getting out the vote to “dump Bush” and to push the Democrats into the White House. It is not “antiwar” but a chauvinist, pro-American imperialist screed.

Moore has been fervently hustling votes for the Democrats in the 2004 race, and his film is part of that campaign. Asked by USA Today whether his anti-Bush movie is aimed at galvanizing the “choir” of faithful Democrats, Moore replied, “The choir needs a wake-up call. A large part of the choir isn’t energized by John Kerry and is not voting.”

On the opening night of the Democratic Party national convention, Moore spoke at a Boston forum with ex-presidential contender Howard Dean. Proclaiming himself a “patriot” and the Republicans as “hatriots,” he promised that “Kerry will not invade a country like George W. Bush did.” Why did the senator vote for the war on Iraq? “John Kerry did what 70-80 percent of our fellow Americans did. He believed” the White House’s arguments for going to war, but “now” he knows they were lies, Moore unabashedly asserted. Kerry just demolished this argument, saying he would have voted for the invasion anyway. The filmmaker also denounced Ralph Nader for running, saying that “the Republicans do love Ralph.”

The main argument in Fahrenheit 9/11 is that the Bush White House has been incompetent in using the FBI and other cop agencies to “fight terrorism,” failing to prevent the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It claims the administration diverted attention to a war against Iraq instead of going after the real danger to “America”: Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. This is also the main theme of the Kerry campaign.

The movie’s “documentation” relies heavily on statements made by former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, the architect of the Clinton administration’s 1998 bombing attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan.

In the film, narrator Moore complains that prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, “Bush cut antiterrorist funding for the FBI.” He interviews a state trooper in Oregon who says that, because of federal budget cuts, he is the only one protecting the coast of that state against any terrorist threat.  
Moore reaches rock bottom in scenes on ‘Coalition of the Willing’
The film reaches rock bottom with its mocking portrayal of several nations whose governments were part of the “Coalition of the Willing” in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Apart from falsifying by omission—it leaves out three imperialist powers in the coalition: the British, Italian, and Australian governments—the film makes fun of Costa Rica and Palau (people in “quaint” costumes), Rumania (portrayed as Dracula), Iceland (depicted as Vikings) and the Netherlands (smokers in a hashish den). As Morocco is mentioned, the film flashes a shot of running monkeys, as the narrator says that the Moroccan government offered 2,000 monkeys for detonating land mines. The viewers are supposed to howl with laughter at this pro-American chauvinist “humor.” While some do, I noticed that not everyone in the theater I was in found it funny.

Equally grotesque is Moore’s anti-Saudi chauvinism. In arguing that Bush decided to invade Iraq to deflect attention from a “Saudi connection” in 9/11, he quotes “experts” alleging that wealthy Saudi businessmen “own 7 percent of America.” The film indignantly “reveals” that U.S. officials supposedly allowed 142 Saudi citizens to leave the United States after Sept. 11, 2001, while airports were shut down, and quotes a retired FBI agent insisting that the political police should have thoroughly interrogated Saudi immigrants. According to Moore, all members of the Bin Laden family should have been regarded as “terrorist suspects.” In fact, the film has not a word of criticism of the U.S. government’s post-9/11 dragnets against immigrants from the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere—only of the FBI spying on a middle-class pacifist group in California.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is a pro-war film. It approves of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and boosts the arguments of those calling for aggressive U.S. measures against Saudi Arabia. The last section focuses on the plight of U.S. soldiers sent to Iraq—but not to oppose sending U.S. troops into imperialist wars: just this one. Moore says, “Don’t send them into harm’s way unless it’s absolutely necessary”—the position of all Democratic and Republican politicians, whose disagreements are simply tactical ones about which wars are necessary and how they should be conducted to protect and advance the interests of U.S. imperialism.

To bolster the case for replacing Bush with a Democrat, Moore resorts to various conspiracy theories, that is, to the view that certain major events in U.S. politics were determined not by the normal functioning of bourgeois politics but by secret plots by a few individuals or groups. One is the fraudulent argument that Bush “stole” the elections. The film makes the absurd claim that decisive factors in the outcome were that 1) on election night, Bush’s cousin John Ellis was in charge of the decision desk at Fox News, the first network that called Florida for Bush, and 2) his brother Jeb Bush was the governor of Florida.

Fahrenheit 9/11 also peddles the crank view that U.S. imperialism’s foreign policy in the Middle East has been determined by a special business relationship between the Bush family and a “foreign power,” in this case the Saudi royal family. The film draws heavily on a book by Craig Unger, House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties. The title of that book, like the movie, conveniently elevates the role of the wealthy Bush family above the other dynasties that make up the U.S. ruling class, such as the Rockefeller, Dupont, Forbes, and Heinz families.

Moore’s movie also relies on low-level personalized attacks on Bush, including the false assertion that Bush is “stupid.” His crude tone is of a piece with the coarsening discourse of bourgeois politics, which was seen most recently around the edges of the Democratic convention.  
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