Even Republicans and Military Members Applaud
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
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
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.