STL #10: A Libertarian View Of Fahrenheit 9/11
Libertarians absolutely despise the current Left/Rightist institutions. Every 4 years we find ourselves thrust into deep-rooted criticisms of the current administration, and we all seek change. As things heat up in 2004, in a wartime situation, Libertarians are at the forefront of calling for the end to the war. The Libertarian party does not believe in international offense, it believes only in national defense. The War on Iraq flatly contradicts Libertarian policy.
So it's only natural that the first reviews from Libertarians on Fahrenheit 9/11 - a movie that amounts to being an anti-Bush, anti-war film - are glowing. After all, that's part of what we've been saying all along. But can we trust Michael Moore to present to us the right reasons to be against the war? Or are we being played into election-year hoopla that is intended to ultimately hurt Libertarian agendas? Does this film have the Libertarian message against the war, or some other kind of message? We'll explore these questions in this critical breakdown of Fahrenheit 9/11.
We open the film to relive the controversial Gore election night loss, and no doubt, anyone reading this has most likely formed their own conclusion on it already. Moore asks us, was it all a dream?
Well, the part about FOX News calling it for Bush - and the implication that everyone followed suit because of it - definitely was. FOX News was the first national news network to call the election in favor of Gore that night, well before the election results were completely in. We all know the race was close in Florida, that isn't denied even by those who believe it was a sham election. Only ABC waited for the polls to actually close before making a call for Gore, and that was only 2 minutes after polls were closed, definitely not the time the full results were in. All news networks that night made the chief mistake of projecting winners in haste.
At 10 PM that night, the news networks did start turning their decisions over to Bush... but which one came first? CNN and CBS (because they both relied on the same Voter News Service for their election night results) both led the way in retractions, not FOX News, as Moore implies by his comment in the film about the upstart news network changing headlines. It took 4 hours before FOX followed suit, as other news networks pondered the CBS/CNN sources alongside of FOX News over the issue. When FOX News made up it's mind at around 2:16 AM, most other news networks had already decided to retract the initial election night projections, and by 2:20 AM all networks had officially retracted the call in favor of Bush. Did all the networks flip flop in that 4 minutes because of FOX? This phenomenon of flip flops during the course of the night was largely due to the fact that they all shared similar sources of information - like the Voter News Service and AP - not in the fact that they merely cross-report on what each other said. Semantics aside, it's dishonest to imply the typically Conservative news network FOX News was manipulative in their calls for Bush winning the state, or that all other news networks "all of a sudden" retracted their projections as a result of FOX. FOX wasn't first, CBS and CNN were, as the VNS at the time retracted it's Gore projection.
When it came down to the line, with CBS and CNN retracting it's projections, and all networks deciding how to call it, something happened at around 2 AM that night which lead to the major new networks all shifting. It wasn't FOX News changing it's mind at 2:16 AM. It was the Voter News Service tabulating an error in Volusia County's reports, that put Bush up by over 50,000 votes at around 2:09 AM. The AP had a similar figure, roughly 47,000 votes in favor of Bush, at 2:12 AM. Both agencies got these figures from the faulty Volusia County reports that came in, and neither caught wind of the problem until the networks ultimately decided to call in favor of Bush. Over the next hour the Bush lead begins to wane as corrections were made, however, these reporting agencies (VNS/AP) maintain the Bush lead for the entire night, as tabulations from county results all favor Bush over the course of the evening and into the early morning. For the record, while the networks did decide to call for Bush when tabulations showed he was ahead by this slim margin, the VNS never once did. The election night mess would've been largely avoided if all the networks, of which FOX News is only as guilty as the rest, refrained from projecting a winner in what was clearly a down-to-the-line election.
To Moore, and we will find this throughout the film, the art of allusion is a way to get the point across. He doesn't say that Bush rigged the media results, that definitely wouldn't fly with his fact-checking legal council. He just tells you that Bush's cousin worked at FOX News, he says "then something called the Fox News Channel called the election in favor of the other guy?", and rhetorically adds the question "How does someone like Bush get away with something like this?" Obviously, the implication is that Bush rigged the media to call it his favor. Here's a rhetorical question to match: how many first cousins does Bush have in CBS, CNN or the AP and the VNS, who influenced these network decisions over the course of the night by offering retractions and tabulations to show a Bush lead?
Moore throws another jab in with a comment suggesting Data Base Technologies engaged in racial profiling to favor Bush. The company in question was abiding by Florida law which states convicted felons cannot vote unless granted clemency. This happened to include a higher rate than normal of blacks, because in the state of Florida at the time, a disproportionate number of blacks were convicted felons, a proportion that did not match the population. As a result, excluding felons would exclude a higher proportion of blacks than we'd find in the standard population (and that points to more social problems than I can bother getting into in this article, many of which are government-generated, no doubt). That's not a particular bias, but simply the fact of the day in Florida on Election night. The felon-exclusion law was a result of Florida bureaucracy that went back to a '98 law, not the personal decisions of Data Base Technologies. By all accounts Data Base Technologies did not even have "race" classified in their computer systems[*], and they by no means physically saw the actual people voting, making it quite difficult to intentionally exclude anyone on the basis of their race.
