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Even Republicans and Military Members Applaud Fahrenheit 9/11

July 16, 2004
By Kevin J. Shay

There's a warnin' sign on the road ahead,
There's a lot of people sayin' we'd be better off dead,
Don't feel like Satan, but I am to them,
So I try to forget it, any way I can.

- Neil Young, "Rockin' in the Free World"

I recently saw Michael Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," which even reviewers for conservative media outlets like Fox News have praised. I knew I would like the documentary, based on reviews I read. But still, I can't remember seeing a movie that has affected me as much. I can't remember ever seeing a movie where the audience gave it a standing ovation when it ended, which occurred in many more theaters across the country than just the Maryland one I attended.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" made me laugh, made me sad, made me angry, made me optimistic. But most of all, it made me think and want to do even more than I am doing to help get Bush-Cheney out of the White House.

Before you dismiss Moore's latest film as one that only appeals to people who didn't like Bush-Cheney much in the first place, consider the reaction of some Bush-Cheney supporters, military veterans and family members who saw it.

Natalie Sorton, a 25-year-old moderate Republican and wife of an infantryman who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina, where Fort Bragg is, that the movie changed her opinion of the war in Iraq. "All this movie did was open my eyes a little more to what's really going on," she said. "I think this is definitely going to have an impact on the election. I'm glad I'm a voter."

Moore, who like me obtained the highest rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts, portrayed soldiers accurately as doing what they were told, Sorton said. Trevor, a Kansas City Army veteran and civic engineer who votes Republican, added in a Kansas City newspaper's report that "Fahrenheit 9/11" contained the most accurate portrayal of the military experience he's ever seen in a movie.

Greg Rohwer-Selken, 33, of Ames, Iowa, whose wife, Karol, is serving in the National Guard in Iraq, was moved to tears and told Time magazine, "It really made me question why she has to be over there."

A conservative Republican, 20-something woman in Pensacola, Fla., cried throughout the film and gave similar comments to the New York Times. "It really makes me question what I feel about the president," she said. "It makes me question his motive."

A man Newsday described as an "ardent Bush/Cheney supporter" in New York said, "It's really given me pause to think about what's really going on. There was just too much - too much to discount."

In conservative Indiana County, Pa., Eric Blank told the Indiana Gazette, "I have not felt this angry toward an administration ever. I wanted Clinton yanked from office, but I think Bush should go to jail."

Outside a Missouri theater, Leslie Hanser told the Los Angeles Times she had supported Bush "fiercely" before but finally understood why many Americans opposed his policies. "I feel like we haven't seen the whole truth before," she said.

Moore took pains to support U.S. troops and put the blame for the Iraq war where it belonged, starting at the top - Bush and Cheney. Those "Chicken Hawks" used their family connections and other strings to get out of going to the Vietnam War when some other politicians in their generation, like John McCain and John Kerry, could have done so but didn't.

At one point in "Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore said he was amazed that the people who received so little from this country, like the poor, were usually the ones who gave so much by dying and getting injured in war. Of course, not just the poor are in the military. A good part is middle class, but very few wealthy families put their kids in harm's way. Only one out of 535 members of Congress, which largely supported the Iraqi invasion, had a child there, and few Congress members would talk with Moore when he tried to confront them about that fact outside the Capitol.

Moore said on his Internet site that he was heartened by military families' support for his film. "Our troops know the truth," he wrote. "They have seen it first-hand. And many of them could not believe that here was a movie that was TRULY on their side - the side of bringing them home alive and never sending them into harm's way again unless it's the absolute last resort."

Moore received moving letters from countless people, including Marines in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and a church group in Tulsa, Okla. Someone from Mobile, Ala., a Deep South city described as one "where you risk life and property" for not supporting Bush, wrote about the people with "ashen faces" and disbelief leaving the theater, some "muttering words of resolve about voting" out Bush. In Colorado Springs, another vastly conservative city, a woman whose husband is a disabled Army vet reported that the audience applauded and some even whistled at the end. In Texas, a woman wrote about her 26-year-old friend who told her before watching the movie that she wasn't going to vote, then changed her tune afterwards.

Of course, there is Lila Lipscomb, the Michigan mother of a soldier who died in Iraq who played a prominent role in Moore's film. Once a conservative Democrat who loathed anti-war protesters, the movie portrayed her transformation. "I've since come to realize that the protesters of today are protesting against the act of war," she said. "I accept that. We have a right to protest that."

Among the celebrities and media types giving "Fahrenheit 9/11" their endorsements were some unexpected ones. Auto racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., a hero of the NASCAR Bubba set, took his crew to see the movie, then said, "It'll be a good bonding experience no matter what your political belief. It's a good thing as an American to go see."

Roger Friedman from Fox News, the TV network which, led by a Bush relative working there, called the 2000 presidential election for Bush prematurely, wrote that "Fahrenheit 9/11" was a "really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail."

