Fahrenheit 9/11

I went and saw Fahrenheit 9/11 on Friday, in an absolutely packed theater. I have mixed feelings about the movie. Right after it was over, I loved it. Then, after I thought about it, the doubts started creeping in. There are parts of this movie that could convince anyone, no matter how much they love the President, that going into Iraq wasn’t worth it. Unfortunately, there are other parts of the movie – the ones you’ve been hearing about from the right-leaning commentators – that will deflate the impact of the last third of the movie.

The stuff about the Carlyle Group and the Bushes doesn’t really matter in the long run, does it? It’s interesting, and I hope people go track down the source information. But, there wasn’t enough time in the movie to go into all of it. It also doesn’t advance the emotional meat of the movie.

The stuff at the beginning about the 2000 election was great, and done with a real sense of humor that belied the seriousness of the charges leveled. It was a great way to open the movie, even though the section that came after it was a bit uneven.

The last half of the movie was what really affected me. I had posted Thursday about the real price of the war. The numbers blew me away, but seeing the images in the movie just cemented it for me. While many on the Right will have a problem with the happy pictures of Baghdad in March of 2003, those scenes weren’t staged. Yes, Saddam was horrible, and horrible things happened, but the images were of average Iraqis living their average Iraqi lives. The images of the “collateral” damage of the war that came after that were just as real. Those things really happened. Those children were injured, along with thousands of their countrymen. That old woman really lost her family, and really said those things. It wasn’t staged, and the numbers aren’t fake. Someone said to me this morning that the movie fails because it doesn’t mention the “good” things that have happened. You know what, it doesn’t have to. We’ve never seen those images in the U.S. media, and we should. We should see them for the same reason we should see the flag-draped coffins as they arrive at Dover. That’s the real price of war.

The segment on Lila Lipscomb, and the images of the soldiers in Iraq was even more powerful to me (I know, it shouldn’t have been, but I was). The images of the amputees in physical therapy were too much, and watching Mrs. Lipscomb grieve was more than I could handle.

And those are the parts of the movie that everyone should see. I can understand why people don’t want to see the rest of it. It’s inflammatory, and doesn’t tell (or try to) tell the “whole” story. No one’s telling the whole story, so expecting a two hour movie to is silly and overly partisan. Where the movie succeeds, it does so with more power and impact than anything I’ve seen. Where it fails, it fails only because of the voice it’s delivered in and the time given to laying out the evidence. It was an excellent review of the past three years, no matter what lens it was given in. The build up to war, the lies, the half-truths, the chest-thumping declarations… they’re all there.

I think the movie will have an impact on the election, not because it shows Bush as a doofus or evil (I don’t think either is true at this point, which is another post). It will because it shows the true price of war, a price that the media and the Administration have failed to show us in the past year. We should all see what’s being done in our name, under our flag. 60,000 people wounded and killed, never to be the same. And why? For what?

I hope the movie influences people to find the truth, to honestly seek it. Go see it, then go find the truth – not the truth as presented by either side, but the truth as it is. It’s complex, and difficult to find, much less understand. Every target is a spinning top, endlessly spitting out their description of intent and motive, trying to influence how we see what they’ve done and why. I’m done caring about the “why” and the motive. It doesn’t matter. The consequence is more important to me. Seeing the consequence of the President’s action in Iraq is enough for me to cast my vote for Kerry this November.

Categorized as movies

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.


  1. James says:

    Great summary, Kevin. I’m going to see it on Canada Day (July 1) and am a bit apprehensive. I’ll enjoy it and agree in many places, but for instance, I can’t see the terrible thing about Pres. Bush sitting dumbstruck in the classroom after he was advised about the World Trade Center. I mean, what would you do? He may not be a great president, but he is a human being, with human reactions.

  2. Kevin says:

    That scene in the movie bothered me a lot. He is the Commander in Chief, which means he should have left right away, gotten on the phone with the situation room and headed for Air Force One. That was precious time he could have been getting information and making decisions that he spent reading about some kid’s pet goat. With all the time Dick Cheney spent in an “undisclosed location” after the attacks, Bush leaving a photo op would have gone completely unnoticed by the press and public.

  3. Lorika says:

    Also, once he did leave, he wasted more time flying all over the place for no apparent reason other than he was afraid he’d be attacked. Neither Bush nor Cheyney stepped up to the plate on 9/11 and ran the country. They both failed miserably in the leadership dept. You know the saying that you can tell the real substance of a person by what they do in a crisis situation? Well, I think there’s no better test of a leader, and look what these two assholes did. They didn’t lead, they both ran and hid and didn’t do a goddamn thing. And they have the nerve to tout their supposed leadership on the “War on Terror” and 9/11?
    I think the look on Bush’s face in those 7 horrible minutes, says “Holy shit, now I really have to do something, I can’t just coast on Daddy’s coattails anymore, and Dick’s not here to tell me what to do!”
    I hope everyone sees this movie. I think Kerry would win by a landslide if they did. I still think Kerry may win by a landslide, even w/o F9/11. People are really angry out there, and anger motivates, and mobilizes. Impeach the shrub!