Libertarians know very well that bureaucratic denial of basic rights - like voter eligibility - will have perverse and negative after-effects, this is obviously one of them. We don't portend to fix it, but to point it out as inconsistent with basic rights and liberties Libertarians believe we all should have. This point was never brought up in the film, as Moore simply made the comment about how you "you can usually tell 'em by the color of their skin" and moved on to show you the fallout: civil rights activists speaking to Congress to object to the vote on the basis of it being so racist, and then being silenced by Gore himself, who in the interest of fairness, demanded them to abide by Congressional procedures. Why did not one Senator, many of whom no doubt wanted Gore to be elected, curry the favor of the civil rights special interests during this meeting of Congress to create dissent? Were the Democrats out to lunch? Moore never objectively looks at the Congressional challenge - a challenge not one Senator would endorse - and moves on. I'll leave readers to investigate the Florida recount nightmares instead of getting into it myself here.
So, by fault or by favor, Bush wins. Libertarians lose that year with some of our worst numbers ever, squashed by Ralph Nader who was on a media boost, no doubt because of constituents like Michael Moore. Bush's first 8 months was rough, I remember the news reporting the loss of the Republican majority in Congress, and approval ratings did drop as people felt Bush was another lame duck president. Libertarians no doubt feel every president for the last 100+ years has been a "lame duck" president, so this was nothing new to any of us. So what did the president do?
He went on vacation. The real time he actually spent on vacation is greatly exaggerated by Moore's Washington Post citation, although Libertarians no doubt remember and trust the motto "that government which governs best, governs least", so I can only hope he was out catching fish and golfing instead of creating the new legislation that fit the agendas of his constituents, or for that matter, his opponents. The Washington Post figure Moore cites included weekends, which are typical days of inactivity, and included all of his 54 days at his ranch and Camp David, as well as travel times between all these locations. Camp David is a typical meeting place with foreign leaders and also a retreat for political meetings. I can hope Moore was indeed right in his estimation, because I prefer a president, especially one like Bush, to stay far away from Washington, at the very least, 42% of the time. I fear though, he was busy doing the things a Republican president does (create deficits, enlarge compassionate-conservative social spending, and make questionable moves towards the infringement of civil liberties, bloat the budget, all while giving us that little bit of our own money back). I'd rather see him digging for bugs, but I sincerely doubt that's what he really all he did in those first 8 months.
Of course, that's before Sept. 11th, where the film's fun begins. Bush enters a school as Moore's narration tells us he got the information about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. What occurs now is not really a criticism of Bush, instead, it's an indirect criticism of how he reacted to the news. After the second plane hit the second World Trade Center tower, Bush looked on, and we really question what he's thinking, so Moore uses the moment to offer rhetorical suppositions.
One supposition is that Bush didn't take the time to read an August 6th Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) on the threat of Bin Laden's Al Qaeda in hijacking a plane as a threat of planned terrorism. Moore is one of the first to speculate that the President hadn't read this briefing. The briefing, which is online and can be read by anyone, contains a few points that make it very equivocal:
1. There is nothing about the nature the terrorist attack, other than that Bin Laden may be planning one.
2. Likewise, there is nothing about the location or date of the planned attack.
3. At the bottom it mentions that there may be plans for a plane hijacking. This briefing, however, implies that the plane will be hijacked off-shores and held for the ransom of U.S.-held extremists - reflected by what Condoleeza Rice told the 9/11 commission her impression was - and does not anywhere imply anything about using the planes to attack buildings. This plane hijacking report was something the FBI was "unable to corroborate", and probably not very useful to the President, or well, anyone, at the time.
4. In notes at the bottom of the PDB it says that there was surveillance of several New York Federal buildings, possibly "other types of attacks", at one point the briefing suggests explosives. Post-9/11 hindsight lets us know they were on the right track. Thinking pre-9/11 this note is essentially useless, since any rational person would've read this PDB and concluded that the 70 FBI investigations were plenty for the time being, and that this should mean a simple "step up" of surveillance.
Moore makes much of the report, as if Bush's inaction could've prevented 9/11, but you can read it for yourself and come to your own conclusion as to what a president, only one month prior to the attacks, would've been able to do to supplement what was already being done by the FBI in 70 on-going Bin Laden related investigations.
Moore continues the rhetorical questions, his narration playing the probable speculations of the Bush mind, thinking "Have I been hanging out with the wrong crowd? Which one of them screwed me? Was it the guy my daddy's friends delivered a lot of weapons to? Was it that group of religious fundamentalists that visited my state when I was governor? Or was it the Saudis?"
Or was it "Holy shit?"... I know that's what I was thinking when it happened. Either way, as the viewer, I'm left with the stark impression that Bush could've given any reaction - he could've stormed out, he could've sat there longer, he could've walked out calmly - all of these scenes would've likely made it into Fahrenheit 9/11, with negative connotations tied to it. The reason I'm left with that impression is because Moore doesn't tell us what the President should be doing, he just uses the moment to bring about a point of criticism.
