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  •  REVIEW: FAHRENHEIT 9/11



    President Bush sits in a classroom waiting for someone to tell him what to do after the second Sept. 11 crash. in Fahrenheit 9/11
    President Bush sits in a classroom waiting for someone to tell him what to do after the second Sept. 11 crash.

    Primal screen

    "Fahrenheit 9/11" puts the most important questions about the last four years up on movie screens nationwide where they can't be ignored forever.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    In the Third World dictatorships with the lowest literacy rates, it's often noted that the newspapers are relatively free to print whatever they want — because nobody's reading them anyway. The dictators only bother to control radio and television because that's where the national dialogue is happening.

      
    FAHRENHEIT 9/11
    Written and directed by: Michael Moore.
    Produced by: Jim Czarnecki, Carl Deal, Kurt Engfehr, Jeff Gibbs, Kathleen Glynn, Monica Hampton, Tia Lessin, Agns Mentre, Michael Moore, Bob.
    Cinematography: Mike Desjarlais, Kirsten Johnson, William Rexer.
    Edited by: Kurt Engfehr, Todd Woody Richman.
    Music by: Jeff Gibbs.

    Related links: Official site | Additional review by Offoffoff's David Butterworth
    Of course, we in the U.S. shouldn't feel smug on this account. L.A. police brutality wasn't a mainstream story until somebody filmed it; reports of torture at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons didn't register with the public until pictures leaked out. Reading isn't believing — but seeing is. And that's why "Fahrenheit 9/11" is so important.

    A lot of the material in Michael Moore's film has come out in the recent flurry of books, interviews and testimony — you could have read most of it by now — but the movie is a milestone because it pulls the whole far-flung story of the Bush administration into sharp relief. On screen. For all to see.

    Several segments of the movie make a very strong impression — the first of which is footage of what the president himself was doing on the morning of Sept. 11. After the first plane struck, while the entire country was watching the televised scene in horror, a still-cheerful Bush was led into a Florida grade-school class for a photo opportunity in which he would read with the children. Informed of the second plane's impact, he continues to sit in front of the class for seven minutes, looking troubled — if not lost. He has no idea what to do next, so he sits and waits. Moore, having already established Bush as an empty suit, lingers repeatedly on the president's quizzical face and narrates: "Not knowing what to do, with nobody telling him what to do, ... George continued to read 'My Pet Goat' with the children."

    Filmmaker Michael Moore attempts to shame pro-war congressmen into enlisting their children in the military. in Fahrenheit 9/11  
    Filmmaker Michael Moore attempts to shame pro-war congressmen into enlisting their children in the military.
      
    The film constructs a whole web of interconnected histories about the two Bush presidents, their longtime connections with the Saudi royals and the Bin Laden family (drawing on Craig Unger's book "House of Bush, House of Saud"), top officials' dismissive attitude toward the terrorism warnings coming from their own agencies, and the defense contractors' salivation over the inflated profits to be made from an Iraq war. Some of this is selective, some is a quick gloss of information that deserves to be addressed more thoroughly, but within the limitations of a two-hour movie it raises a lot of the most important questions. More significantly, it puts the uncomfortable truth up on screen where there's no denying it.

      
      These horrors, which the Bush administration does its best to hide from view, are meant to remind us of the most basic fact about war. It is hell.
      
    Still, the other most devastating section of the film is not a direct indictment of the administration at all — it's footage of American soldiers in Iraq and at home. Midnight raids show us the terrifying face our soldiers project toward Iraqis; roadside bombs show us the toll that occupation is taking in terms of American lives and bodies. Some soldiers are shown recovering in stateside hospitals without legs or arms. One is struggling with brain damage. If right-wing Bush supporters complained about "Nightline" respectfully reading the names of soldiers who lost their lives in this campaign, they will certainly howl about Moore showing real American casualties. But the purpose is not to undermine morale. He's saying something else.

    These horrors, which the Bush administration does its best to hide from view, are meant to remind us of the most basic fact about war. It is hell. Even if you ignore our alienation of the Muslim world and our own allies, even if you ignore the toll that killing tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens has taken on that country's people, you must understand that the decision to go to war is not a glorious one. It condemns our own people to death, to life in a wheelchair, to lifelong psychological effects, and to who knows what new form of Gulf War syndrome. It is the most awful possible solution to this problem, even if we come out the "winners." If, as a montage of administration claims and empirical reality demonstrates, every single public justification for the war was bogus, then our country's leaders are guilty of playing with our people's lives. If they cannot look these casualties, their next of kin — in fact, every one of us — in the eye and explain why it was truly necessary to inflict this evil on our young, then they are beyond shame. The right wing throws around the idea of patriotism as a tool of political coercion, but it should now be perfectly clear that America's true patriots include those who tried to protect our people by opposing the war.

