“Fahrenheit 9/11” or “Farce and Hype 7-11”


The debut of Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11” juxtaposed with the turnover of power to the Iraqis by the coalition authority in Baghdad represent the reality and the fiction of the Iraq War. But which is which?

In less time than it takes to speed to the corner 7-11 and buy a chili-cheese dog and a six-pack, the coalition hastily and secretively handed over “full sovereignty” to Iraqi Prime Minister without the Iraqi people even knowing about it. In a 5-minute ceremony attended by only a few selected officials and journalists, held in the fortified U.S.-controlled green zone, kept secret from even the coalition authority’s senior staff and not shown on Iraqi television, the surprise “transfer of power” was accomplished two days ahead of schedule. U.S. policymakers were concerned that insurgent attacks timed to coincide with the scheduled date of the transfer would have spoiled the press coverage of the changeover. The timing, secrecy and intense security surrounding the ceremony are the best indicators of just how much the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated in the face of a worsening insurgency and how little control the United States and the new Iraqi government have over events in Iraq.

Nevertheless, in his relentless quest to put lipstick on a pig, President George W. Bush crowed that, “the Iraqi people have their country back.” Similarly, Paul Bremer, the outgoing proconsul, patted himself and his Bush administration employers on the back by bragging that there was “no question the liberation of Iraq was a great and noble thing.” Unfortunately, Iraqis are not feeling so liberated and have not been fooled by the faux handover of governance. There was no outburst of celebratory gunfire typical for joyous occasions in Iraq. Only a Bush administration in a convenience store-induced sugar coma could believe that the Iraqis could be so duped.

Under the new regime, the Iraqi people will see little difference in their day-to-day lives, except perhaps an increase in lawlessness, mayhem and death—as U.S. forces increasingly keep a low profile to reduce casualties before the upcoming American election. Ayad Alawi, the new Prime Minister, may be an Iraqi, but he is also a former CIA asset who was handpicked by the United States and who thus has no credibility among the Iraqi people. In addition, the Iraqi government will theoretically take control over prisoner Saddam, but he will remain effectively guarded by U.S. forces. Almost 140,000 U.S. troops and U.S. advisors implanted in the Iraq ministries will ensure that new Iraqi government’s policies don’t stray too far from the massive new U.S. embassy’s wishes. In fact, the symbolic transfer of power may merely end up a way for the Bush administration’s “defenders of freedom” to have the new Iraqi puppet government declare martial law so that they can keep their hands clean.

It is sad when art depicts reality more closely than one’s own government. Yes, Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11”is probably excessively partisan. But even less political citizens, who are trying to make heads or tails of their government’s bizarre entanglement in an Iraqi quagmire, should take the time to wade through that partisanship to appreciate key aspects of the film. The film allows the public to see how the Bush administration cynically manipulated the 9/11 crisis to build public support for invading a country that had nothing to do with that tragic and heinous attack. Unfortunately, the most important part of the movie shows actual grisly photos of wounded and dying Iraqis and U.S. forces and the grieving families of the dead. Americans are rarely allowed to see such jolting pictures on the main television networks. As a result, for most Americans, war has been sanitized into a glorious and patriotic videogame featuring cool high-tech weapons. That also seems to be the perspective of the senior Bush administration officials who were the architects of the war. Very few of them have seen the horror of war first-hand. Moore’s film brings home that reality in what was an invasion of a sovereign nation that never posed a real threat to the United States. Moore’s film should cause all Americans to share a Big Gulp over the unnecessary war in Iraq.

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.

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