Are the Facts in Fahrenheit 9/11 True?
Yes, absolutely. Phil Shenon, the New York Times senior correspondent who covers the 9/11 Commission, wrote in a major June 20, 2004, article published about Fahrenheit 9/11, “it seems safe to say that central assertions of fact in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ are supported by the public record (indeed, many of them will be familiar to those who have closely followed Mr. Bush's political career).” Shenon noted that Michael Moore “hired outside fact-checkers, led by a former general counsel of The New Yorker and a veteran member of that magazine's legendary fact-checking team, to vet the film.” Philip Shenon, "Michael Moore Is Ready for His Close-Up," New York Times, June 20, 2004.
What about the charge that F9/11 is simply “propaganda”?
F9/11 is, in essence, a cinematic op ed, or “opinion” piece reflecting Michael Moore’s point of view. But as noted in the last question, it is based on irrefutable facts. For the last three years, this country has been subject to only one opinion, coming from the White House and most mainstream news organizations. F9/11 presents a different portrayal of the situation leading up to 9/11, the response to 9/11, and the war in Iraq, than what we have seen from most mainstream news coverage of these events. It asks the questions that should have been asked for the last three years.
Then why are some mainstream journalists, especially network news organizations, criticizing Fahrenheit 9/11?
The mainstream news media is badly skewered in F9/11, so it should be no surprise that certain news organizations, and individuals who have covered issued addressed by F9/11, are critical and somewhat defensive about what the film alleges. The criticisms have more to do with how issues are addressed in the film than assertions that the facts are wrong. As the author Williams Rivers Pitt wrote (co-author with Scott Ritter of 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know), “There are millions of Americans who believed what they were told - about 9/11, about Iraq, about George W. Bush himself - who will come into that bright light with the realization that they have been lied to.… With a single stroke, Michael Moore has undone three years of poor, slanted, biased, factually bereft, compromised television journalism. This, in the end, is the final greatness of 'Fahrenheit 9/11.” (June 25, 2004)
Isn’t this film just “preaching to the choir?”
F9/11 is selling out everywhere, including theaters in Republican strongholds. Its impact has been widespread. A good example is the Pensacola, Fla., resident, a conservative Republican, who told the New York Times, “’Oh my goodness, I cried,…I'm still trying to process everything. It really makes me question what I feel about the president. I'm still going to respect him as our president, but it makes me question his motives. Of course, I think that's the whole point of the film, to question his motives. But after watching it, I do question my loyalty to the president. And that's scary for me.’” Bruce Weber, “Democrats Find Relief Among Allies at 'Fahrenheit 9/11',” New York Times, June 27, 2004. For reactions to the film in all areas of the country, go here.
What does the film say about the Saudi and bin laden family flights out of the country after 9/11?
For a complete analysis of this topic, go here. One thing the film does NOT say, is that these flights left the county while other flights were grounded. Rather, the film says these flights left the country after September 13. These facts are based on the findings contained in the 9/11 commission draft report, which states, “After the airspace reopened, six chartered flights with 142 people, mostly Saudi Arabian nationals, departed from the United States between September 14 and 24. One flight, the so-called Bin Ladin flight, departed the United States on September 20 with 26 passengers, most of them relatives of Usama Bin Ladin.” National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Threats and Responses in 2001, Staff Statement No. 10, The Saudi Flights, p. 12.
Some critics have said that the film hides the fact that former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke approved these flights. Is this criticism valid?
Absolutely not. If the film were trying to hide Clarke’s involvement, we would not have included a visual reproduction of the actual New York Times article about the White House decision to approve the flights that prominently mentions Clarke’s name. Clarke has testified, “Now, what I recall is that I asked for flight manifests of everyone on board and all of those names need to be directly and individually vetted by the FBI before they were allowed to leave the country. And I also wanted the FBI to sign off even on the concept of Saudis being allowed to leave the country. And as I recall, all of that was done. It is true that members of the Bin Laden family were among those who left. We knew that at the time. I can't say much more in open session, but it was a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House.” Testimony of Richard Clarke, Former Counterterrorism Chief, National Security Council, before The Senate Judiciary Committee, September 3, 2003.
Former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke says he would approve these flights again. Doesn’t this undermine the film’s point?