But some will not even heed such advice from fellow conservatives. Right-wing talk show host, three-time divorcee and former drug addict Rush Limbaugh dismissed "Fahrenheit 9/11" as a "pack of lies" without seeing the movie. White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett called the film "outrageously false," even though he hadn't seen it. He also told CNN, "This is a film that doesn't require us to actually view it to know that it's filled with factual inaccuracies." As Moore stated, "At least they're consistent. They never needed to see a single weapon of mass destruction [in Iraq] before sending our kids off to die."

Moore went to great pains to get his facts right. He hired the former chief of fact checking at New Yorker magazine to comb the film for inaccuracies. "There's lots of disagreement with my analysis of these facts or my opinion based on the facts," he told Time. "There is not a single factual error in the movie."

The New York Times, which is not near as liberal as many people think, largely agreed with Moore, writing, "Central assertions of fact in 'Fahrenheit 9/11' are supported by the public record." For instance, Moore's contention that Bush spent 42 percent of his first eight months as president on vacation came from The Washington Post, which is also not as liberal as many think.

Besides Bartlett, most White House officials have refrained from issuing public comments. But Bush Sr., who still exerts a certain amount of influence at the White House, called Moore a "slimeball." Other White House officials were "furious" about the movie, according to Washington Post political columnist Terry Neal. You can be sure that someone in that house has seen it, despite their denials.

Television host David Letterman gave some insight into what Bush and other White House officials were really thinking with a Top Ten List on "Bush Complaints About 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'" Among those were that "The actor who played the president was totally unconvincing," "It oversimplified the way I stole the election," and "Couldn't hear most of the movie over Cheney's foul mouth."

Moore's detractors also include Move America Forward, a California front organization for the Republican public relations firm Russo Marsh and Rogers that organized an unsuccessful campaign to pressure theaters not to show the film. The address given on MAF's articles of incorporation with the California Secretary of State's office is the exact same one as Russo Marsh and Rogers' address, down to the suite number. But Russo chooses to dishonestly hide that tie on MAF's site that claims MAF is "non-partisan," despite the fact that every single officer listed on its site is a partisan Republican.

Citizens United, another conservative front group that lies about being "non-partisan" on its Internet site and is headed by David Bossie, whose books and other writings only attack Democrats, is trying to get the Federal Election Commission to censor advertising for "Fahrenheit 9/11" by claiming it is a political group and violates campaign laws. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page wrote recently that Citizens United produced the highly misleading Willie Horton ads used by Republicans against Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 and the Gennifer Flowers ads employed against Clinton in the 1990s. So not only is Citizens United dishonest about being "non-partisan," but it is violating IRS laws against 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations engaging in political activities.

Moore, himself, is not as partisan as these Republican groups that lie about being "non-partisan." He does not spare Democrats in his film. Moore points out how most Democratic senators, including Kerry, not only voted for the Iraq war but didn't criticize Bush's decision to invade until recently. In one scene, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle urged his colleagues to vote for Bush's Iraq war. Daschle attended the Washington, D.C., premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and told Moore after seeing the film that he "felt bad and that we were all going to fight from now on." That's a key difference between Democratic politicians and Republican ones: Most Democrats will admit when they are wrong, while most Republicans won't.

Still, there are some Republicans who will admit when they are wrong and even speak out against policies that are wrong. One is retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, the Bush administration's special envoy to the Middle East and commander of the U.S. Central Command in the Middle East in the late 1990s. Zinni recently said senior Pentagon officials were guilty of "dereliction of duty" for poor strategic thinking, operational planning and ground execution. Lack of basic equipment has been a continuous problem in this war; the Army did not fully equip soldiers with bullet-proof vests until June 2004, as many soldiers had to pay for such vests themselves.

"The course is headed over Niagara Falls," Zinni told CBS News. "I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure."

Stefan Halper, a deputy assistant secretary of state under Reagan who gave $1,000 to Bush's campaign and more than $83,000 to other GOP causes in 2000, recently told a Washington conservative group that there is a "growing restiveness in the Republican base about this war." Saying the Iraqi invasion cost a lot of money and isolated the U.S. from allies, Halper said, "This is not the cakewalk the neo-conservatives predicted. We were not greeted with flowers in the streets." He added that many who heard his address agreed.

Paul Sperry, Washington bureau chief for the conservative ezine World Net Daily, wrote in October 2003 how Bush lied about Iraq and diverted needed resources from Afghanistan. "Forget that Bush lied about the reasons for putting our sons and daughters in harm's way in Iraq; and forget that he sent 140,000 troops there with bull's-eyes on their backs, then dared their attackers to bring it on," Sperry wrote. "It was the height of irresponsibility to have done so in the middle of a war on al-Qaida, the real and proven threat to America. Bush diverted those troops and other resources - including intelligence assets, Arabic translators and hundreds of billions of tax dollars - from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders along the Afghan-Pakistani border. And now they've regrouped and are as threatening as ever. That's inexcusable, and Bush supporters with any intellectual honesty and concern for their own families' safety should be mad as hell about it - and that's coming from someone who voted for Bush."