  4. Kevin says:

    Those seven minutes disturbed me greatly. But, saying they did “nothing” on 9/11 isn’t fair. There are phones on Air Force One, and there’s a record of several calls between the President and the White House. Cheney apparently did step up, even though there’s some doubt he had the authority to do so. Those seven minutes were still crucial, and the country was woefully unprepared. I’m still waiting on the final report from the 9/11 commission before I start calling for impeachment (well, for this… lying to us about Iraq may be impeachable).

  5. Anne says:

    “Also, once he did leave, he wasted more time flying all over the place for no apparent reason other than he was afraid he’d be attacked. Neither Bush nor Cheyney stepped up to the plate on 9/11 and ran the country.” Okay, I have read all of this and tried to stay calm and collected. BUT, there is some knowledge that needs to be spread here. First–the President of the United States and his closest aides are in continually communication with the White House, the Pentagon and the various situation rooms at all times. We have the most sophisticated communications system in the world set up for this very purpose. The decision to ‘move’ the President during a time of attack is made by the secret service. The President had little if anything to say about where Air Force one was headed when planes were falling from the sky. The decision to ‘fly all over the place’ was made to protect the Commander in Chief and leader of the free world. When he landed in Omaha, for instance, there were still 29 jumbo jets still unaccounted for. Several of these had taken off from foreign soil. A few were larger than your average private jets. The President needed to be flown to secure locations with advanced communications, fighters available and prescreened personnel. Thus, he was flown to highly secure Air Force bases. When the first plane hit the first tower, it was assumed that it was a grievous error. The President being notified so quickly is evidence of just how closely he is kept informed. If you will review the record, you will see that when the second plane hit, the President was removed from a public area. This was for his own protection and the protection of the children he was near. This country was under attack in a way not seen since Dec. 7, 1941 (that is the suprise attack on Pearl Harbor). No one knew in those first hours what would happen. Were there bombs already planted? Dirty bombs? Water polluted? The VP, first lady, and senior senators/reps that could be quickly located were all removed from DC and taken to ‘secure’ locations. To claim that ‘nothing was done’ is irresponsible, incorrect and displays a rather alarming misinformation campaign. As far as ‘lying’–look up quotes from the majority of the democratic leadership who received the same information as the White House. You will see that most, including Mr. Kerry, called for the removal of Saddam. For instance, “”Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime … He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation … And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction… So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real.”
    – Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003″ Michael Moore is the ‘Hanoi Jane’ of today. His remarks in Europe recently encouraging the insurgents to shoot American soldiers are sickening. He is profiteering in the most cruel way to promote himself. I, too, have seen the amputees–up close and personnel. And I can tell you that they are still incredibly brave young men and women that, for the most part, understand exactly what they are doing. They have seen their Commander in Chief kneel by their beds to pray with them. They salute when the flag goes by. They move, by whatever means available to them, throughout Walter Reed with American flags on their chests. Instead of supporting the misinformation campaign of Michael Moore, send $8 to the Red Cross at Walter Reed.

  6. Kevin says:
    1. The seven minutes of sitting there reading My Pet Goat happened after the second plane hit. This is not disputed by anyone in the Administration.
    2. The Senate saw the intelligence the White House wanted them to see and the summaries prepared by the Administration (mostly the Pentagon). They were duped along with us.
    3. The movie doesn’t denigrate those who’ve served. It shows what happened, and shows the soldiers in recovery.
    4. Having the Commander in Chief kneel by someone’s bed means nothing to me. He sent those guys in there on false premises, had no plan for getting out and has turned the Iraq into chaos.
    5. The Clinton Administration set the policy for urging the removal of Saddam Hussein. No one’s disputing that either. The problem is in timing, the rationale and the planning that went into carrying it out. Yes, Saddam is no longer in power, and that alone, independant of everything else, is a good thing. But, we’ve created a disaster, caused the death or wounding of over 60,000 people, and there’s no end in sight.
    6. For me, this is no longer about intentions. It’s about consequences. I don’t care what the President’s motives are anymore. The consequences of his decisions and policies are disastrous.
  7. Lorika says:

