Friday, July 09, 2004

Part six! Part six! Part six!

Here's Dave Kopel's thoroughly misnamed 59 Deceits in Fahrenheit 911.

And here's my retorts:

Part one (Deceits 1-2)
Part two (Deceits 3-7)
Part three (Deceits 8-16)
Part four (Deceits 17-23)
Part five (Deceits 24-31)

Deceits 32-38

Moore also tries to paint Bush as sympathetic to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until its overthrow by U.S.-led forces shortly after Sept. 11. Moore shows a March 2001 visit to the United States by a Taliban envoy, saying the Bush administration “welcomed” the official, Sayed Hashemi, “to tour the United States to help improve the image of the Taliban.”

Yet Hashemi’s reception at the State Department was hardly welcoming. The administration rejected his claim that the Taliban had complied with U.S. requests to isolate Osama bin Laden and affirmed its nonrecognition of the Taliban.

“We don’t recognize any government in Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on the day of the visit. -- Frank, Newsday

Just wondering -- if the Bush administration didn't recognize any government in Afghanistan, who was getting the $160 million in pre-9/11 aid we were handing out?

We were the only country giving that kind of money to the Taliban -- ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, and to encourage the destruction of the Afghan opium crop. But the money went to the Taliban, to do with as they will, and there were no UN opium inspectors checking up on their progress.

Fahrenheit 9/11 attempts in every way possible to link Osama bin Laden to George Bush. Moore even claims that Bush deliberately gave bin Laden “a two month head start” by not putting sufficient forces into Afghanistan soon enough. (On HBO, Moore explicitly claimed that the U.S. is protecting bin Laden in order to please the Saudis.) However, Moore has not always been so fierce demanding that the Afghanistan War be prosecuted with maximal power in order to get bin Laden:

In late 2002, almost a year after the al-Qaida assault on American society, I had an onstage debate with Michael Moore at the Telluride Film Festival... -- Hitchens, Slate.

Yep, it's another one of those deceits in the film that has nothing to do with the film.

It amounts to this: in F9/11 Moore says we didn't use enough force in Afghanistan, but prior to the film Moore said we shouldn't invade at all.

Now at no point does Moore say anything remotely close to 'Osama is innocent', which Hitch tries to imply, or 'Osama is a nice fellow'. Kopel quotes a Moore newsletter which calls bi Laden "one sick evil f---wad of a guy". Moore has never shown any sympathy for bin Laden.

But Kopel tries to imply that Moore's outrage at mass bloodshed somehow invalidates his criticism of the Bush administration's botched handling (or, as Moore suggested to Bob Costas, willful negligence motivated by political concerns) of the hunt for bin Laden. In Kopel's world, once you've said "Don't pick up that dish, it's hot!", you're not entitled to follow it up with, "Well, if you are going to pick it up, at least wear these oven mitts."

Kopel also outright lies when he claims that "the only reason which Fahrenheit offers for opposing the war is the claim that not enough force was used in the early stages." It contradicts his own idea, for instance, that Moore says the reason for the war was to set the stage for the Unocal pipeline -- claiming that the war had a profit motive isn't a reason to oppose it? It also contradicts other actual statements in the film itself, namely the 'Afghanistan was just a smokescreen to set up the Iraq invasion' theory that Kopel avoids discussing at all costs.

[When] we turn to the facts that are deliberately left out, we discover that there is an emerging Afghan army, that the country is now a joint NATO responsibility and thus under the protection of the broadest military alliance in history, that it has a new constitution and is preparing against hellish odds to hold a general election, and that at least a million and a half of its former refugees have opted to return….[A] highway from Kabul to Kandahar—an insurance against warlordism and a condition of nation-building—is nearing completion with infinite labor and risk. We also discover that the parties of the Afghan secular left—like the parties of the Iraqi secular left—are strongly in favor of the regime change. But this is not the sort of irony in which Moore chooses to deal. -- Hitchens, Slate.

