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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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The black hats (administration types) seem to be motivated solely by world domination and the desire to steer no-bid contracts to Halliburton. There is no allowance for moral ambiguity, or what would've been even more interesting, misguided moral clarity--the possibility that Bush made a bad judgment call, but did so for the right reasons (security concerns, the elimination of a brutal despot, and the liberation of his people).

One of this film's only pure moments occurs when Moore spends time with the mother of an American soldier who died in Karbala. The mother is a conservative Democrat from a family with a long military history. She used to rage at war protestors, but since losing her son, she seethes at the administration who sent him to his death, crying almost animally, "I want him to be alive . . . and I can't make him alive." (But even this is sullied by Moore's smarmy, gratuitous insistence to her that "yeah, it's a great country," an obvious inoculation against charges that he hates America.)

Critics have accused Moore of milking her grief until it moos. But on this, he deserves a pass. Anyone wishing to discuss war, either for or against, should also be prepared to seriously consider its tolls, especially the human ones. Moore being Moore, however, steps on his most effective material by following it with yet another cheap stunt: ambushing congressmen to ask if they will enlist their children to go to Iraq, as if anyone can. He finds no takers, then says he can't blame them, since who would want to give up their child? Nobody, of course. Not the parents of soldiers in Iraq, nor the parents of those who died at Normandy. But few would argue that World War II wasn't a war worth fighting.

Which is not to say Iraq is in the same class. And it is why real questions should be continuously asked, and skepticism applied. The kind of skepticism that forces leaders to account for whether they've taken the right course of action. Not the crank, grab bag of stitched-together conspiracies that encourages Moore's political opponents to be reflexively dismissive--and causes the leftish reviewer sitting next to me to say, "He infuriates me because he makes my arguments badly."

There is plenty of grist for skeptics of the war to argue that the chances of a shiny, happy democracy's flowering in Iraq reside somewhere between slim and nil. But those are still better odds than the ones on Moore's someday making an intellectually honest film.

Matt Labash is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.