What happens next is direct deceit on the part of Moore. He builds you up by saying "in the days following September 11th, all commercial and private airline traffic was grounded". The FAA did close the airports in the U.S., causing inconvenience to thousands. Then he shows the Bin Ladens, and then a single plane zooming away. What happened? Did Bush really let the Bin Ladens go while everyone else was stuck in an airport?
Well, he was right, the air ban lasted a few days. It was largely eased on September 13th, allowing commuters the chance to travel again on the 14th. Moore carefully tells you it was after the 13th that the Bin Laden family left - what Moore doesn't remind you about is that the after the 13th those restrictions went from being eased to being fully lifted for all travellers. The impression created is one that Bush ushered out the Bin Laden family with a very special flight, while other planes were grounded. This impression is patently untrue... there were other planes in the air after the flight ban was lifted on the 13th. Between the 14th and the 24th, after the special FAA restrictions were lifted, not only did Ricky Martin get out of his airport, the Bin Ladens got out of dodge. There were upwards of 3 Saudis who actually flew on the 13th, while restrictions were still in partially in place and conventional travellers were still trapped, but on the 13th flight restrictions had begun being eased. This supposed Saudi flight was not an international flight (it stopped in Tampa, Florida), and it did not carry members of the Bin Laden family, but other Saudi citizens who were eager to leave.
Richard Clarke, Bush's then-counterterrorism expert, was the one to issue the approval for the Bin Ladens to leave - most on Sept. 20th - and according to him, it "didn't get any higher". Clarke's testimony in this case is credible, despite it conflicting with several other claims he has made. He at one point said it was the FBI who authorized the departure, but then later put blame back on himself. Why is he credible, or at least more credible than any other Bush cronie, in saying this?
Clarke dislikes Bush's policies and has no reason to lie about who would order the Saudi flight clearance, given that he has already came out hard against Bush's policies. If the order came from Bush or the White House aids to the President, he would've happily told everyone that, instead of fumbling over himself and the FBI. He wrote one of the year's most scathing anti-Bush policy books, "Against All Enemies", and is even featured later in Moore's movie with direct criticism of the policies behind the War in Iraq. Was he too afraid to include the part in his book where Bush pressured him to let the Bin Ladens leave? If he was too scared to put that part in his book, then why wasn't he too scared to put out the rest of the work, which vastly and deeply strikes at the core of Bush's war policies, in an election year?
Moore now moves on to harp about the lack of FBI questioning. According to a 9/11 Commission staff report on the Bin Laden flight, 22 of the 23 Bin Laden family passengers were properly interrogated by the FBI and law enforcement officials, before clearance to fly was given. They were asked "detailed questions" and none "knew anything about terrorist activity". The report backs up the FBI saying that there has yet been no evidence to contradict what the FBI reported from these interrogations. This renders much of Moore's following segments complaining about the Bin Laden's being let go "by Bush" (read: by Richard Clarke) as pure hogwash. By all accounts from the 9/11 Commission and the actual people involved, Mr. Bin Laden was asked the questions that you'd ask anybody, before being allowed to leave. Who constitutes a material witness to 9/11, and who should be held back for further investigation? While Moore might be able to argue the Bin Ladens were, he'd have a harder time arguing the remaining Saudis were, although the broader body of Saudi princes and diplomats are included in this wing of criticism, as if letting them go is tantamount to letting the Bin Ladens go. The FBI had that harder time, and did not question as many of those Saudis, as they did the Bin Laden family, but to say the Bin Ladens weren't questioned is patently false, at least according to the 9/11 Commission findings.
Prince Bandar, the shady Saudi character who you see revisited in the film, has been in Washington's throng for decades. The Left/Rightists have always embraced figures like this, as such, Bandar was an important Clinton aid, and was also an aid to Reagan and Bush Sr. before being an aid to the Bush Jr. administration. Can Prince Bandar and the Saudis be trusted?
Well, that question isn't really explored. The target of this film is the Bush family... so of course, we go into the "blacked-out" name, James R. Bath, and the secret Bush/Bath/Bin Laden/Saudi money connections. We'll ignore for the moment that current Alabama Federal Law requires all names on military health releases have all names but the subject's blacked out as a part of their privacy rules (in this case, George W. Bush was the subject, all other names involved besides his ought to be blacked out, legally this also should've also been blacked out on the copy Moore got). The Bush/Bath/Bin Laden/Saudi nexus was heavily investigated by such sources as Craig Unger's "House of Bush, House of Saud". I believe the connections are better weighed in Unger's book than in Moore's film, but let's analyze what Moore says about the connections briefly.
