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Un-Moored from Reality

From the July 5 / July 12, 2004 issue: Fahrenheit 9/11 connects dots that aren't there.

Jul 5, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 41 • By MATT LABASH
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Moore uses Bush's momentary inaction as a device to ask what he was thinking, which, to paraphrase Moore's answer, was how to cover his tracks. This allows us passage into the paranoid labyrinth of Moore's mind, which is illustrated by news footage and a string of experts (Moore spends less time physically on screen than in any of his other films, a fact which recommends it, comparatively speaking). He never fabricates out of whole cloth. Rather, Moore the filmmaker takes a perfectly reasonable proposition (our government generally, and the Bush family specifically, have been too solicitous of the Saudis), while Moore the fudgemaker throws entire trays at the wall, never overtly making allegations that amount to anything, but crossing his fingers that some of it sticks.

The insinuation is that Bush had to keep us scared, with color-coded alerts and a citizen-terrorizing Patriot Act, to distract the country from his tangle of conflicts of interests and to build sentiment for invading Iraq. Moore mentions that the Taliban visited Texas while Bush was governor, over a possible pipeline deal with Unocal. But Moore doesn't say that they never actually met with Bush or that the deal went bust in 1998 and had been supported by the Clinton administration.

Moore mentions that Bush's old National Guard buddy and personal friend James Bath had become the money manager for the bin Laden family, saying, "James Bath himself in turn invested in George W. Bush." The implication is that Bath invested the bin Laden family's money in Bush's failed energy company, Arbusto. He doesn't mention that Bath has said that he had invested his own money, not the bin Ladens', in Bush's company.

The family members who had disowned Osama were mainstays of American business, to the point that they were members of the nefarious Carlyle Group, a fact Moore naturally mentions, along with the fact that George's daddy was a member, too. One of the Carlyle Group's investments was United Defense, maker of Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Moore says September 11 "guaranteed that United Defense was going to have a very good year." See it all coming together? Moore tells us that when Carlyle took United Defense public, they made a one-day profit of $237 million, but under all the public scrutiny, the bin Laden family eventually had to withdraw (Moore doesn't tell us that they withdrew before the public offering, not after it).

At their own request, the bin Laden family was quickly shuttled away after 9/11, back to Saudi Arabia. Moore finds it suspicious, as well he should. Who would be stupid enough to let that happen, without working them over for a good couple of weeks? Actually, according to a May interview he gave to The Hill, it was Richard Clarke, Bush's former counterterrorism adviser and the new patron saint of Bush-bashers. Moore makes use of him in the film, though he manages not to mention Clarke's role in the departure of the bin Ladens.

Here, if we're going to play connect-the-dots, a few questions are in order. For starters, are we really supposed to believe that 9/11 and the ensuing wars were a collaborative profiteering scheme between the bin Ladens, the Bushes, and defense contractors? Furthermore, will Moore's DVD director's cut elucidate Bush ties to the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, and the Freemasons? Who knows? Who cares? Moore doesn't seem to, as he speedily moves on, making another tray of fudge.

When Moore takes us to Iraq, on the eve of war, he shows placid scenes of an untroubled land on the brink of imperial annihilation. With all the leisurely strolling and kite-flying, it is unclear if Iraqis are living under a murderous dictatorship or in a Valtrex commercial. In Moore's telling of the invasion, the shock-and-awe is less high-value-target/smart-bombing, more Dresden/Hiroshima. According to the footage that ensues, our pilots seem to have hit nothing but women and children. If Moore's documentarian gig were to fall through, he could easily seek employment as an Al Jazeera cameraman.

This is, it nearly goes without saying, his downfall as a storyteller. In his unctuous morality tales, everyone is assigned black and white hats. The white hats mainly belong to the oppressed people of Iraq, subject to our soldiers' midnight raids under the jackboot of occupation, and to other victims of the administration, such as the poor, underemployed people of Flint, Michigan (Moore's obsessively referenced hometown), who serve as helpless recruiting chum for Bush's killing machine.