Saturday, July 10, 2004

21 deceits to go... let's see if I can polish this puppy off before I leave for Vegas tomorrow morning.

Here's Kopel's original.

Previous installments: part one (Deceits 1-2); two (Deceits 3-7); three (Deceits 8-16); four (Deceits 17-23); five (Deceits 24-31); six (Deceits 32-38).

Deceits 39-49

Defending the USA PATRIOT Act, Representative Porter Goss says that he has an “800 number” for people to call to report problems with the Act. Fahrenheit shoots back with a caption "He's lying." The ordinary telephone number (area code 202) for Goss’s office is then flashed on the screen.

You’d never know by watching Fahrenheit, but Rep. Goss does have a toll-free number to which USA PATRIOT Act complaints can be reported. The number belongs to the Committee which Goss chairs, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The number is (877) 858-9040.

While the House Select Committee on Intelligence does have a toll free number, I can find no indication whatsoever that it was set up specifically to receive Patriot Act abuses. It simply seems to be the Committee's usual number. A Google search for 'USA patriot act hotline' turns up nothing obviously relevant.

So who's being deceptive -- Moore, or Goss?

There are several scenes involving Oregon State Troopers who patrol coastal areas in the state. The Troopers are presented as underfunded and spread far too thinly.

But this has nothing to do with Fahrenheit's claim that the Bush administration is not sincerely interested in homeland security. The Oregon State Trooper are paid by the Oregon state government (which has been suffering from a budget crisis). Whatever the problems with Trooper funding, the problems are the responsibility of the Oregon state government, not the federal government. Moore's point makes no more sense than blaming the Oregon state government for shortages of FBI personnel in Eugene.

So then what, exactly, is the point of the Department of Homeland Security, if not to cover these sorts of holes? It may not be Bush's fault that the Oregon State Troopers are so underfunded, but there obviously hasn't been any action taken to correct the problem either.

Fahrenheit asserts that Saddam’s Iraq was a nation that “had never attacked the United States. A nation that had never threatened to attack the United States. A nation that had never murdered a single American citizen.”

Jake Tapper (ABC News): You declare in the film that Hussein’s regime had never killed an American…

Moore: That isn’t what I said. Quote the movie directly.

Tapper: What is the quote exactly?

Moore: “Murdered.” The government of Iraq did not commit a premeditated murder on an American citizen. I’d like you to point out one.

Tapper: If the government of Iraq permitted a terrorist named Abu Nidal who is certainly responsible for killing Americans to have Iraq as a safe haven; if Saddam Hussein funded suicide bombers in Israel who did kill Americans; if the Iraqi police—now this is not a murder but it’s a plan to murder—to assassinate President Bush which at the time merited airstrikes from President Clinton once that plot was discovered; does that not belie your claim that the Iraqi government never murdered an American or never had a hand in murdering an American?

Moore: No, because nothing you just said is proof that the Iraqi government ever murdered an American citizen. And I am still waiting for you to present that proof.

You’re talking about, they provide safe haven for Abu Nidal after the committed these murders, uh, Iraq helps or supports suicide bombers in Israel. I mean the support, you remember the telethon that the Saudis were having? It’s our allies, the Saudis, that have been providing help and aid to the suicide bombers in Israel. That’s the story you should be covering. Why don’t you cover that story? Why don’t you cover it?

Note Moore’s extremely careful phrasing of the lines which appear to exonerate Saddam, and Moore’s hyper-legal response to Tapper. In fact, Saddam provided refuge to notorious terrorists who had murdered Americans. Saddam provided a safe haven for Abu Abbas (leader of the hijacking of the ship Achille Lauro and the murder of the elderly American passenger Leon Klinghoffer), for Abu Nidal, and for the 1993 World Trade Center bombmaker, Abdul Rahman Yasin. By law, Saddam therefore was an accessory to the murders. Saddam order his police to murder former American President George Bush when he visited Kuwait City in 1993; they attempted to do so, but failed. In 1991, he ordered his agents to murder the American Ambassador to the Philippines and, separately, to murder the employees of the U.S. Information Service in Manila; they tried, but failed. Yet none of these aggressions against the United States “count” for Moore, because he has carefully framed his verbs and verb tenses to exclude them.