    Lila Lipscomb, the mother of a soldier killed in Karbala, tells how her feelings about the war changed. in Fahrenheit 9/11  
    Lila Lipscomb, the mother of a soldier killed in Karbala, tells how her feelings about the war changed.
      
    If they stick to their script, the spokespeople for the right wing will avoid answering any difficult questions about their misdeeds by ignoring the questions and demonizing the messenger. (The label "fascist" has histrionically been flung at Moore this week — that seems to be the approved line.) Don't expect Republicans to honestly defend a single one of their actions from criticism — they assiduously avoid having to answer questions — and don't expect the media to press them on it. But this film is part of a change in the nation's consciousness.

    A lot of people are going to walk out of "Fahrenheit 9/11" thinking: Wait a minute, why did the president ignore all the warnings about Osama Bin Laden attacking New York? Why did the president secretly fly all the Bin Ladens out of the country after 9/11? What about Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice's flip-flops when they said that Iraq had no weapons and wasn't a threat in 2001? What did these veterans go over there and lose their legs for, anyway? You can ignore my questions but you can't tell me I didn't see these things with my own eyes.

    JUNE 23, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Fahrenheit 9/11:

  • Michael Moore review   from chuck t., Jun 25, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from Andy, Jun 27, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from Eugene M, Jun 28, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from The Patriot, Jun 29, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from LEFT VS RIGHT, Jun 30, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from sylvie, Jul 1, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from Stefano, Jul 10, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from Joshua, Jul 10, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from The Questioner, Jul 13, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from Amy, Jul 22, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore review   from Proteus, Aug 21, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore - the big fat entertaining liar   from random guy, Jul 18, 2004
  • Re: Michael Moore - a symbol of this country   from GC-maxpages.com/girlmeetsworld, Feb 7, 2005
  • Micheal moore is a dildo   from Big b, Jul 7, 2004
  • Re: Micheal moore is a dildo   from rosemary, Jul 15, 2004
  • Re: Micheal moore is a dildo   from Mig21, Jul 20, 2004
  • Re: Micheal moore is a dildo   from , Mar 19, 2006
  • Re: Micheal moore is a dildo   from James G, Oct 8, 2004
  • Re: Micheal moore is a dildo   from danny, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: Micheal moore is a dildo   from Mike, Feb 28, 2006
  • Moore - Fahrenheit 1939   from Frank, Jul 8, 2004
  • Re: Moore - Fahrenheit 1939   from Dr Tchock, Jul 16, 2004
  • Re: Moore - Fahrenheit 1939   from Xenocide, Jul 20, 2004
  • Re: Moore - Fahrenheit 1939   from James G, Oct 8, 2004
  • Re: Moore - Fahrenheit 1939   from , Mar 19, 2006
  • The Bottom Line   from 2Cents, Jul 22, 2004
  • Re: The Bottom Line   from Yves F, Aug 26, 2004
  • [no subject]   from camo, Jul 23, 2004
  • Re:"Y'all" are idiots?   from DarkFx, May 28, 2006
  • A Few Ideas   from bottle o blues, Jul 27, 2004
  • Re: A Few Ideas   from former liberal, Aug 10, 2004
  • Re: A Few Ideas   from j, Nov 5, 2005
  • Re: A Few Ideas   from Mike, Feb 28, 2006
  • F/911 Only a glancing blow at Bush: a review   from R. Bleier, Jul 29, 2004
  • movie was revealing   from JoanMcelmury, Aug 4, 2004
  • FARENHEIT 9/11 REVIEW   from CLARK DALLAS, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: FARENHEIT 9/11 REVIEW   from sonya, Nov 25, 2004
  • The 'Foundations' of 'Truth'   from adam, Nov 24, 2004
  • The ruination of the documentary form   from N Wand, Jan 3, 2005
  • Moore_9_11   from jimbob, Sep 28, 2005
  • i love micheal moore   from estella, Apr 11, 2006
  • Genius   from DarkFx, May 25, 2006

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