First, Moore establishes the Arbusto investments, and begins questioning where the money came from (this was in the mid 70's). The money came from Saudi-funded investor James Bath who was directly financed by the Bin Ladens. This investment was well before director of the CIA, "daddy", George Herbert Walker Bush, knew he would be President, also well before the Saudis, Bath, or the Bin Ladens knew this guy, George W. Bush, was son of a president, or even a future president. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, wild speculations flew about the Bush families and their ties to the "evil" powers like the Saudis, the Nazis and even the secret societies like the Illuminati, the Skull and Bones Society, as well as the Bush involvement in virtually all high level government scandals such as Watergate, the Kennedy assassination, Bay of Pigs, even the Reagan assassination failed coup d'etat. The Bush family connections to the Saudis is the few of these theories that is actually well documented. Moore takes that, throws it out there, and the suspicious question is asked, "Why would the Saudis, who had all the oil in the world, go around the world to invest in this lousy oil company?"
I'm sure that if you are in the international oil business, you wouldn't invest in international oil.
The problems with this entire phase in the movie is that it substantiates nothing but a casual connection between the Bush and Bin Laden families, two families that have been in energy and more importantly, oil, were connected through financial investments. The leading insinuations have nothing to do with the actual events of 9/11, the Bush administration, instead they imply a deeper conspiracy that needs to be investigated further - or just vote Bush out now, because it sure is really suspicious by golly! No followup on the status of those investments or how they played a role in modern events is given, besides of course, lingering allusion that they're the basis of the Bush favoritism of the Saudis. Even the Carlyle group is brought up, a "multinational conglomerate" who "benefited" from the Sept. 11th attacks.
But Moore isn't telling you the Sept. 11th attacks were coordinated by Bush and the Saudi interests as a money-making conspiracy, that is definitely not the central thesis of Fahrenheit 9/11, and the fact-checking lawyers no doubt would have a problem with that kind of statement. So instead these factors of conspiring big oil interests between the Bushes/Sauds merely imply that to the viewer a very simplistic view of the Carlyle Group's questionable investments. If anything, this is a rehash of conspiracy theorism that has existed for years. The Bin Laden withdrawal did happen, but it happened before the initial public offering of United Defense that gained the Carlyle Group investors the cited $237 million. Moore doesn't tell you that. I began to wonder exactly where the film was going to go from here, or what the point was, since I knew this was not Moore's central thesis.
So Moore's thesis shifts away from the direction you could see it going to reiterate that "it's about making money" (Dan Briody), and definitely not "conspiracies to run the world" or "engineer political maneuvering". Whew. For a minute there, I thought everything he and Moore said to this point regarding the questionable investments was very much a "conspiracy to run the world" and "engineering political maneuvering". Thanks for the clarification, Dan. The Bushes love money, the money loves Sauds, just glad it was about the money and not conspiracy theorism to complicitely implicate Bush, the Carlyles, the Sauds or Bin Laden family in 9/11. They have nothing to hide, right?
So while we're all clear it's not a political engineering conspiracy or a conspiracy to rule the world we're talking about, Moore reminds us that Bush made what seems like censorship attempts of 9/11 investigations, and then tells us that Bush blocked attempts of 9/11 families to sue Saudis. No political conspiracy here, just an attempt to make some money.
So here we find ourselves bickering about specifics regarding Saudi investments and what they have to gain and lose by Sept. 11th and an Iraq/Afghanistan war. Moore takes us to the front of the Saudi embassy just across from Watergate, with Craig Unger, author of the "House of Bush, House of Saud" book, where he quotes his own $860 Billion dollar reference. There is little to nothing to support such a huge figure, or the speculative Trillion Moore throws out, which he "read somewhere". The billions the Saudis do have are definitely a huge investment, but these are the highest of all the speculated totals I've heard, and definitely not well established (at least Unger's isn't).
Of course, Moore's not saying there is a political conspiracy, so the Secret Service shows up to ask Moore what he's doing. Moore doesn't correct the Secret Serviceman who says that they (the Secret Service) do "not usually" guard foreign embassies. This is flatly wrong, the Secret Service is outlined to protect all United States embassies. This whole scene reminds me of Portland Public Access run-ins with the cops, and the filmmakers giving the sneering confrontation-with-the-cops scene. Whatever you do, don't film the meter maid, Moore!
Richard Clarke's criticisms of Bush's policies should be textbook to the Libertarian criticisms of the war. The Iraq-Al Qaeda connection was not evidenced as deeply enough to act. Bush admittedly had Iraq on the mind as hostile foreign nations, it was the Iraqis who attempted to have his father killed, after all, and his father's war was with Iraq. Clarke is entirely correct in his snippet of criticism thrown into Fahrenheit 9/11. Bush didn't act in Afghanistan to capture Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden in adequate force. He did hinder Al Qaeda's foothold in Afghanistan, by ousting the Taliban. The Libertarian party (if you recall) endorsed actions in Afghanistan there as justified reprisal, qualifying the statement against the evidence that Al Qaeda was indeed being harbored by the Afghani Taliban.
Bush didn't do enough. Clarke is entirely correct when he said Bush botched it in Afghanistan by not going and getting Osama. Clarke is likewise correct, in his book, in saying the War in Iraq was an unnecessary diversion from the fight against Al Qaeda terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. This is the chief reason Libertarians are against the War in Iraq... but this reason is not explored in Fahrenheit 9/11.
