... a lesson is modern American history
Although I was expecting to enjoy Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," I was unprepared for the breadth of his journalistic-producer accomplishments. An anti-war citizen, I anticipated focus on Bush, Cheney, the war and Bush background, but I was stunned by so much more that I could not have foretold.
After the still-debated election of 2002, many American citizens wondered why our legislators in Congress did not object to the election and demand a recount, not a 4-to-5 decision by the Supreme Court.
Well, surprise, surprise -- there was an attempt in Congress to get a recount and Michael Moore was there to catch it, or maybe one of his friends. (He has to have friends in all kinds of places to film the vast panorama of our country that is in "Fahrenheit.") And right there, as presiding officer of the Senate, was the maybe-yes-maybe-no loser of that election, Al Gore, calling on Representatives to offer their proposals to question that election result, mostly women, mostly minority challengers. After each read the proposal, Gore asked, "Did one senator sign that proposal"?
And each time those appealing for action had to admit, no, not one senator had signed onto their petitions for challenging the election results. Somehow, I had missed seeing this democratic attempt for action in our media, either due to their omission or my carelessness.
Of course there is much in the film to please Democrats and much to infuriate Republicans. But there is much also that is recent history for any citizen. For those against this, our 8th war since WWII, wars waged by both Democrats and Republicans, there is plenty of "shock and awe" to stir your anger to protest somehow, somehow to stop the killing and horrible wounding of our young and inexperienced soldiers, some looking disturbingly boyish, somehow to stop the killing of more innocent Iraqi children and young women, appalling to see, and so little shown in our media.
But just about everyone can learn something, as well as be moved, and who cannot be moved by sight of bloodied, mangled bodies after vicious heavy bombing of homes? This is war as seen honestly by General and Republican President Eisenhower, who wrote "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity!"
If you haven't been aware of The Carlyle Group, you may be jarred a bit. So much wealth, power and access to government in a few little-identified, lucky hands. The Bush family has been snugly involved with this group, to advantages for both. Though it has been called cynical and possibly unpatriotic to mention money that is made from wars, and now after-war contracts, Moore has miraculously caught one scene in a conference meeting with a corporate speaker addressing his audience of business men, stating "Once the oil gets running, there's going to be lots of money" to be made in Iraq, and he advised them to start getting "their bids in." Surely Michael Moore would not have been allowed in that meeting - he must have had a specially gifted spy on the spot!
There is humor to relieve the tragedy of war's callous killing, inserts of old movies or TV shows to make a political point, and Moore genially trying to stop senators to sign up their sons for service in Iraq. Again amazing, we hear the specious words of Marine or Army recruiters as they stroll into impoverished neighborhoods where youths are unable to find jobs.
No less amazing is the seven minutes in the classroom where President Bush was reading to children when a staff member comes to inform him of the World Tower attacks. As shown on a few news shows, the President's face is clueless, blank, sans cockiness, empty of fear or stress, until he, incredibly, resumes reading to the class for seven minutes!
One important element related to the Iraq War not in Moore's film - the Project for a New American Century. Researched by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, this is a group of prominent Republican men who organized in 1992, with a goal of retaining American supremacy in every way, and hoping to remake the Middle East to our advantage. Among their members and placed by George Bush in positions of power around him: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliott Abrams, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Jeb Bush, not George W., was a member also. Remaking Iraq was early on their agenda, as related by former Republican Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. "Mission Accomplished"?
The film is powerful. Moving. Provocative. And sad. Moore's final voice-over words include thoughts from Orwell's "1984," words to the effect that we have wars for cold and calculating reasons, to retain a certain balance of power and curious stability. Most of the world, all of the world's religious leaders, protested this Iraq war, and hold Bush responsible for the chaos and losses of life on all sides.
However, fair-minded viewers can realize that all of our other wars since WWII were just as unjustified, all against smaller countries none of which had attacked us or done us any harm - Democrat Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War costing us 58,000 American lives, our having taken 3,200,000 Vietnamese lives. Perhaps with a war veteran running for President, we can hope that, if he wins, he will agree with President Eisenhower, and begin a history of saving lives, instead of so cavalierly sacrificing them.
August 6, 2004