If you haven’t yet seen it, what are you waiting for? Check your local listings, round up the family, and head out to the movies. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” is a must-see film for all Americans: Kerry supporters, undecided voters, and even devoted Bushies – so they can see just how inept a president their man really is.
Is it perfect? No. Sometimes, Michael Moore goes over the top. He can’t resist the occasional cheap shot, or forcing himself front and center – as in the scene where he tries to convince members of Congress to sign up their own kids for the war in Iraq. Funny stuff, but Moore’s sidewalk shenanigans get in the way of making a serious point.
Do I believe every accusation he makes against Bush? No. Even though a natural gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea, across Afghanistan, has long been talked about, I don’t buy Moore’s theory that it was the reason we went to war in Afghanistan. That war, which I supported, was motivated by the Taliban’s refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden.
Predictably, Bush apologists are trying to silence or smear Michael Moore. Disney refused to distribute the film. White House spokesperson Dan Bartlett said the movie was “so outrageously false it’s not even worth comment.” A group called Citizens United is now suing to block TV commercials for the movie. And stiff shirt Bill O’Reilly compares Moore to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Nonsense.
Moore’s no propagandist; he’s a protagonist. He doesn’t mask his strong differences with President Bush, especially over his ties to Saudi Arabia and his pursuit of the war in Iraq. Moore has a clear message, which he pounds home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Yet, despite its flaws, “Fahrenheit 9/11” is a searing, blockbuster documentary that will make you laugh, cry, shake your head in disbelief – and then run out to try and save your country.
What makes “Fahrenheit 9/11” so effective is that Moore dares to go where the networks fear to tread. He brings to the big screen footage we’ve never before seen on the little screen. In gruesome detail, for example, he shows video of Iraqi civilians who are victims of U.S. bombs, including one little boy with a badly mutilated arm. He records the agony of families whose homes were destroyed. Their grief belies the phony assurances of Donald Rumsfeld that our precision-driven weapons, aimed with “humanity,” never miss their target.
Moore also shows President Bush at a Florida elementary school on the morning of September 11. On his way into the school, he’s informed that a plane has struck the World Trade Center. A few minutes later, while Bush is sitting in front of school children, Chief of Staff Andy Card tells him the second tower has been struck. Yet Bush continues to sit there for seven long minutes, reading “My Pet Goat” – while America, in Card’s chilling words, is “under attack.” What was Bush thinking? What was he waiting for? Did he need Dick Cheney to tell him what to do? And why haven’t we seen this video before?
Finally, in the film’s most poignant moments, Moore introduces us to a woman from Flint, Michigan, whose son was killed in Iraq. Lila Lipscomb is part of an extended, patriotic American family. Her grandfather, father, uncles, brothers and daughter all served in the military – and she’s proud of them. But she believes her son died fighting an unnecessary war in Iraq.
Speaking from the heart, in words more powerful than any political candidate or antiwar activist could ever invent, Lipscomb regrets our involvement in a war against a country that had never attacked America, and had never threatened to attack America. And she lays the blame squarely at the feet of George W. Bush.
Question: In all the interviews of families of American troops we’ve seen on national television, why haven’t we met one family member critical of the war in Iraq? Is Michael Moore the only one in the whole media world who could discover Lila Lipscomb or others like her? Or are networks afraid of White House retaliation?
Michael Moore has done this nation a great service. He has already produced the most successful documentary ever at the box office. If crowds continue to pour in, he may also have produced the first documentary ever to decide an election.
Carl Hiaasen’s next column will return soon. Bill Press is a political commentator for MSNBC. He can be contacted at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.