According to Laurie Mylroie, a former Harvard professor who served as Bill Clinton's Iraq advisor during the 1992 campaign (during which Vice-Presidential candidate Gore repeatedly castigated incumbent President George H.W. Bush for inaction against Saddam), the ringleader of the World Trade Center bombings, Ramzi Yousef, was working for the Iraqi intelligence service. Laurie Mylroie, The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2d rev. ed. 2001.)

First: the 'Saddam tried to assassinate Bush' story was discredited by Sy Hersh in 1993. He described the case as "seriously flawed."

Second: anyone who dismisses Moore as a conspiracy theorist, and then cites Laurie Mylroie as a credible source, needs to have their head examined. That's not hypocrisy, that's madness.

Having said that, Kopel misses the point, of course. Compared to bin Laden, whatever legal responsibility Saddam might have for, say, Nidal's crimes, is nothing compared to bin Laden's responsibility for his own.

Defenders of the Iraq invasion always want to look at Saddam in isolation, i.e. "Aren't we better off with him deposed? Aren't the Iraqi people better off?" But the decision was not made in isolation. Going after Saddam necessarily meant taking the hounds off bin Laden's trail, and Moore's narration seems pretty clearly designed to highlight the comparison between the two.

But even with Moore’s clever phrasing designed to elide Saddam’s culpability in the murders and attempted murders of Americans, Tapper still catches him with an irrefutable point: Saddam did perpetrate the premeditated murder of Americans. Every victim of every Palestinian terrorist bomber who was funded by Saddam Hussein was the victim of premeditated murder—including the American victims.

Kopel completely forgets the truth behind the rhetoric. Saddam's "funding of Palestinian terrorist bombers" has always been after the fact, in the form of financial support for their families. Kopel's 'clever phrasing' would make it seem like Saddam was buying the bombs and belts up front.

Moore’s pro-Saddam allegation that Saddam “never threatened to attack the United States” is true in the narrow sense that Saddam never gave a speech in which he threatened to, for example, send the Iraqi navy and army to conduct an amphibious invasion of Florida. But although Saddam never threatened the territorial integrity of America, he repeatedly threatened Americans. For example, on November 15, 1997, the main propaganda organ for the Saddam regime, the newspaper Babel (which was run by Saddam Hussein's son Uday) ordered: "American and British interests, embassies, and naval ships in the Arab region should be the targets of military operations and commando attacks by Arab political forces." (Stephen Hayes, The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2004), p. 94.)

So, umm, Moore's corrrect then? Saddam, unlike Osama, never threatened to attack the United States? Gotcha.

Moore declares that George Bush completely fabricated an Iraq/al Qaeda connection in order to deflect attention from his Saudi masters.

Kopel can't produce a quote from the film to back that up, because one doesn't exist. Moore declares no such thing.

Of course Kopel thinks the actual deception here is Moore's claim that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda:

But consider the facts presented in Stephen F. Hayes's book, The Connection : How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2004)...

Al Qaeda had as much connection to Saddam Hussein as Donald Rumsfeld does. After all, we know for a fact that Rumsfeld met with Saddam on numerous occasions, and that Rumsfeld facilitated the purchase of arms by Saddam.

Fahrenheit shows Condoleezza Rice saying, “Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11.” The audience laughs derisively. Here is what Rice really said on the CBS Early Show, Nov. 28, 2003:

Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11. It’s not that Saddam Hussein was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9/11, but, if you think about what caused 9/11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York. This is a great terrorist, international terrorist network that is determined to defeat freedom. It has perverted Islam from a peaceful religion into one in which they call on it for violence. And they're all linked. And Iraq is a central front because, if and when, and we will, we change the nature of Iraq to a place that is peaceful and democratic and prosperous in the heart of the Middle East, you will begin to change the Middle East....

Moore deceptively cut the Rice quote to fool the audience into thinking she was making a particular claim, even though she was pointedly not making such a claim. And since Rice spoke in November 2003, her quote had nothing to do with building up American fears before the March 2003 invasion, although Moore implies otherwise.

Well, I'd argue that Moore cut the quote to illustrate the deceptive nature of the Bush administration's rhetoric with regard to Saddam, but to each his own I suppose. Moore does it more effectively later in F9/11 anyway, with the 'Saddam/al Qaeda' montage, which I can't believe hasn't been turned into a dance mix yet.

Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it’s a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes. When he exploits and lingers on the tears of a mother who lost her soldier-son in Iraq, and she wails, “Why did you have to take him?” Moore does not cut to images of the murderers/terrorists (pardon me, “insurgents”) in Iraq… or even to God; he cuts to George Bush. When the soldier’s father says the young man died and “for what?”, Moore doesn’t show liberated Iraqis to reply, he cuts instead to an image of Halliburton. -- Jeff Jarvis, "Watching Michael Moore," Buzz Machine weblog, June 24, 2004.

Yes, how dare Michael Moore show that average Iraqi citizens were just like average American citizens? How dare he portray Iraqis as human beings?

Where's the deception here? Is Kopel claiming that Iraq hadn't yet discovered kite technology?

Consider the double standard here too: Moore's critics on Bowling for Columbine spent no small amount of time on the 'Wonderful World' montage and how 'unfair' that was. You can't show US government misdeeds, but you must show Saddam's.

According to the footage that ensues, our pilots seem to have hit nothing but women and children. -- Labash, Weekly Standard.

Then—wham! From the night sky come the terror weapons of American imperialism. Watching the clips Moore uses, and recalling them well, I can recognize various Saddam palaces and military and police centers getting the treatment…I remember asking Moore at Telluride if he was or was not a pacifist. He would not give a straight answer then, and he doesn’t now, either. I’ll just say that the “insurgent” side is presented in this film as justifiably outraged, whereas the 30-year record of Baathist war crimes and repression and aggression is not mentioned once. (Actually, that’s not quite right. It is briefly mentioned but only, and smarmily, because of the bad period when Washington preferred Saddam to the likewise unmentioned Ayatollah Khomeini.) -- Hitchens, Slate.

Amazingly, these two quotes are presented without comment as two deceits. Apparently Kopel thinks it's self-evident that no Iraqi civilians were harmed in the making of this war.

Q: You mock the “coalition of the willing” by only showing the tiny countries that have voiced support. But you leave out England, Spain, Italy and Poland. Why?

Moore: “This film exists as a counterbalance to what you see on cable news about the coalition. I’m trying to counter the Orwellian nature of the Big Lie, as if when you hear that term, the ‘coalition,’ that the whole world is behind us.” -- Patrick Goldstein, “Truth teller or story stretcher?” Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2000.

If it is a “Big Lie” to mention only the powerful and important members of the Coalition (such as the United Kingdom and Australia), then it is an equally “Big Lie” to mention only the small and insignificant members of the Coalition.

This reminds me (in inverse) of the argument that Miranda warnings are obsolete, because everyone who's ever seen a cop show or movie has heard them to death already, and thus doesn't need to be advised of them.

If Kopel can produce witnesses who saw F9/11 and had no idea that Britain was also part of the coalition, I might take this one a little more seriously.

In very selectively edited clips, Moore poses the absurd notion that the main news anchors—Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Ted Koppel—wholeheartedly support Bush and the War in Iraq….Has Moore forgotten the hour-long Saddam softball interview Rather did just prior to the war, [or] Jennings’ condescending coverage…? -- Schlussel.

Jennings is shown delivering a broadcast in which he says, “Iraqi opposition has faded in the face of American power.” But Jennings was simply stating an undeniable fact, as he stood next to a map showing that Saddam’s army had collapsed everywhere, and all Iraqi cities were in Coalition hands. Despite what Moore implies, Jennings strongly opposed the liberation of Iraq. (Tim Graham, “Peter’s Peace Platoon. ABC’s Crusade Against ‘Arrogant’ American Power,” Media Research Center, March 18, 2003.)

Impressions are a funny thing, aren't they? What I got from the Jennings footage was the obvious inaccuracy of the statement -- given the way things stand today, clearly the Iraqi opposition did not simply fade away. From my perspective, Moore was slamming the media's uncritical handling of everything the administration fed them, not their 'support' for the war or lack thereof.

But then that's the real deceit, and arrogance, of Kopel's list. He assumes that what he gets from the film, everyone gets, and that his impressions are the only possible impressions.

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