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Sunday, July 11, 2004

On Saddam Hussein's appearance in court, shown on Fox News

GOOD. The murderous, marauding Douchebagh of Baghdad in a dock. If Hussein requires the services of the World's Smallest Violinist but cannot afford one, I'm certain the court will appoint him one. From the Iraqi National Orchestra, perhaps.

Perhaps the 'Tigress of the Euphrates' would make a better moniker?

Fahrenheit 911.

If I were George W. Bush, I'd have my re-election website link to this movie's website. And alongside that link, include another link, featuring Bush's comments preceeding his speech in London last November, reported by CNN International.

I can’t see Fahrenheit 911 as really incendiary, because no movie like this could be made from fear. Michael Moore isn’t afraid of Bush, and he has little reason to be. Fahrenheit 911 is more like an indulgence, maybe an exploitation, of his target audience.

Remember the underground rumors that eventually ran into print about how LBJ and the CIA was in on the assassination of JFK? Remember the 'Vince Foster Was Murdered' video sold during the Clinton presidencies? The exploiters of these rumors sliced and sold their baloney based on the appearence of risk taking. Well, neither the Johnsons nor the Clintons ever sued for libel.

But more to the point, the info that made up these 'rumors' never mattered a damn as evidence, as proof - in any way that lead to arrest and trial. This lack left the fan base hanging in an intolerable position. Either a) they just aren't the investigators they think they are (unbearable!), or b) the Presidents were innocent (unindurable!). Year after year, no real documentation / signature / confession / witness surfaced to link the inormation together into a solid case. Yet innuendo can’t be enough for long. The need to be proven smart and righteous only grew among their target audience. Wow. That's gotta boil.

Fahrenheit 911 may be the boiling point. The movie helps establish in the mainstream a long-time paradigm of underground media - if you see information on TV, it's gotta be fake-ass. If information providers are taking the risk to put their rumors / innuendo / manure into a video cassette or in a movie, with no way to take phone calls or e-mails or letters from viewers, with no responsibility to make retractions or just simple, ordinary corrections, it's gotta be true.

So, Bush knew the bin Laden family and, through his oil industry connections, he later knew Middle Eastern dignitaries who he believed could maintain electoral processes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. OK, I can accept that. In fact, at moments during this movie, I found myself a little excited as one end of a high-voltage wire (Bush knew the Bin Laden family…) seemed to be tugged closer to the end of another wire (…and he just happened to know Karzei and Allawi, both Unicol advisers). I waited for the arc – the electric moment where Moore would demonstrate how Osama would connect the two and we would finally have more than the godawful boring hear-say, say-so, and see-saw rumors about Bush 41/43’s plan to use the front of Middle Eastern democracy to collect back-end oil profits.

No no. That was just me feeling the hype a little. Art followed life in this instance -no connection was made anywhere but in the imagination. But Moore was consistent with this – he left out as much of Saddam Hussein as he could, too.

It’s hard to believe that the predisposed among the moviegoers will be flattered for long by Moore’s portrayal of his, and by association their own, mindsets. Apparently, they are easily satisfied, quite easily, and aren’t much for research. They can accept ethnic stereotyping of small countries like Costa Rica, Tura, and the Netherlands, who’ve suffered from dictatorships and / or occupations, if they lent public moral support to the Coalition of the Willing, to help take out the Douchebag of Baghdad. After all, the cause is right. And, good Lord, can we just stop going on and on about that Saddam guy? Please? Stop? Before we swear out a peace warrant?

An article by Dave Kopel collects lots of articles from sources conservative and liberal, re: Moore's ahem inaccuracies about Bush's business dealings....about damn near everything in the movie. It even includes that toll-free number that Moore said didn't exist, where you can call in Patriot Act violations. And I'm glad to find this article because it nickel-and-dimes Moore’s business-based accusations to death while I get to write up a few parts that got to me personally.

This guy claims he's even more on Moore's side than Moore is,
yet he's got a few of the same problems with the movie that I do.

But does he get this passage wrong:

"The aim of Bush’s war on terror—to rid the world of evil—is not disputed by Fahrenheit-911, merely its tactics and the way the administration has bungled efforts to make us safer receive attention."

Oh but yes - the war aim is most certainly disputed by Moore through the film's structure. For one thing, he hardly addresses the issue that is Saddam Hussein. Sure, the former 'president' of Iraq struts through some news clips. And there are some bucolic shots of 'pre-war' Iraq. But Moore s l o w l y and more or less respectfully IDs Hussein as 'the s o v e r e i g n leader of a s o v e r e i g n nation' who's 'never murdered any American'. Moore doesn't bother mentioning that it wasn't from lack of trying; 'til December 2003, Hussein was the only attempted assassin of a US president, former or sitting, who was still at large. Even in the wake of F9/11's clips of the 2000 election, Moore surely can't be claiming that a douchebag who leads his men in murdering his way to power is the moral and legal equal - nay, superior - of a clown who received the Presidency through the authority of the Supreme Court after a ridiculously close election. Oh of course Moore is making that argument! If you leave info to F9/11, you'd never know what a pill Saddam was to the UN even before the Kuwait invasion. All the UN resolutions? The numerous human rights violations against his own people? Oil-for-Food? Did Moore's researchers read anything about Hussein prior to 2003?

