Thursday, 20 May 2010

Does anyone even remember how it was back in 2003 when Baghdad was bombed by aircraft unleashed by George W. Bush? Does anyone remember the moment the planes flew into the Twin Towers on Manhattan? Well, you don't need to remember or, if you forget, you can watch Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), Michael Moore's paean to the US military-industrial nexus, to refresh your memory.

I remember thinking, at the time, "don't fuck with the Americans". But it wasn't just the Americans who were taking tiny fragments of "intelligence" as the basis for policy, and working night and day to hoodwink both its elected representatives and the populace. It happened in Britain and Australia too.

America had the opportunity to lead in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, but its invasion of Iraq meant it forfeited any moral advantage. The fireworks were interesting, fascinating even, but the upshot is a political and financial disaster the current president struggles to this day to clean up. Britain paid a high price, too, as its transport system was targeted by a gang of disgruntled young men in July 2005.

Moore infuriates conservatives in the United States, and the documentary shows why. He's like a dog with a bone: harrying and harrassing his targets until they reveal the truth. Interspersed with real footage are clips from other random films designed to inject humour into the mix. To show up the Coalition of the Willing, Moore inserts such clips as a man grinding grain with a stone (to illustrate the technological level of the country) and a string of people on bicycles riding down the street.

He creatively uses the soundtrack, too. During a speech by Bush, Moore adds in threatening music to illustrate how the president engendered fear in the American people in order to get his measures passed by congress.

It's like a cartoon, and as such appeals to our most visceral intelligence.

What also struck me when watching this film, six years after it was made and seven years after the events it chronicles occurred, was how right he was. In hindsight, the American response to the 9/11 attacks was disproportionate. And we now pretty universally recognise that Iraq was not the correct target. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Yes, Saddam was a bad guy. Sure, he oppressed his people. But that was no reason to make them suffer more by killing and maiming them using the advanced weapons at the disposal of the US military.

Meanwhile, the real threats persist.

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