Absolutely not. The main question raised by the film, which neither Richard Clarke nor anyone at the White House has ever answered, is why? Why did this happen? What exactly was the rush in getting these individuals out of the country so soon after the worst attack in U.S. history? Why did these Saudi Royals and bin laden family members receive such special treatment, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis? Imagine if the hijackers were North Koreans. It is inconceivable that a group of North Koreans, let alone relatives of the individual who had mastermind the attack, would have been given a one-way ticket out of the country with the cooperation of the White House as soon as airspace was open. Or Imagine President Clinton facilitating the exit of members of the McVeigh out of the country following the Oklahoma City bombing. The bottom line is that we really do not know why it was necessary for the White House to approve the quick exodus of these Saudi and bin Ladens out of the country, and “the White House still refuses to document fully how the flights were arranged,” according to a June 20, 2004, article by Phil Shenon in the New York Times.
What does Fahrenheit 9/11 say about the relationship between the Bush family and the bin Laden family?
This relationship, and what Fahrenheit 9/11 specifically says about it, is fully explored here. In addition, Phil Shenon wrote in his June 20, 2004 New York Times article about the film, “Mr. Moore is on firm ground in arguing that the Bushes, like many prominent Texas families with oil interests, have profited handsomely from their relationships with prominent Saudis, including members of the royal family and of the large and fabulously wealthy bin Laden clan, which has insisted it long ago disowned Osama [although F9/11 raises questions about this point]. Mr. Moore spends several minutes in the film documenting ties between the president and James R. Bath, a financial advisor to a prominent member of the bin Laden family who was an original investor in Mr. Bush's Arbusto energy company and who served with the future president in the Air National Guard in the early 1970's. The Bath friendship, which indirectly links Mr. Bush to the family of the world's most notorious terrorist, has received less attention from national news organization than it has from reporters in Texas, but it has been well documented.” Philip Shenon, Michael Moore Is Ready for His Close-Up, New York Times, June 20, 2004.
What about the film’s charge that Bush ignored warnings about possible attacks by Al Qaeda in 2001, and was on vacation 42 percent of the time that year?
Phil Shenon, who covers the 9/11 commission for the New York Times, wrote, “Mr. Moore charges that President Bush and his aides paid too little attention to warnings in the summer of 2001 that Al Qaeda was about to attack, including a detailed Aug. 6, 2001, C.I.A. briefing that warned of terrorism within the country's borders. In its final report next month, the Sept. 11 commission can be expected to offer support to this assertion. Mr. Moore says that instead of focusing on Al Qaeda, the president spent 42 percent of his first eight months in office on vacation; the figure came not from a conspiracy-hungry Web site but from a calculation by The Washington Post.” Philip Shenon, Michael Moore Is Ready for His Close-Up, New York Times, June 20, 2004. In fact, here’s what the Washington Post said: “News coverage has pointedly stressed that W.'s month-long stay at his ranch in Crawford is the longest presidential vacation in 32 years. Washington Post supercomputers calculated that if you add up all his weekends at Camp David, layovers at Kennebunkport and assorted to-ing and fro-ing, W. will have spent 42 percent of his presidency ‘at vacation spots or en route.’” Charles Krauthammer, “A Vacation Bush Deserves,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2001.
Does the film hide the fact that Bush took “working vacations” during this period?
No, to the contrary, the film shows a clip of Bush and Tony Blair at Camp David.
The footage of pre-war Iraq includes scenes of happy children. What is the point of showing this footage?
This is accurate footage shot before U.S. bombs started to fall in Iraq. It is meant to show some of the kinds of people our bombs hit soon after – the kinds of casualties rarely shown by mainstream news coverage of the war. Many Iraqis civilians, including children, were killed. As has been recently revealed, “The United States launched many more failed airstrikes on a far broader array of senior Iraqi leaders during the early days of the war last year than has previously been acknowledged, and some caused significant civilian casualties, according to senior military and intelligence officials. Only a few of the 50 airstrikes have been described in public. All were unsuccessful, and many, including the two well-known raids on Saddam Hussein and his sons, appear to have been undercut by poor intelligence, current and former government officials said.” Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt, Errors Are Seen In Early Attacks On Iraqi Leaders, New York Times, June 13, 2004.
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