I bit the bullet and fought the crowds last night to catch the movie at the cinema across the street from Lincoln Center. Here's my take:
Moore's film is essentially divided into two halves. The first half, which covers the stolen 2000 election through the invasion of Afghanistan, is riddled with spin, missed opportunities and odd or incorrect choices to emphasize. The second half, which focuses on the human cost here and abroad caused by the invasion of Iraq, is heartbreaking--I actually cried a few times--and watertight. Moore is at his finest when he points out that our poorest people, those who live in the worst neighborhoods and hold the shittiest jobs, give up their lives and limbs to fight to uphold the same society that oppresses them back home, and when he shows the impact that their sacrifice has upon them and theirs. Awesome.
One wonders, however, about why some things were mentioned and others weren't. On the 2000 election, Moore uses the essentially ceremonial Congressional joint session where black Congressmen tried to launch a protest about Florida rather than the true missed opportunity: the Electoral College, whose Florida electors were honorbound to cast their votes for Al Gore. Perhaps he felt that the American public was too ignorant to understand the legal nuances of our constitutional system?
As I wrote in my column this week, too much is made of the planeload of evacuated Saudis after 9/11, including members of the bin Laden family. A far more interesting question concerning 9/11 is, where was the US Air Force? Why had defense spending been gutted when it came to defense, while expanded to promote hostile actions overseas? Of course that could also be attributed to Clinton, which wouldn't have fit Moore's preconceived agenda.
For my money the most ethically dubious spin of the film concerns the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline deal. While talking about a meeting the Taliban held with Bush Administration officials in Texas in February 2001, he flashes a screen shot of a BBC website story about Unocal-led discussions with the US about the pipeline. Look fast or you'll miss it--I almost did--the date of the article is 1997. The narration implies that happened under Bush, but it didn't. The pipeline discussions began in 1995-6, were dropped after the 1998 bombings of the East African embassies and revived in 2001 under Bush. If anything, the facts are more damning than Moore makes them sound, for Bush revived a deal that Clinton had disowned after thoroughly explored. But Moore probably thought they were too complicated for the typical American moviegoer to understand.
There are other problems. Ties between the Bush families and the Saudis can be at least partly explained by the fact that the oil business is a small one; it shouldn't be surprising that Saudi and Texas oilmen would invest in one another's ventures or become friends. No-bid contracts with Halliburton to provide food to US troops in Iraq were bad enough--Moore mentions them--but Halliburton didn't even do the work they were paid for, having ripped off the taxpayers. He should have referenced that.
And it goes on.
So F911 isn't the definitive case-closed slam-dunk against the Bushie Imperium some have made it out to be. But it's a damned impressive achievement nonetheless. For those of us who follow cable news obsessively and read the UK Guardian website every morning, there isn't much here to learn. But for the vast majority of Americans who don't, this will be their first exposure to footage of an ersatz president who talks and looks like a total idiot, imagery of dead Iraqi children and U.S. troops who don't support Bush. It cherrypicks the best of the worst, bundles it all together and says: Look. Here's the state your country is in and here are the men who are responsible. F911's success is its success, natch—the mere fact that so many Republicans will see it, and possibly be forced to reconsider their support for their party standardbearer, makes it incredibly important.
Ted says: two thumbs up.