Thursday, July 08, 2004

Another day, another fistful of deceits to puncture...

Here's Dave Kopel's original.

And here are parts one (Deceits 1-2), two (Deceits 3-7), three (Deceits 8-16) and four (Deceits 17-23).

Deceits 24-31

Moore asks Craig Unger: “How much money do the Saudis have invested in America, roughly?”

Unger replies “Uh, I've heard figures as high as $860 billion dollars.”

Instead of relying on unsourced figures that someone says he “heard,” let’s look at the available data. According to the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (a pro-Saudi think tank which tries to emphasize the importance of Saudi money to the United States), in February 2003 total worldwide Saudi investment was at least $700 billion. Sixty percent of the Saudi investments were in the United States, so the Saudis had about 420 billion dollars invested in the U.S.—a large amount, but less than half of the amount that Moore’s source claims he “heard.” (Tanya C. Hsu , “The United States Must Not Neglect Saudi Arabian Investment” Sept. 23, 2003.)

As high as. Kopel cites one source that comes in lower than the number described as the upper limit. Go figure.

Notice also that Kopel drops the 'at least' from his number when it gets reduced from $700 billion to $420 billion.

To quote Kopel's own source, the "conservative estimate" would be $420 billion.

Moore shows himself filming the movie near the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C.:

Moore as narrator: Even though we were nowhere near the White House, for some reason the Secret Service had shown up to ask us what we were doing standing across the street from the Saudi embassy...

Officer: That’s fine. Just wanted to get some information on what was going on.

Moore on camera: Yeah yeah yeah, I didn’t realize the Secret Service guards foreign embassies.

Officer: Uh, not usually, no sir.

But in fact:

Any tourist to Washington, DC, will see plenty of Secret Service Police guarding all of the other foreign embassies which request such protection. Other than guarding the White House and some federal buildings, it’s the largest use of personnel by the Secret Service’s Uniformed Division. -- Debbie Schlussel, “FAKEN-heit 9-11: Michael Moore’s Latest Fiction,” June 25, 2004.

Brilliantly stupid, for two reasons. Moore didn't drag the "not usually" comment from the Secret Service officer, it was completely voluntary. So this isn't even an attack on Moore's credibility. It's an attack on the credibility of the Secret Service officer in the film.

Unfortunately, it's an attack that fails. Read the Schlussel quote again: "...which request such protection." How many embassies are in DC? How many request protection? Does that percentage make it 'usual' or 'unusual' for the Secret Service to be guarding one?

I think I'll take the word of an active Secret Service officer on that score.

Moore asks, “Is it rude to suggest that when the Bush family wakes up in the morning they might be thinking about what's best for the Saudis instead of what's best for you?” But his Bush/Saudi conspiracy theory is contradicted by very obvious facts: ...why did Moore’s evil Saudis not join “the Coalition of the Willing”? Why instead did they force the United States to switch its regional military headquarters to Qatar? If the Bush family and the al-Saud dynasty live in each other’s pockets…then how come the most reactionary regime in the region has been powerless to stop Bush from demolishing its clone in Kabul and its buffer regime in Baghdad? The Saudis hate, as they did in 1991, the idea that Iraq’s recuperated oil industry might challenge their near-monopoly. They fear the liberation of the Shiite Muslims they so despise. To make these elementary points is to collapse the whole pathetic edifice of the film’s “theory.” -- Hitchens, Slate.

Is it rude to suggest that Hitch pours hooch on his corn flakes in the morning instead of milk?

Hitch can see all the conspiracy theories (and, for all I know, dancing pixies and pink elephants) he wants in the film, but even Kopel admits "the wishes and interests of the Saudi rulers play too large a role in American foreign policy--especially in the U.S. State Department, which has been notoriously supportive of pro-U.S. Arab dictatorships for many decades. I would much prefer that the State Department and other American foreign policymakers spent less time worrying about friendly relations with the governments of Saudi Arabia, China, and other dictatorships, and more time supporting the aspirations of people who want to free themselves from dictatorship."

The point is made, very explicitly once again, in F9/11: It's about making lots of money. None of Hitch's geopolitical 'facts' get in the way of that money-making relationship, and thus don't get in the way of F9/11.

Kopel also goes on to try and drop hints of anti-Semitism about Moore here, but I'm not even going to bother with that. As even Kopel admits, it's not in the film, and so has no place here.

This segment is introduced with the question, "Or was the war in Afghanistan really about something else?" The "something else" is shown to be a Unocal pipeline.

Moore mentions that the Taliban visited Texas while Bush was governor, over a possible pipeline deal with Unocal. But Moore doesn’t say that they never actually met with Bush or that the deal went bust in 1998 and had been supported by the Clinton administration. -- Labash, Weekly Standard.

Etc. etc. Deceits 27-31 are all about the pipeline, but Kopel doesn't clearly indicate what the five deceits are. I'll hazard a guess:

27) Moore implies that the Taliban met with Bush about the Unocal pipeline, which they didn't.
28) The Unocal pipeline was the reason we invaded Afghanistan, but it was in fact a dead issue by 1998.
29) The pipeline agreement signed by Karzai was not the same project advocated by Unocal.
30) Karzai was never a Unocal consultant.
31) I have no idea... probably something to do with Clinton.

Taking them in that order:

27) The Taliban did visit Texas when Bush was governor. This is what Moore says in the film, and all he says. More mind-reading from Kopel's round table.

28-29) The elephant in this particular living room -- and the name Kopel studiously avoids mentioning -- is a big one: Enron.

Enron had major energy interests in India, and Unocal's pipeline was designed to hook into Enron's projects. In fact Enron was trying to work it so that no matter which pipeline project got moving, Unocal's or anyone else's, Enron would benefit.

Now, Moore himself barely mentions Enron in F9/11. There's likely a very good reason for that, namely the lack of evidence of Enron involvement compared to what was available of Unocal involvement. And it was Unocal, after all, who invited the Taliban to Houston.

Just to drive the point home, as Moore makes clear the pipeline project is still alive, even if Unocal (or even Enron) is no longer involved, and a number of people Unocal hired as advisors and consultants on their version of the project have been installed in the interim Afghani government by the Bush administration. Whether Unocal itself is still involved or not is just a red herring. The pipeline itself is still very much alive.

One final point. Nowhere in F9/11, of course, does Moore make any statement remotely close to "we invaded Afghanistan to set up a pipeline". He suggests that the pipeline was a hidden agenda, something that Friends of Bush might benefit from, but if Moore offers any theory as to 'why' we invaded Afghanistan it was to use it as PR cover for the eventual invasion of Iraq. That, however, is one inference that Kopel doesn't touch with a ten foot pole...

30) I'd need to see a transcript of the film to be sure, but I believe Moore said that Karzai was an advisor, not a consultant, for Unocal -- which is true. If Moore did say consultant and not advisor, then it was a minor semantic slip, nothing more.

31) Clenis! Clenis! Look, it's the Clenis!

The fact that the Bush administration may have continued policies supported by the Clinton administration is irrelevant to a film about the Bush administration. That should be obvious to anyone not blinded by ideological hatred of a certain randy former president.

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