Yeah, they probably did. They concentrated on Bush anyway. Moore's researchers do raise legitimate points about Bush's early-90s investment connections with the Bin Laden family. Just not with the already-disowned Osama.

The National Intelligence Estimate memo of 8/6/2001.

After another shot of Bush languishing in the schoolroom, the filmmaker brings up the August 6, 2003 National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE). Moore says Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001 that said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes. (shot of Bush at a meeting, date-stamped August 6, 2001) Or maybe he wasn't worried about the terrorist threat because the title of the report was too vague." Moore seems to be moving toward a revelation of a connection Bush might have with OBL himself, a connection that would explain the president's immobility for those seven minutes in that schoolroom after hearing about the attacks. Turns out that ‘seems’ is all Moore is means.

It's true that 'Osama Bin Laden' and 'Al-Queda' and 'World Trade Center' and 'aircraft' appear in that NIE. But maybe there's a reason why that NIE memo doesn't actually get quoted or even appear onscreen, as it did on Fox News. The memo sure is anxiety-inducing, but that doesn't make the 'where' and 'when' any less vague.

Here is the one appearance of the phrase 'World Trade Center', with corrected spelling:

"Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin (sic) since 1997' has wanted to conduct terrorist
attacks in the US. Bin Ladin (sic) implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and 'bring the fighting to America.'"

'World Trade Center' is used as an identifier for Ramzi Yousef. It isn't a reference to a target.

And here's the word 'aircraft' referring to a target:

"We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a (blanked out)
service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar 'Abd
aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists."

"Planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes."

Does that tell you that on 9/11/01, Osama Bin Laden planned to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with airplanes? Even between the lines? Here's the memo link. Or read it here, in its' misspelled glory:

Bin ladin Determined To Strike in US
For the President Only
6 Auousl 2001
Declassified and Approved
for Release, 10 April 2004

Clandestine, foreIgn government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin
since 1997' has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin
implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would
follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Youse! and "bring
the fighting to America."
Af1er us missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin
told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a -- -- service.
An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told - - service
at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's
access to the US to mount a terrorist strike,
The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of
Bin Ladin's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the
US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the
idea to attack Los Angeles International Airpor1 himself, but that6in
\ ,
Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and h~tped facilltatetne
operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was p1annfng-'hrs
own US attack.
Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.
Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US
Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares
operations years in advance and Is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin
associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early
as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were
arrested and deported in 1997.
AI-Qa'ida members-including same wha are US citizens-have resided
in ar traveled to the US far years, and the graup apparently maintains a
support structure that cauld aid attacks. Two ai-Calida members found guilty
in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a
senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York
was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational
threat reporting, such as that from a -~._. service in
1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the
release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar 'Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held
- Nevenheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of
suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for
hijackings or other types of aNacks, including recent surveillance of
federal buildings in New York.
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 luillieid investigations
throughout the US that it considers Bin ladin-related. CIA and the
FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying
that a group or Bin ladir1 supporters was in the US planning at1acks
with explosives.

So this the 2+2 the Bush administration was expected to add up, to devine Bin Laden's 9/11 plot. Or was there some other 2+2 they were expected to add up? You're smarter than Bush. Where would you begin on August 6, 2001?

To borrow Moore's idiom, is it insultingly obvious to suggest that Bin Laden & Co. probably focused much of their
planning and means on trying to get around our intel and law enforcement? To get around our laws, while figuring out
how to use others - like the ones made to satisfy this directive - to some kind of advantage?

Back to that schoolroom.

Those seven minutes took us all out of James Bond territory. Goldfinger got around the CIA and MI6 to detonate his bomb, and all discourse was irradiated. From then on, everything will be about playing catch-up now, about recriminations, about finger-pointing. And about investigation. Apparently, many of us still believe we live in Bond territory, or think that only an idiot could let something like 9/11 happen. Like, only a dork or something.

Is it rude to ask if Moore is being simply cruel to mock a man who's just received hideous news, in front of a bunch of children who haven't yet learned to smirk and shrug off homicide on such a scale? Like those small-town mechanics that Moore films - you can hardly claim he interviews them - the children might've been so unhip as to worry more about the killers of a massive number of people than a rather half-assed US President.

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