Clarke says this was a stepping stone to Iraq, which may very well have been true. Moore implies in the following segments that it was just a stop to allow Unocal to make an Afghani oil pipeline and continue "making money" for the Sauds, Bush's "real" friends. This is what Moore decides to explore, instead of the issue of whether or not the Iraq War policy was detrimental to the attempts to capture of Osama, the real terrorist at large. The Unocal pipeline was a '97 proposal that was dropped by '98, all within the Clinton administration. A new project, headed by the new Afghani government, did involve an oil pipeline. It was nothing like the old Unocal proposal, nor was Unocal ever brought up as a potential investor. It has not been constructed nor has it's plan even been finalized as of the writing of this article, and not one drop of oil has been siphoned nor one meter of pipe been laid. The pipeline construction clips Moore shows you is not the Caspian Sea Pipeline he's talking about, and the Caspian Sea Pipeline is not the Unocal-backed proposal from '97. Nice try though.
The Taliban and Osama Bin Laden got away. The media terror warning is somewhat the result of the fear of terrorism. Libertarians don't even need to begin on the idiocy of the Department of Homeland Security's terror warning systems. Rhetoric definitely was stepped up, a point of valid criticism in Fahrenheit 9/11. Much of what Moore shows you is also the result of the American news media, which he does not criticize for it's overblown reaction to the new "War on Terror" ratings-getters. The blame is laid strictly on the White House, where much of it is deserved. I don't understand the insertion of the old Bush golf scene, since that's actually bordering on being witty, and is in reference to a different group of Palestinian terrorists prior to 9/11.
Libertarians are free to investigate the history of Iraq, likewise, Moore's claims that Iraqis "never attacked the United States/never threatened to attack the United States/never murdered a single American citizen". I don't think a single Libertarian would pity the Iraqi government, definitely the Iraqi people, but not it's oppressive, dictatorial regime. Of course, a lack of pity is not cause for war, and the after-affects are evident: civilians did get wounded and killed unintentionally. The scale of the civilian killing is very low considered to the scale of past historical conflicts, so while the footage was meant to trivialize Rumsfeld's comments about military accuracy, raw facts don't. Likewise, Libertarians should be angry at the War in Iraq, both for it's failures to protect the citizens it did kill, and for it's failures in identifying Iraq as a actionable threat when the real terrorists were still at large and there was no evidenced connection. Moore doesn't explore this issue, instead, he continues to look at the WMD claims.
Libertarians don't accept the WMD claims, even if valid, to be an excuse or legitimacy for the war. The war was invalid by default because there was no evidenced connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Iraq has used WMD's against it's neighbors in the form of chemical and biological weapons, however, those weapons were not around after the latest Iraq War resolved, discrediting the Bush administration. Was the war right with WMD's found? No. Did the war probably see disposal of WMD's? Most likely, yes. Does Moore explore the morality of the war in with or without the WMD's?
He does snipe at the Democrats for backing the war action, but there is no real exposition into the WMD/No WMD issue of legitimacy. Instead, he paints the picture of the Bush administration lying and manipulating those figures, as Bush lying is more important than the argument over the war's legitimacy to Moore. The U.N. and U.S. intelligence up to this point of time did believe Saddam habored WMD's, I'll leave the reader to investigate that claim themselves, so chances are Bush held a sincere belief that was simply wrong by the time the war concluded. Whether Iraq did or not, the war was not valid, nor should anyone - Democrats or Republicans - weighed it on whether or not Bush or his administrative officials said Iraq had WMD's. They should only have weighed the decision to invade Iraq based on Iraqi complicity in the 9/11 attacks.
Military deaths in Iraq were higher than expected, but nowhere near Vietnam. On the blunder scale, Iraq was factually fairly low. Vietnam saw the combat deaths of 47,000-58,000 U.S. troops, for the second Iraq war, I've seen no figure over 1,000. Moore cites little over 600 in a rambling series of news citations over a graveyard shot. While Moore is right to continue without trivializing it, the comparison in a meshed series of vocals of "the most American military deaths since Vietnam" is really, not a very valid comparison. Iraq is not another Vietnam, no matter how deep the quagmire sinks. Libertarians would do well to remember that anyone saying so is exaggerating.
So, Moore quickly diverts to his agenda, harping on the poor economy and painting the military as the only way the poor could escape the oppression of a mismanaged economic sector. Many Libertarians have strong ideas about the economic crisis of the last recession, and blame the entire Left/Rightist institutions we have in play today for it. Moore on the other hand criticizes Bush alone and praises the welfare system, blaming the poor economy (which is now recovering from the early 2000 tech recession) for high military staffing. As a Libertarian, I have no real pity for kids who ship themselves off to war for free college. I'm definitely more poor than most of those kids Moore interviewed, but the allure of the military's "free lunch" was never one I fell into. Libertarian military policy would prevent that from being the easy-way-out because we wouldn't risk the foreign engagements to require extensive troops except in case of severe national need. This is the natural contradiction of international offense vs. national defense, not the exploitation of the poor by the rich elite, as the radical Socialist Moore would characterize it.