    Ok, I was a bit flippant yesterday, due to much anxiety that many people still seem to be buying all the crap this admin. is dishing out and Bush may be elected. I must confess, I have many panic moments for the health and life of our democracy.
    That said, I must also take issue with the assertion that the president is in constant contact with the various sit. rooms at all times. That may be true in theory but, the first plane hit before Bush went into the school, and he claims his cell phone was not working, so he didn’t know. Then, after the second plane hits and he is told, “we are under attack”, he sits there not communicating with anyone for 7 minutes! He clearly had no idea what to do, or what was really going on, and the secret service guys there didn’t get him out. (I have no idea why, it seems that if he was going to literally be a sitting duck they should have gotten him out immediately.)
    2. WHy fly all over the country? Wouldn’t it be safer to get out of the air, especially with shoulder rocket launchers out there, and suitcase nukes missing and whatnot? Yes, when we are under attack the president should immediately be taken to an UNDISCLOSED location for safety, and communicate with the sit. room to find out what is going on and what to do about it. But, remember in the days after 9/11 you kept seeing and reading about Bush in this or that specific place, but not a hide nor hair of Cheney to be seen. I remember thinking, doesn’t that make Bush an easy target? ANd where the heck is Cheney? Why do we know all about where Bush is, but not Cheney?
    Anyway, that is all past history, but something I think we should all keep in mind. If we are now in a world where we are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, we need a leader who is a good crisis manager, and and administration that has a clue what to do with the intelligence information they receive on possible future attacks. Not to mention getting a handle on some non-inflamatory foreiegn policy.
    (ps sorry for the long comment, this stuff just gets me all fired up.)

  8. Kevin says:

    I don’t mind long comments. I know how to scroll.
    While the seven minutes he waited to get up and leave were extremely disturbing, I do understand why they stayed in the air and moved around. Air Force One is one of the safest airplanes in the world. They have every countermeasure known to man, and I can only assume they flew high enough that any shoulder-fired missile would never reach it (their range isn’t great). We should also assume he had a fighter escort as soon as he took off. In any other undisclosed location, he’s a sitting target, and most of those undisclosed locations aren’t all that hard to guess or impervious to a 747 falling on them or flying into them. Those fighters would have shot down, or got in the way of, anything threatening that got in the way.
    The President was visible because he was the public face of the country, of “law and order” and he had to show strength in the days after 9/11 to try to calm everyone down. I don’t know about you, but even though I don’t agree with or like the guy, his address on the evening of 9/11 was extremely helpful.
    There are a ton of other reasons to criticize the administration. I don’t think his flying around on 9/11 or keeping Cheney in an undisclosed location is one of them.

  9. Kevin says:

    Oh, and he can be in contact with pretty much anyone he would need while in the air.

  10. Heather says:

    Check out this link: http://slate.msn.com/id/2102723
    That’s all I have to say on the matter, and I hope you’ll read it. I had to hunt far and wide for an article about the real truth that wasn’t from some conservative so you all wouldn’t immediately dismiss it. Here’s one, written by an actual liberal. Please take the time to read it.

  11. THE Steve says:

    “We’ve never seen those images in the U.S. media, and we should.”
    You missed it, but the History Channel did have a show highlighting the pure facts of the war and had one whol show just to highlight the disturbing and/or overly powerful images taken in the past year that were too sensitive to show in the standard press.
    It had interviews with wounded soldiers and people who were in the photographs and they were all deeply convinced that what they were doing there was the right thing for the democracy of the world.
    Also more disturbing were the images involving mass graves of over 150,000 Shi’ite and Kurdish martyrs. Some estimated 200,000 remains are still unaccounted for.
    I’m disturbed as to how many people Saddam has killed for personal or political reasons, and on that point alone he deserved to be removed to stand trial for war crimes.
    If Michael Moore wants to see if the war is worth fighting, perhaps he should go help fight it and experience it for himself.

  12. Kevin says:

    I read the article, and it attacks the parts of the movie I’ve already dismissed in the original post (the bit in the first paragraph). Calling Hitchens’ article the “real” truth though, is a bit of a stretch. Hitchens has an agenda just like Moore does. He’s said some incredibly stupid and false things over the years. Maybe not as many as Moore, but he’s got his share.
    To address Steve’s point, I don’t think anyone here, or in the movie ever defended Saddam (although Moore’s lead-in to that section could be interpreted that way if you crossed your eyes while watching it. his lead-in also contained one of the more blatant half-truths of the movie). Most people will tell you that Saddam is a bad guy, and it’s good he’s out of power. It’s the way we went about it, the lack of planning, the impatience, the lies… the lies.
    And Steve, asking Michael Moore to put on a helmet and go fight a war is a little silly, don’t you think? He’s fat (like me!), in his forties, and out of shape. We should all be asking ourselves if the war was worth fighting. We all have a stake in this. I could ask you the same thing: If you believe in it so much, why don’t you go fight it? But, of course, I won’t, because that would be silly.

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