A review of Fahrenheit 9/11

Some call it a movie, some call it a documentary.

I rather call it a movie because it has one great story line, real (unlike some stories that we hear everyday, this one is backed by facts), you will be wondering whether Bush really said all those things and eventually end up hating him. So, you need to watch it this with an open mind to judge the facts for yourself.

Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 – the movie starts with this classic narration…

“Was it all just a dream? Did the last four years not really happen? Look, there’s Ben Affleck. He’s often in my dreams. And the Taxi Driver guy. He was there too. And little Stevie Wonder, he seemed so happy… like, like a miracle had taken place. Was it a dream? Or was it real?”

Classic when you see Stevie Wonder with fireworks in the background. I first saw the movie when I was in Ghana and the timing could not have been more perfect. It was shown just before the 1st Bush – Kerry presidential live debate. Michael Moore was so good in story telling that I became a “die-hard” fan of John Kerry no matter what the fact against Kerry was. Now Astro is showing it again in the HBO channel. So you might want to catch it whilst you can.

You may ask what the movie all about? Some of us may be quick to say that it is anti-Bush propaganda movie. After watching it, I won’t be so quick to agree.

Yes, the movie was about how the President reacted from the time he was elected to the time he decided to attack Iraq. It was about how the American corporations were happily supporting the war so that they can make millions in profit. It was about how American corporations were taking up its position to control the oil production is Iraq.

It was about why the Americans were soft on Saudi Arabia despite the fact Osama Bin Laden’s family were still in Saudi Arabia when the planes hit the World Trade Centre (noting the fact that Saudi’s had $860 billion dollars invested in America). It was about how the young men and women were sent to Iraq with the misconception that they are fighting for freedom.

It was never about why the World Trade Centre was hit on September 11 (In Fahrenheit 9/11, when the plane hit the building, a blank screen with the sound of the plane hitting the World Trade Centre was shown). The movie was never not about Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden too although it was mentioned several times (especially on how Bush delayed the deployment of troops so that Osama had 2 months head start!).

Michael Moore touched on a lot of things which included the interview with a mother whose son was killed in Iraq, congressmen who admitted that they did not “normally” read legislatures before signing it and law enforcement agents who are frustrated on how the Bush administration handled homeland security. Despite the huge of information that was crammed into the 2 hours show, Michael Moore held it with a fine art of story telling, the right picking of actual footage and right amount of interviews.

Narrations like this…

(Michael Moore) As the attack took place, Mr. Bush was on his way to an elementary school in Florida. When informed of the first plane hitting the world trade center, where terrorists had struck just eight years prior, Mr. Bush decided to go ahead with his photo opportunity.

[The scene shows Bush entering the classroom]

(Michael Moore) When the second plane hit the tower, his chief of staff entered the classroom and told Mr. Bush the nation is under attack.

[The scene shows Bush picks up a children’s book]

(Michael Moore) Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and with no secret service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there, and continued to read “My Pet Goat” with the children.

[The scene shows the time is measured on a clock in the corner of the screen]

(Michael Moore) Nearly seven minutes passed with nobody doing anything. As Bush sat in that Florida classroom, was he wondering if maybe he should have shown up to work more often? Should he have held at least one meeting since taking office to discuss the threat of terrorism with his head of counter terrorism? Or maybe Mr. Bush was wondering why he had cut terrorism funding from the FBI. 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. Or maybe he wasn’t worried about the terrorist threat because the title of the report was too vague.

[The scene shows cut to 9/11 Commission hearing, where Condoleezza Rice is testifying]

(Condoleezza Rice) I believe the title of the report was ‘Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.’

(Michael Moore) A report like that might make some men jump, but as in days passed, George W. just went fishing. As the minutes went by, George Bush continued to sit in the classroom. Was he thinking, “I’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd. Which one of them screwed me? Was it the man my daddy’s friends delivered a lot of weapons to? Was it that group of religious fundamentalists who visited my state when I was governor? Or was it the Saudis? Damn, it was them.”

[The scene then shows an image of Saddam Hussein dancing with some villagers]

(Michael Moore) [as George W. Bush] I think I better blame it on this guy.

After being told “America is under attack” when the second plane hit the tower on 9/11, George W. Bush continued to read “My Pet Goat” in a Florida classroom for the next seven minutes.

Some critics of the movie argues that Michael Moore did not disclose or distorted the full facts to the viewers and conveniently portrayed President Bush, the politicians and the greedy corporations as the one who had betrayed the Americans. They might be right or they might be wrong but leaving no stone unturned, Michael Moore compiles additional information to back up his story in the movie – line by line at his website – it worth the read.

The movie starts hard and fast on the Presidential election and how Bush managed to “win” the election (some call it steal instead of win). All fair and square it seems but then the darker side starts to emerge. Apparently a large number of minority voters were blocked out from voting in Florida and when it was raised to the Senate, no senator wanted to support it. Bush was the president and there was no argument about it.

Then problem started to brew for Bush who took an easy way out. In Michael Moore’s words “He couldn’t get his judges appointed. He had trouble getting his legislation passed, and he lost Republican control of the Senate. His approval ratings in the polls began to sink. He was already beginning to look like a lame duck president. With everything going wrong, he did what any of us would do. He went… on vacation”

At this juncture, I thought of our own PM, Pak Lah and I could see the similarities. Didn’t he go to a goat farm and were planting vegetables at a farm when the whole nation was waiting for his answers to the questions raised by the ex-PM, Dr M?

Then the World Trade Centre was hit – slowly the details of the dealings between the Osama Bin Laden’s family and Bush’s family start to emerge. Michael Moore compiles the data and shows it in proper sequence. Frightening at times – especially when it was revealed that the relationship started since Bush was just a governor and all the way till now.

Michael Moore narrated the story with a good sense of humor too.

When the movie was dealing with John Ashcroft, Michael Moore narrated “Meet John Ashcroft. In 2000, he was running for re-election as Senator from Missouri against a man who died the month before the election. The voters preferred the dead guy, so George W. Bush made him his Attorney General. He was sworn in on a stack of Bibles, ’cause when you can’t beat a dead guy, you need all the help you can get” The funny part was that when this was narrated, John Ashcroft was shown swearing in on a stack of 3 bibles!

Words cannot simply summarize the impact of the real story in the movie. One thing is clear – Michael Moore hates President Bush – loud and clear but when backed by facts, images and real interviews, who can blame him.

Happy watching!

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