The emotional appeal of the exploited soldier and the blindly faithful many is not solely what Moore would use it as, a method of emotional appeal against the war. There is reasons against the war, and reasons against his very conceptions he draws not only in the corruption of government, but in the very mentalities of the people he interviews. The attitudes and behaviors of Americans, those who faithfully accept the war, and those who immorally openly write it off as elaborate conspiracy, should all be openly criticized. I know as a Libertarian, I would've have spoken to the emotional mother of the lost soldier without Moore's universal conciliation. I do question that very same emotional zealotry turned fanaticism the very same way I question the War itself.
I don't think we can condemn the War itself if we can't likewise condemn the attitudes of Americans who blindly supported it, who went into it because they wanted college tuition, who saw it as the only way out of poverty because they believed the anti-market rhetoric, who believed poverty is the perpetual hierarchal aim of the elite rich, who believe the elite rich rule the nation and in the Orwellian fear of this becoming the new Fascism, nor can I stand idly back as those who endorse specific agendas exploit the war for their aims. Libertarians should have a basic problem with the War in Iraq. Likewise it knows the solutions only lie in the truth. This includes Moore's human story but does not include his slants, insinuations and further dramatic appeals. The last 30 minutes of the film is basically an exploration into this drama, with a brief interlude into a scene where Moore confronts Congressman about enlisting their sons.
Regarding this scene, as with many other points in the film, 7 United States Congressman have their sons in the military. Only 1 son is currently "enlisted" in Iraq. One has too high a rank to be considered an "enlisted" soldier, despite being in Iraq. John Ashcroft's son is in the military. Likewise one of the Congressman that Moore interviewed had two nephews in the military. Moore did not include the footage where the Congressman told him this, from the transcript Moore provides, the full segment unedited...
Moore: Congressman, I'm trying to get members of Congress to get their kids to enlist in the Army and go over to Iraq. (the scene now cuts to the Congressman walking away) Is there any way you could help me with that?
Rep. Kennedy (R-MN): How would I help you?
Moore: Pass it out to other members of Congress.
Rep. Kennedy (R-MN): I'd be happy to ? especially those who voted for the war. I have a nephew on his way to Afghanistan.
The comments in bold did not receive a part in the film. Moreso, the entire scene is built around the entire conclusion of the film: the rich elite are controlling you through lies and deception. Libertarians believe the rich elite are offering lies and deception, but few believe this is the legitimate kind of conspiracy for control that Moore paints in Fahrenheit 9/11. Likewise most Libertarians know the rise of modern Fascism, as a political fear, is no more scary than the rise of modern Socialism, both having the same statist agendas. This is the threat of the Left/Rightists and it's not very directly challenged by Michael Moore.
Libertarians object to the war for several important reasons. Mainly, Iraq is in no way tied to the September 11th terrorist attacks with which instigated our initial retaliations. This conjecture was speculated by our leaders but forgone for other excuses. WMD's, the human compassion of saving the Iraqis. These are not legitimate war aims, and that has been a primary stance of Libertarians throughout.
Likewise, we object to international offense, and the arbitrary powers exercised by Bush and Congress throughout the war. The Patriot Act, even if never used, is itself an abuse of Congressional authority. It too is part of the rise of this growing problem of the New American Right.
The Right is the basis for these concerns today because the Presidential authority lies with a Republican. The Democrats too, have no better solutions. Our sons will stay in Iraq. And the pity Libertarians should share for Americans caught in the struggle? We know that pity should be merited, not given wholesale. It's not our job to console crying mothers whose children were too stupid or disenfranchised to get a real job or at the very least attempt to escape before giving in to the "free lunch" programs of our military. And those kids die while we sit back and blame a lack of welfare programs, and devise elaborate conspiracies to justify our feelings to correct things.
Moore, in the film, doesn't touch very much on the Libertarian feelings during the war. Perhaps the drama of the human struggle, but in little else. Far too much time is entertaining conjecture about how the war is manufactured and conspiracy behind the ruling elite, the corruption of the rich over the poor. This is the central focus of his film, tied into emotional appeals, he tries to provoke you into feeling his message. Such a masterful appeal by a Socialist hasn't been achieved since Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will".
He asks you to take action. Libertarians will probably not agree with the average crowd attending a Fahrenheit 9/11 screening on anything besides one overarching point: don't vote for Bush. I don't believe a single Libertarian out there really needed Moore's film to come to that conclusion.
Fellow Libertarians, take this time to talk to others about Fahrenheit 9/11, use it as an icebreaker into not only discussing the faults of Moore's agenda, but the faults of the Bush agenda. Share the ideas that will restore a free nation by promoting truth and honesty. Be forever critical and eternally vigilant about who you receive your propaganda from... it may be just another part of the "New American Myth" we live in everyday. Moore's film panders more to the crowds who will support Kerry, Cobb or Nader this year. Not Michael Badnarik.
The Left/Rightists have become so similar, it's very trivial if Bush remains or goes. The plan in Iraq won't change with John Kerry, the only other probable winner. Moore's zeal could make Libertarians lose sight of that simple fact.
