I got this e-mail from a person who wished to criticise my alleged unambiguous praise of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. I responded and also posted here my remarks on the film at a teach-in on Iraq war right before the presidential “election” of 2004.
Sent: Wed 7/27/2005 10:15 PM
To: Kirstein, Peter N.
Subject: Fahrenheit 9/11
I assume that since writing your opinion that F 9/11 is a great documentary you have become aware of the serious distortions and flagrantly misleading vignettes it contains. However, having written this assumption it occurs to me that given your bias you would not be capable of admitting that Moore’s film is basically dishonest.
In any event, do you believe it is necessary for someone with your world view to resort to the tactics of people like Moore to “defeat” the “imperialistic” forces you think are extant in the West? Can you seriously defend your approach (which seems so desperate that any tactic is “OK”) which takes revisionism to the level of the absurd?
Please understand that I am perfectly willing to accept the sordid facts of our nation’s history and often wonder how sensible and even well-meaning leaders could have done some of the things which have been “covered up” or simply excluded from the history taught in public schools. And I am sometimes angry that our populace is willfully ignorant of our history and it’s (sic) implications for us today and in the future. However, you seem so bitterly hostile to our government and society that nothing short of cataclysmic revolution could possibly satisfy your lust for revenge (or something). I suspect that the attack on 9/11 was in some way a “victory” in your mind for the downtrodden of the world.
Balance, Dr. Kirstein, balance……..
Dear Sir or Ma’am, (I don’t know your gender of course)
While I am not sure what writing you are referring to with regard to F/911, actually my reaction to it was somewhat more critical that what you allege. I am attaching a speech I gave at an Iraq war teach-in that included an airing of the film that may be more nuanced than you surmise by some unidentified comment I made about it.
I remember being given at the teach-in a pamphlet by a prowar group that contained numerous alleged errors in the film. I felt some were more rhetorical than factual but most movies/documentaries contain some errors.
As an avowed pacifist, I don’t believe you could support your contention that I advocate violent revolution or cataclysmic revolution. In fact it is war itself which is a greater threat to American national security. I must admit, except for your e-mail, I don’t hear too many criticisms of Moore’s film these days due to the self-destructive, Vietnam war we are once again engaged in. Had the Republican-Democrats listened to Moore, we would not have been in a war that a majority of the American people now oppose.
Peter N. Kirstein
Remarks at Iraq War Teach-in October 2004.
The movie is brilliant propaganda clearly thrusting Mr Moore into the filmmaking elites with Leni Riefenstahl and Sergei Eisenstein. The movie is not an antiwar film but an anti-Bush film in which Mr Moore’s position on war, like Senator Kerry’s, flip-flops and varies as it suits his anti-Bush position. The film is basically conservative ideologically as its intent is to sustain the American empire by cynically analysing war for political and not for moral or ethical purposes. It supported the war in Afghanistan as if only the barbaric invasion of that nation was the way to deal with legitimate grievances against the United States. The US should not indiscriminately invade a country to deter a small group of non-state actors such as Al Qaeda activists. It violates the Just War Doctrine of proportionality.
Fahrenheit 9/11 also panders to anti-Arab pathologies with its anti-Saudi Arabia-Retro- Redscare McCarthyism that it controls United States foreign policy. Mr Moore claims Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar (now replaced), and Saudi financial links to the Carlyle Group subvert the Bush administration. Yet their influence pales in comparison to Israel, whose brutal occupation of Palestine—which is not even mentioned in the film—was one of the reasons for the tragic September 11 attacks and other assaults against American interests throughout the world. As allies of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia unsuccessfully opposed Bush’s removal of that horrid regime. While the Saudis wouldn’t let Prime Minister Tony Blair, our colonial viceroy in Britain, land on their soil during the Afghan war, they hardly control our foreign policy.
Mr Moore is upset that Bin Laden family members were allowed to leave after 911 even though Richard Clarke and not the president authorised the departure. He claims they were given special-flight status during the no-fly zone period after 911. The 911 commission took issue with that assertion. Irregardless, Bin Laden’s family had the right to leave, and the Bush administration deserves praise for this. They were innocent. They did nothing wrong. Unlike the Israelis who kill relatives and destroy houses of the families of Palestinian independence fighters, America chose wisely not to impose collective guilt on that family.
Since Mr Moore opposed the March 2003 Iraq invasion, why not praise the Saudis for not joining the “Coalition of the Willing” or what I call the “Coalition of the Vassals?” If the Saudis were all that powerful, they would have stopped the Afghan invasion and the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein, who the Saudis construed as a geostrategic buffer from the growing power of Shia-dominated Iran.
The movie again flip-flops to pursue its political objectives when assessing whether the Homeland Security Administration intrudes on American liberties. Mr Moore wants it both ways. He brilliantly criticises the Patriot Act for violating America’s civil liberties but then gratuitously films the Oregon shoreline as a scare tactic that Surfin’ USA terrorists might hit the beach in their woodies and caches of WMD. Them bad jihadists might get to Cicero Avenue if we don’t kill them in Iraq, Iran, the Philippines, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Pakistan in this global phony war against terrorism.
I applaud the movie’s criticism, no matter how cynical, of the Iraq war: its destruction of that defenceless country, and the suffering it has caused US military families. The scene in which Iraqis are peacefully strolling and flying kites before the American war machine burns them, may be somewhat idyllic, but many Iraqis would prefer the stability of a dictatorial Baathist government over the anarchy, the civil war and the American colonial occupation.
In David Irving’s, The Destruction of Convoy PQ 17, he refers to World War II dead sailors as “persons with character, with families and with private hopes and ambitions. But they were people whose passing…would leave problems and sorrow for someone, somewhere.” Like Lila Lipscomb, whose marine son Michael Pedersen, was killed in Karbala: one of the 1,110 KIA in this proxy war for Israel and neoconservative visions of empire.
President Bush and Senator Kerry need not answer to Mr Moore for their support of this criminal war but I hope they have an answer to Lila Lipscomb. They don’t but Ralph Nader does. End the war, withdraw the troops over a six month period and behave as a moral global power not as the principal threat to international peace and security. In a letter in the New York Times last May, I referred to American “acts of criminality in war.” I am glad this film, however Machiavellian, describes them in Iraq.