My favorite of the "Bush in 30 Seconds" finalists was Wake Up America. No matter how vile the Bush administration may be, half of the voters among us (give or take...) put him where he is today and then all but a handful of us went on to rally around him as he fanned our fears after 9/11 only to hook us on his ideology of self-ascribed providence and its attendant rights to omnipotence. It is no coincidence that this coincides nicely with a cherished, if mythic, aspect of our national pride - we are invincible because we deserve to be so. Reality check: we're neither.
What was it that caused 70% of us to think that there ever was a Saddam-Al Qaeda connection when there was neither any evidence of it nor was it prompted by specific information from Washington? Sure, Bush took advantage of this but we didn't need much convincing, much like the other reason for attacking Iraq. We justified our hostilities in Iraq by pointing to the three thousand of us whom "they" had killed. We either were ignorant or we didn't care that "they" were not the same people as the ones we were bombing but who can blame us? "They" all look the same, speak the same language and hate America in that part of the world. So, it could only be our benevolence and solemn resolve that made us defy and ridicule our allies and most of the world for not seeing the omniscient wisdom of our mission to deliver democracy to "them" through our bombs and guns.
It is telling that we are now going to see Fahrenheit 9/11 in throngs and getting duly agitated. Could Dubya be our next demon? We're apparently beginning to sour on our lofty mission and perhaps that Presidential smirk isn't as comforting anymore. Hypothetical exercise: What if we had deemed it our patriotic duty not to trust our leaders implicitly, particularly in a time of crisis? It's hard to swallow but this is something we can learn from others - the Spaniards voted their government out right after the train bombs in Madrid because they didn't want a government that lied to them. Of course, we're just vain enough to think that they did it to chicken out of our "alliance of the willing."
The most compelling parts of F9/11 are those in which Moore lets his subjects speak for themselves and I hope that that's what is drawing people in. Moore is otherwise a lazy documentarian here, heavy on polemics and light on argument. An infinitely better documentary is Control Room, which is about Al-Jazeera, the Iraq war and the American occupation that followed. Don't see it if all you want is to know the good guys from the bad guys so you know whom to identify with. I doubt that anyone will come away not being struck by Lt. Josh Rushing, the Marine PR guy. His painful realization is palpable as he discovers the complexity of the situation in which he must defend and promote his side. Well, he has been "reassigned" and forbidden to give interviews but he's precisely the kind of person who should be representing us in an environment where we have a deficit of goodwill. If I were King, I'd hold him up as an example of what we as a nation should be proud of.
At the beginning of Control Room, just before the American attack, Hassan Ibrahim, an Al-Jazeera journalist, is despondent in his amazement that the U.S. has managed to unite Arabs behind a despot. Later, exasperated as the war unfolds, as if holding on to a final hope, he says, "I have confidence in the American Constitution...only the United States can stop the United States...I have confidence in the American people."