- Good ol' PA
 The information on election night proceedings are all available from a CBS inquiry into it's election night reportings. Available here: http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/c2k/pdf/REPFINAL.pdf
 Available here: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB116/pdb8-6-2001.pdf
It seems some people from PoliticsForum.org have taken notice to this article. Great! Criticism to feed off of. I have a page reserved to chronicle criticism recieved from the good folks at PoliticsForum. I include here my original rebuttle to those concerns...
1. The Data Base Technologies Voter Dump:
[*] Correction #1: My speculation in the article about Database Technologies not using race as a qualification was wrong. Don't get your hopes up yet critics, details follow:
In my article, I speculated that Data Base Technologies had no classification of race in their computers, and that the basis for their removal of voters from eligability was a Florida '98 law disallowing felons the vote. Several criticisms from the PoliticsForum thread attack me for not exploring this issue deeper, so let's do so.
The Florida election recount situation, as I describe in my review of Fahrenheit 9/11, is something I probably cannot sway anyone's opinion on. It was at the very best, a huge mess, at the very worst, a total catastrophe. As such I did not address the recount directly in the article (that would've required a whole new article), instead, I had to concentrate on Moore's claims, which revolve around race discrimination.
The first criticism is based on speculation that Database Technologies used out-and-out fabricated information. These criticisms revolve around the claims of Greg Palast. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report on this issue confirm that the final list submitted by DBT is 57,700 heads on the "felony exclusion" list, which was not verified for accuracy. Of the total 57,700, Palast optimistically speculates that 80% would've voted and of those voters 90% would've voted Democrat (obviously we should look at these claims before openly accepting them). Reasons for the inaccuracies for voter scrubbing presented were: fabricated felonies, ignored re-eligibility conditions, backwards names, computer glitches and of course, skin color. The NAACP lent credibility to these rumors by attempting to sue DBT, and civil rights authorities spoke out against the electioneering.
It is obvious that there were vast inadequacies with how DBT handled the the voter qualifications. In my F9/11 review I actually openly challenge the legitimacy of the Florida '98 law which was cited as the basis of the voter scrubbing, in so I ethically challenged the basis of the DBT scrub list in it's entirety. Acknowledging that point, once challenged on that point I looked ahead to learn more about how DBT actually matched it's list, and how it didn't.
First, let me say that it was incredibly hard to even find a resource on this issue, because these claims are almost entirely made by Greg Palast, and really no one else has majorly substantiated his points or for that matter, challenged them. Most sources I found were word-by-word recitals of Palast's work.
A U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was commissioned to investigate these problems, turned up nothing. The Palm Beach Post which largely sided with Liberal audiences and was the news source to break this story later reported that "a review of state records, internal e-mails of [Database Technologies] employees and testimony before the Civil Rights Commission and an elections task force showed no evidence that minorities were specifically targeted." So it is I reach an impass, was it a vast conspiracy or was Greg Palast full of it? I'm inclined to believe a little of both.
The links and articles provided by the posters at PoliticsForum.org were entirely questionable in nature, which doesn't shock me in a polarized environment like the PoliticsForum.org users. One website quoted as a source on DBT insider policy also advocates the nationalization of Wal-Mart (?). Another was the home page of Greg Palast himself, and given that we're trying to perform independent verification of what we already are acknowledge his claims, it doesn't help really justify anything in this personal inquiry.
I went looking and found an article on the New York Post written by John Lott, a Republican representative on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission serving a report on this issue, and found a contesting viewpoint there. But before we get into that, we should get into the issue of DBT and how they actually conducted voter exclusion.
Myth: DBT excluded voters based solely on race (this alludes to the point that they were "paid off" by Republicans to throw away black votes).
Fact: DBT excluded voters based on probable matches to existing felons, which include variables of name, gender, and race. You had to qualify against the gender, race and names of convicted felons before you were included on the scrub list. Social Security numbers and birthdates were supposed to be included as qualifications, although DBT officials did not use them. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights makes it seem like they didn't really pay much attention to those details.
In Florida in 2000, the felon population was about 49% black. This is highly disproportionate to the general population, and while it's a sign of some greater social problem, it's also a statistical fact we can't ignore right now given that we're talking about an issue of race classification and discrimination.
First off, the DBT list selection method was faulty. It matched names in similar pretenses, and matched that against race, and gender, to double-check to see if you were the same person. Age may or may not have been used here, I am uncertain.
If there was a felon by the name of John Smith, a black male, then all black males named anything like "John Smith" - be it "Smith John" or "Mr. Smith Johnson" - would've been matches on the DBT list. The same is true of whites and hispanics who were represented in disproportionate numbers in the felon rolls.