Tom Hutchinson, 69, a conservative retired businessman and professor from Sturgeon, Mo., who volunteered for the Bush campaign in 2000, told the Associated Press that the war was a "total travesty" and he may sit out the 2004 election for the first time since 1956. Jack Walters, 59, another conservative from Columbia, Mo., called Bush's reasons for invading Iraq "lame" and was undecided about his presidential choice.

In Washington, conservative members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees have become increasingly aggressive about pushing for answers on the war and disagreeing with the Pentagon about issues like troop levels.

For the record, a recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus in Washington found that more than 5,000 U.S. soldiers have been wounded in the Iraqi war to go with the widely-reported figure that almost 900 troops have been killed. That's about six times as many as the 148 U.S. troops killed in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

U.S. and Iraqi government officials callously don't even count how many Iraqis have died and been injured. It's apparently more important to keep people in the dark, which helps hold dissent to a minimum. The study estimates that more than 9,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 40,000 Iraqis injured.

Despite Bush officials' attempts to keep people uninformed, a recent poll by the Annenberg Election Survey founded that 54 percent felt that "the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over." The situation sure has not stemmed terrorism; there were 98 suicide attacks around the world in 2003, more than any year in modern history.

As far as financial costs, the U.S. has spent more than $126 billion on the Iraqi war, with much more on the way. Economist Doug Henwood estimated that the bill will add up to an average of at least $3,415 for every U.S. household. Moore's film showed how much of that money was going to private contractors like Halliburton, which Cheney formerly headed and helped to obtain no-bid contracts, even as he still received compensation from the company just last year. At one point, a young U.S. soldier noted how truck drivers for Halliburton in Iraq were making four or five times as much as he was, when he was protecting them and more in harm's way. "That doesn't seem right," the soldier said.

Halliburton has even been under investigation by the Defense Department inspector general's office since February for reportedly overcharging by $61 million for fuel supplied to U.S. troops and civilians in Iraq, as well as charging U.S. taxpayers $160 million for meals that were never served to troops.

One scene in "Fahrenheit 9/11" showed better than others who is closest to Bush. Dressed in a tuxedo, Bush tells a banquet room full of wealthy campaign contributors, "Here I am, with the haves and the have-mores. People call you the elite. I call you my base."

Moore's movie also touched on some dangerous precedents set in the so-called Patriot Act, but didn't even cover how Bush's decision to invade Iraq violated the United Nations charter, how the U.S. violated the Geneva Convention in its treatment of detainees, how a U.S. Justice Department memo proclaimed that torture of prisoners was legal in violation of the International Convention Against Torture.

Seeing that Iraq was not really an "imminent" threat against the U.S. before the war, that there were really no weapons of mass destruction there, that Hussein did not have anything to do with Sept. 11, what is this Iraqi war really about? Two words: Empire and oil.

In September 2000, two months before the stolen election, a neo-conservative think tank called Project for the New American Century released a report that advocated that the U.S. assert its military dominance over the world to shape "the international security order in line with American principles and interests." It called for "regime change" in Iraq and China, among other countries, and to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars." Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, were prominent members of the Washington, D.C.-based organization. Some of them had lobbied the Clinton administration several years before to invade Iraq, which by no coincidence, contains the second largest oil reserves on the planet.

"The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security," the publication said. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

The report added the U.S. military needed to be transformed to control not just the Middle East and other regions, but space and cyberspace, even to the points of establishing "U.S. Space Forces" and developing biological and electrical weapons. This transformation would likely take a long time "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor," the authors wrote.

A year later, the group had its "new Pearl Harbor."

Even as fires from Flight 77 burned on one side of the Pentagon, Rumsfeld wrote down his thoughts on the other side: "Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. at the same time. Not only UBL.....Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

Welcome to the Disguised War on Terror That is Really about Building an Empire.

As the credits to "Fahrenheit 9/11" rolled, I listened to Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," reading the names of those who produced such a powerful flick. When I finally left the theater after Moore's final message - "Do something" - I turned only to see an empty room, except for two senior women who remained to discuss what they just saw. A theater employee handed me a pack of aspirin, saying it was for "in case of a headache."

"Thanks," I said. "But I think the people in the White House need this more than me."

With the many reports of Bush-Cheney supporters applauding "Fahrenheit 9/11" and most polls showing the Kerry-Edwards ticket ahead, is it any wonder that Bush-Cheney officials are talking about finding ways to postpone the Nov. 2 election? Their campaign depends on keeping people in fear, of enemies foreign and domestic, of terrorists seen and unseen, of snipers imagined and real. In a time that was arguably more dangerous than today, Americans heard Franklin D. Roosevelt say, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." From Bush-Cheney, we mostly hear about warnings that terrorists will strike, somewhere, somehow, someday.

I hope, come Nov. 2, many more people show Bush-Cheney that the United States of America can do better.

"We got a thousand points of light for the homeless man,
We got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand.
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world..."

Kevin J. Shay, a Washington, D.C.-area writer, won a 2002 International Peacewriting Award for Walking Through the Wall, an electronic book about a transcontinental march for peace and justice he joined. The latest book to which he contributed, Big Bush Lies, was recently released by RiverWood Books and is available in bookstores across the country.

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