Picture happy families gathered at a wedding celebration. Picture children riding bikes, flying kites, joyfully gliding down a playground slide, and gleefully playing in the streets. Juxtapose to an enormous battleship in the dark of night exploding with fire as missiles launch to disrupt this joyous life. Flash forward to the scene of a father furiously swearing vengeance as he holds the charred remains of his dead baby, the scene symbolizing the horrific results of these missiles and the actions of the American soldier in Michael Moore’s dismal and deceitful portrayal. Moore would have all believe that Saddam’s Iraq was a kind of utopia that was forever crushed by the U.S. invasion of 2003.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a quintessential display of editorial engineering and gross misinterpretation. While Moore accuses America of lying about weapons of mass destruction, he, himself, utilizes weapons of mass manipulation to paint a dark and disgusting picture of Iraq and the U.S. troops who are sacrificing so much to bring freedom to a place long plagued by destruction and despotism.
Fahrenheit 9/11 viciously portrays the American soldier as sadistic, dangerously ignorant, and as individuals subject to the “ruling class.” Among the first images of the American soldier in the film is one of a soldier commenting on innocent civilian casualties saying, we “came in?and just shot anything that moved.” Others talked about being “pumped up” and described their experience as the “ultimate rush.” Another soldier described hooking a portable CD player up to the tank’s internal communications system and blasting their favorite song: “The roof is on fire let the mother fu–er burn!” This song was “the one [they] would listen to most” because it “symbolized Baghdad on fire.”
While soldiers speak casually and complacently about people dying, Moore shows images of destruction: children naked and flesh torn, women screaming, fires and charred bodies, people covered in blood, and “husbands carrying their dead wives.” All this while one soldier quips, “This is a lot more real and true than just a video game.” No kidding.
Moore goes on to portray the American soldier as a murmuring and backbiting dissident. “I don’t have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq,” remarks one angry young soldier. Another says, “If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I’d ask him for his resignation.” While flashing images similar to those from Abu Ghraib, one soldier wonders, “I’m not really sure why they hate us.”
In a particularly painful portion of the film, Moore sits with a family as a mother sobbingly reads her sons last words: “What in the world is wrong with George?He got us out here for nothing whatsoever?I really hope they do not re-elect that fool.” The father then remorsefully questions, “and for what, for what.” Juxtapose to images of HALLIBURTON.
Moore’s gross misinterpretation of the War in Iraq and of the American soldier is countered by the heroic efforts of Karl Zinsmeister, author of the new book Dawn Over Baghdad, an embedded reporter who spent three months with our troops in the thick of the action. Zinsmeister’s work greatly exceeds that of the typical international reporter who “stays in the green zone, watches the wires, and when something blows up they go out to the scene, gather info, and then go back to the 10th floor of their hotel.” With his backpack, camera, and body armor, Zinsmeister did what the soldiers did, and went where they went. Having actually been to Iraq allows Zinsmeister to provide a realistic perspective unavailable to Michael Moore, who has never been to Iraq.
Zinsmeister describes a situation in Iraq that requires far more than the soldier of Moore’s description. “Our military,” he says, “is not built on strong biceps and a knowledge of how to shoot, but on so much more: diplomacy, selflessness, and good will? our soldiers have things in their head and in their heart that makes them better, more successful.” Zinsmeister describes the war as a psychological fight, and not just a physical one, where the importance of making friends is vital to success. Intelligence, idealism, dedication, and the democratic process are “necessary to show decency to civilians in a democratic war.”
Zinsmeister attacks the idea that “our army is people who just couldn’t get a better job.” He calls this a “scandalous misrepresentation.” Modern warfare requires a much more capable soldier. The new fighting style is much lighter; speed, intelligence, decision making, snap judgments, and an ability to improvise on the fly are all necessary. You “have to have good people all over the pyramid.” Zinsmeister says that the individuals in the army possess a “variety of skills?and an enormous breadth of talent.”
In his book, Zinsmeister recalls many examples of soldiers that are far from Moore’s depiction. One soldier had just graduated from accounting school but chose to forego his career as a certified public accountant for a while to “do something that really mattered.” Zinsmeister denies the “false stories about problems with morale.” Contrary to Moore’s description, our soldiers know what they are fighting for. When leaving his wife and baby at the airport, one soldier hurried back to retrieve an ‘I Love NY’ t-shirt. He taped the shirt up on his wall “to remind him what he is fighting for.”
The soldiers are also fighting for Iraqi freedom. The first democratic vote in Fallujah required 50 armed U.S. soldiers to secure a building where “decent Iraqis could meet.” After risking their lives in one of the world’s most dangerous cities, so an “open vote” could take place, the soldiers were rewarded with a roadside bomb not two minutes after leaving the building. Though some see the reason for this sacrifice as miniscule while others denigrate it, the American soldier knows they are making a difference.