But Moore didn't talk about all the good things that have happened in Afghanistan! No fair!

This is pure butt-covering by Hitch, though, not a critique of Moore. Notice his 'hellish odds'. If democracy doesn't take root in Afghanistan despite Hitch's insistance it was a good idea, well, clearly it's not the fault of the Bush administration because at least they, y'know, tried and stuff.

Had the resources which were thrown at Iraq been used in Afghanistan, 'The Land of No Good Targets', instead, there likely would be no debate over whether democracy had a chance in Afghanistan, and the trial about to begin might be bin Laden's.

Actually, scratch that. The Bush administration would have been just as incompetent in Kabul as they were in Baghdad. In the long run, Afghanistan is probably better off being mostly ignored.

The second part of the quoted dialogue, however, is deceptive. The sequencing makes it appear that Kean was rebutting Bush's claim of extraordinary cooperation. In fact, Kean complained on July 9, 2003, that several "government agencies" (Justice and Defense) were not being cooperative.

On February 8, 2004, Bush told MSNBC that his administration had given extraordinary cooperation. So rather than rebutting Bush's claim, Kean's complaint helped spur the administration to, belatedly, fulfill the Committee's requests. Kean stated that the Commission had been given "unprecedented" access to records. -- Frank, Newsday.

The Bush administration's recalcitrance towards the 9/11 commission was well-documented. And given the nature of the investigation, just about any access was going to be 'unprecedented'.

But yes, Moore does show the clips out of chronological order. That doesn't change the fact that all through the process, the 9/11 commissioners had a different view of how "co-operative" the White House was than the White House itself did.

Moore mocks Attorney General John Ashcroft by pointing out that Ashcroft once lost a Senate race in Missouri to a man who had died three weeks earlier. “Voters preferred the dead guy,” Moore says, delivering one of the film’s biggest laugh lines.

It’s a cheap shot. When voters in Missouri cast their ballots for the dead man, Mel Carnahan, they knew they were really voting for Carnahan’s very much alive widow, Jean. The Democratic governor of Missouri had vowed to appoint Jean to the job if Mel won.

Jean Carnahan's political experience prior to being appointed to the Senate? Exactly zero. Somehow that doesn't really make Ashcroft look any better -- not that anything could after watching him sing.

Much worse than Moore's petty slam of Senate candidate Ashcroft is Moore's false charge that Attorney General Ashcroft ignored warnings about the September 11 attacks

No, there were no specific warnings for Ashcroft to ignore (the "Condi" defense.) But which part of "I don't want to hear any more about al Qaeda" does Kopel have trouble understanding?

[A]fter suggesting that Ashcroft was unconcerned about terrorism before September 11, Moore uses phrasing that exaggerates how widespread knowledge of the Al Qaeda plot was before the attacks inside the FBI and Justice Department:

[Ashcroft's] own FBI knew that summer that there were Al Qaeda members in the US and that Bin Laden was sending his agents to flight schools around the country. But Ashcroft's Justice Department turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.

This implies far more prior knowledge about flight school activity than actually existed. As the 9/11 Commission found in a staff statement (72K Adobe PDF), the so-called "Phoenix memo" from an FBI agent in Arizona suggesting a possible effort by Bin Laden to send agents to flight schools was not widely circulated within the FBI and did not reach Ashcroft's desk: -- Brendan Nyhan, "Fahrenheit 9/11: The temperature at which Michael Moore's pants burn," Spinsanity.org, July 2, 2004.

This is a debate that extends far beyond F9/11. What has become clear through the 9/11 hearings is that enough information existed within the intelligence community to possibly have put the pieces together and thwarted 9/11. Ashcroft's attitude, at the very least, was a roadblock to doing so. The fact that the Phoenix memo did not reach Ashcroft's desk doesn't change the fact that it should have.

But Ashcroft didn't want to hear about it.

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