Michael Moore's media critics are the liars

November 17, 1993

Rohan Pearce

Most commentators in the Australian corporate media, whether the unashamedly hard-right terriers of the Murdoch empire or the "liberal" chihuahuas of the Fairfax press, have subjected Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 to relentless attack.

They are not alone in doing so — they have simply joined the worldwide anti-Moore crusade of all those who have spent the past three-and-a-half years peddling the lies used to justify Washington's "war on terror".

For the arch-right-wingers, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a foul piece of anti-war propaganda. For the professional liberals, the documentary goes too far because, although Moore's political agenda goes little beyond a left-liberal critique of the Bush administration's policy, it takes on Washington's post-9/11 foreign policy in a manner that disregards the bounds of "respectable" dissent. Both try to dismiss Moore's critique of the "war on terror" as baseless.

"As far as I can tell, it is a farrago of conspiracy theories", Richard Cohen wrote in the July 1 Washington Post. Cohen complained: "The case against Bush is too hard and too serious to turn into some sort of joke, as Moore has done. The danger of that is twofold: It can send fence-sitters moving, either out of revulsion or sympathy, the other way, and it leads to an easy and facile dismissal of arguments critical of Bush."

David Leigh argued in the August 3 British Guardian that while Fahrenheit 9/11 is an "exhilarating movie", it is "in documentary terms at least, a fraud". In the July 27 Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Institute's Gerard Henderson argued that while "Fahrenheit 9/11 is a clever film and Moore is a gifted and, at times, amusing storyteller", "many of the film's conspiracy theories have been discredited".

But for all the snide asides about Moore's work being inaccurate, none of the critics have found incontestable errors of fact in the film. The accuracy of some Fahrenheit's key claims — dismissed as "conspiracy theories" by media pundits — stand up a lot better than the accuracy of the critics.

Alleged lie #1: Even by the standards of US "democracy" the 2000 presidential election was a fraud.

The Melbourne Herald Sun's Andrew Bolt argued in a July 21 article that Moore lied when he claimed that Bush stole the 2000 presidential election, writing that "a six-month study of the Florida votes by mainly left-wing media organisations, including the New York Times and Washington Post, found [Democratic presidential candidate Al] Gore would still have lost even if disputed votes had been counted just the way he wanted".

Conveniently, Bolt neglects to mention that study concluded that had a state-wide review of ballots been conducted in Florida, Gore would have won in Florida under every scenario!

That Bolt can call the two leading print mouthpieces of the US capitalist ruling class "left-wing" illustrates how little grasp of reality he has.

Alleged lie #2: White House cronies profited from the "war on terror".

Fahrenheit 9/11 exposes the fact that US corporations have profited from Bush's "war on terror". For example, Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown and Root (KBR) received some US$4.5 billion for support services to the US military during Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to watchdog group Corpwatch, the full contract could be worth up to $18 billion. Bush's vice-president, Dick Cheney, was Halliburton's CEO from 1995 until 2000, and is still receiving an annual six-figure payment from Halliburton.

When Cheney was President George Bush senior's defence secretary (1989-93) he awarded Brown & Root Services a contract to research the privatisation of military logistics — the kind of work that KBR has been carrying out during the post-9/11 "war on terror".

While Halliburton is the best known of the US corporate vultures leading the assault on Iraq's war-ravaged economy, it is far from alone.

Bechtel, another corporation with close ties to the Bush regime (Secretary of State Colin Powell is a former Bechtel director), has also been the recipient of White House largesse. According to the April 17, 2003 London Financial Times, the $680 million contract for Iraq reconstruction that Bechtel won had been awarded by the US Agency for International Development under dubious circumstances, with only a "handful of other large and well-connected US companies, including Halliburton, Fluor and Parsons, to compete" for the contract.

Alleged lie #3: There was no link between al Qaeda and Iraq.

In the lead-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, the White House repeatedly claimed there was a "connection" between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda. "There's overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government", Cheney claimed on January 22 on National Public Radio.

Similarly, but less coherently, Bush stated on June 17, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda".

However, the US commission into the 9/11 attacks concluded in its report released on July 22, alleged contacts between the former Iraqi government and al Qaeda never "developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States."

Alleged lie #4: The bin Laden-Bush connection

The section of Fahrenheit 9/11 that has drawn the most fire from supporters of the Bush administration is its documentation of the extensive links between the Bush family and Saudi Arabia's elite, including the bin Laden family, as well as the treatment received by Saudi nationals in the US after the 9/11 attacks (the White House let 142 Saudis, including 24 relatives of bin Laden family, leave the US after September 13, 2001, with only cursory interviews by the FBI).

Right-wing critics have condemned Moore's coverage of the close relationship between the US political establishment, including the Bush family, and Saudi Arabia's monarchy as conspiratorial. Fahrenheit exposes, however, the hypocrisy of the US declaring a "war on terror" and invading Afghanistan and Iraq when 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

Dan Briody's The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group, a source used by Moore for Fahrenheit, documents the links between the Carlyle financial group — employers of Bush senior and a previous employer of Bush junior — and the Saudi royal family. At one time the group even owned Vinnell Corp, a private security firm frequently used as a CIA front, that trains the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

The White House has been eager to distract attention from the Saudi connection to 9/11 because it calls into question the legitimacy of the "war on terror" and its alliance with reactionary Saudi despots, who are dependent on US backing for their continued rule.

Fahrenheit's analysis of the US-Saudi relationship is flawed however. Moore implies the influence Saudi Arabia has on the White House's policies has been purchased through the Bush clan, when in reality the Saudi Arabian monarchy is a valued client regime of the US. The kingdom is Washington's central Arab ally in the Middle East, and fills an important role as a "swing" oil producer and Washington's chief stooge state in OPEC.

Moore's film perhaps dwells too much on the personal ties between the Bush and bin Laden families instead of taking a broader look at relationship between the US ruling elite, including the US oil companies, and the Saudi monarchy and therefore tends towards a conclusion similar to those who maintain that US policy towards Israel is determined by an "Israel lobby" in Washington, as opposed to the foreign policy needs of the US ruling class. (The difference is that while Israel is an imperialist power in its own right, the Saudi Arabian state is a semi-colonial instrument of US imperial power.)

Alleged lie #5: The "war on terror" is a fraud

As Fahrenheit shows, Washington's "war on terror" has nothing to do with stopping terrorism. While the world was still in shock after the murder of 3000 people on 9/11, the White House warmongers looked for ways to turn the tragedy into opportunity — in particular, using it as justification for invading Iraq and seizing control of its oil fields.

Richard Clarke, Bush's national coordinator for counter-terrorism at the time of 9/11 and an interviewee in Fahrenheit, explained in a March 21 interview on CBS television's 60 Minutes program that on September 12, 2001, Bush "dragged me into a room with a couple of other people ... and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this'. Now, he never said, 'Make it up'. But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. I said, 'Mr President. We've done this before... We've looked at it with an open mind. There is no connection'. He came back at me and said, 'Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection'. And in a very intimidating way, that we should come back with that answer."

In an April 18 interview, Bob Woodward, the Washington Post's assistant managing editor, told 60 Minutes that on September 16, 2001, Bush told US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice: "There's pressure to go after Saddam Hussein. [Defence secretary] Don Rumsfeld has said, 'This is an opportunity to take out Saddam Hussein, perhaps. We should consider it.'"

Fahrenheit 9/11 demolishes the case for the "war on terror" — that's why the media mouthpieces of the corporate rulers hate it. Try as they might, the documentary has emerged unscathed from the viscous assault on its integrity.

From Green Left Weekly, August 11, 2004.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.