The actual error rates given by the Commission on the different race populations excluded via erronous felony listings went as such:
9.9% percent for whites (meaning 5,712 of the 57,700 were incorrectly identified whites)
8.7% percent for hispanics (thus 5,020 were incorrectly identified hispanics)
5.1% percent for blacks (2,943 were incorrectly identified blacks)
This lends a total of about 13,500 of the 57,700 that were acknowledged as inaccurate hits due to the faulty matching system. The source of these figures is the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report investigating this problem. The reason the white percentage was higher than the hispanic and black percentages is because the hispanic and black populations of felons are higher than whites in respect to the population, thus mismatched happened higher in the perspective of the white felons excluded, while there were still a noticeable population of hispanics and blacks likewise incorrectly identified. Palast simply throws out the whole 57,700, despite the rest of them appearing to be valid felon listings. Of course, I openly contest the legitimacy of all the felony ballot exclusions, in the course of my review of the film.
Of knowingly disputed numbers is an additional 8,000. These too are cited for having disproportionate black listings. These 8,000 are misdemeanors that were incorrectly identified by DBT as felons. This mistake was acknowledged, but slow county vote-handlers did not all recieve the the revised listings in time for the election. It is uncertain what degree of these 8,000 were actually excluded, although if someone can find that out for me, I will post that information here.
Overall, the DBT election inaccuracies had an unknown impact on the election. My conclusion remains the same as the article, the same as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report: the Database Technologies uninformed listings were not a direct result of racial discrimination, but were instead the direct result of a poorly implemented '98 law that only appeared racially biased due to a strongly evidenced racial disparity amongst Florida felons, not any overall or direct racial bias on behalf of DBT officials. It is not clear that the DBT exclusions were any more fair to whites or other demographics who may have voted Republican, speculation that it was is unfounded.
Likewise, the offhand assumption that this meant a net Democrat vote loss is not evidenced. Either way it displays a distortion on the part of Moore, who would simplify the issue into a poor blacks vs. rich white elitists struggle, instead of devote any time to actually analyzing the issue. This same issue that was presented to Congress, as Moore himself shows us in the film, and of all the Democrat senators who would've loved challenging the questionable vote count, including Gore himself who presided over the senate, not one senator would sign the petition to discuss the issue. I'm the only person I've seen who is willing to say that this is because the issue had no validity.
I would also like to clarify that the stress of the article's point in this subsection of the review was on the effects of an illegitimate policy of felon exclusion, which was my overarching point. I must say in researching this point all I found was a lot of copy/pasting of Greg Palast, which was disappointing.
FOX and Election Night:
FOX was the first national news network to call in favor of Gore. CBS/CNN were the first networks to retract the Gore decision, 10 PM. At 2 AM the common sources of all networks, the Voter News Service and AP, both reported substantial Bush leads due to the processing of more Florida precincts. Shortly after 2 AM, when the AP/VNS reported this lead, all the news networks changed their projections to Bush (go figure). FOX and NBC made their decision at virtually the same moment, less than a minute apart, and CBS/CNN made their decision not more than 3-4 minutes later.
These claims I make in my article are all true, and my point was that it was illegitimate to say that because FOX led the other networks by a matter of minutes in calling for Bush that FOX was the reason they all switched. FOX was not the first to retract the Gore decision, CBS/CNN was. FOX was not the first credible news organization to report a Bush lead that was substantial enough to project the election in his favor, VNS/AP were reporting a Bush lead at 2 AM that spiked just before all the networks changed their decisions. As the night continued, the VNS/AP both retained a calculated Bush lead. Don't take my word for it: go look to see their reported leads over the course of election night! Neither called the election for Bush, but both reported a Bush lead from roughly 2 AM through the course of the night. And go figure, roughly 2 AM through the rest of the night, the news networks reported that Bush was the winner! I'm sure that's mere coincidence, since Moore wants to believe they were all cross-reporting off FOX, and not their cited sources...
CBS in an internal office inquiry into the situation state clearly in their timeline that they were ready to call for Bush BEFORE FOX News did, but were still debating the decision by the time FOX made up their minds. Why did they say they were considering it? Because at around 2:09 AM the VNS, their primary source for election night counts, reported a Bush lead of 50,000. Go read it yourself and come to your own conclusions.
It's also important to note that the overall point I make in my review regarding this is that all the networks acted in haste calling it for either candidate over the course of the night. Of this, FOX is no more guilty than the rest.
Synopsis of Criticisms:
There is a lot of speculation going around regarding Fahrenheit 9/11 and all the topics it covers. I personally recommend everyone who is going to engage in this debate find more sources of information than Greg Palast and Craig Unger to rely your arguments upon.
At least one person in the thread mentioned said, referring to me, "he has to be an American", because otherwise the afforementioned information about the election and DBT (I only focus on DBT because that's all Moore focused on) would be common knowledge. I guess if the BBC reports whatever Greg Palast spews as unchallenged fact, offering no other point of view, I'm happy being in America where the majority of us had oppossing viewpoints like the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigation, to weigh out the claims. The BBC is not the end-all-be-all of all worthwhile news, and headlines that make it are not necessarily absolute fact we Americans are deprived of. Anyone who makes that simplification is an idiot.
Of course, this same reader only addresses the point about the first segment of my review, because he didn't obviously didn't READ the rest.
My objections are clearly outlined in my article and I think my chief arguments ignored, thus far, by the PoliticsForum.org readers who criticized the points therein. Feel free to read past one paragraph or two and please investigate to formulate your own opinions.