The Saudi Flights
Michael Moore: In the days following September 11th all commercial and private airline traffic was grounded.
Spokesman: The FAA has taken the action to close all of the airports in the United States.
Newscaster: Even grounding the president’s father, former President Bush on a flight forced to land in Milwaukee.
Newscaster: Thousands of travelers were stranded, among them Ricky Martin due to appear at tonight’s Latin Grammy Awards.
Michael Moore: Not even Ricky Martin could fly. But really, who wanted to fly? No one, except the bin Ladens.
[Song] We gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do.
Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) Senate Subcommittee on Aviation: We had some airplanes authorized at the highest levels of our government to fly to pick up Osama bin Laden’s family members and others from Saudi Arabia and transport them out of this country.
Michael Moore: It turns out that the White House approved planes to pick up the bin Ladens and numerous other Saudis. At least six private jets, and nearly two dozen commercial planes, carried the Saudis and the bin Ladens out of the U.S. after September 13th. In all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country.
Craig Unger, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: Osama’s always been portrayed as the bad apple, the black sheep in the family, and that they cut off all relationship with him in 1994. In fact, things are much more complicated than that.
Michael Moore: You mean Osama has had contact with other family members?
Craig Unger, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: That’s right. In the summer of 2001, just before 9/11, one of Osama’s sons got married in Afghanistan, and several family members showed up at the wedding.
Michael Moore: Bin Ladens?
Craig Unger, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: That’s right. So they’re not cut off completely. That’s really an exaggeration.
Larry King: We now welcome to Larry King Live — good to see him again — Prince Bandar, ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States.
Prince Bandar: We had about 24 members of bin Laden’s family, and…
Larry King: Here?
Prince Bandar: In America. Students and — His Majesty felt it’s not fair for those innocent people to be subjected to any harm. On the other hand, we understood the high emotions, so, with coordination with the FBI, we got them all out.
Michael Moore: This is retired FBI agent Jack Cloonan. Before 9/11, he was a senior agent on the joint FBI-CIA al Qaeda task force.
Jack Cloonan: I, as an investigator, would not want these people to have left. I think, in the case of the bin Laden family, I think it would have been prudent to hand the subpoenas out, have them come in, get on the record. You know, get on the record.
Michael Moore: That’s the proper procedure?
Jack Cloonan: Yeah. How many people were pulled off airlines after that coming into the country who were what? They were from the Middle East or they fit a very general picture.
Michael Moore: We held hundreds of people for weeks and months at a time.
Jack Cloonan: We held hundreds…
Michael Moore: Did the authorities do anything when the bin Ladens tried to leave the country?
Craig Unger, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: No. They were identified at the airport. They looked at their passports and they were identified.
Michael Moore: Well, that’s what would happen to you or I if we left the country.
Craig Unger, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: Exactly. Exactly.
Michael Moore: So, a little interview, check the passport. What else?
Craig Unger, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: Nothing.
Michael Moore: I don’t know about you, but usually when the police can’t find a murderer, don’t they usually wanna talk to the family members to find out where they think he might be?
Dragnet Cop 1: You have no idea where your husband might be?
Dragnet Cop 2: Well, if you hear anything, let us know, will you?
Dragnet Cop 1: Are you willing to come downtown and give us a statement?
Man: How long?
Cop: You’ve got the time.
Man: Mine’s worth money. Yours isn’t.
Cop: Send in a bill.
Man: I asked you a question.
Cop: You’re going to answer them, not ask them.
Man: Now you listen to me, Cop. I pay your salary.
Cop: Alright, now sit down. I’m gonna earn it.
Michael Moore: Yeah! That’s how cops do it. What was going on here?
Senator Byron Dorgan: I think we need to know a lot more about that. That needs to be the subject of a significant investigation. What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? And who authorized it?
Jack Cloonan, Senior FBI agent (retired), Al Qaeda Task Force: Imagine what those poor bastards were feeling when they were jumping out of that building to their death. Those young guys and cops and firemen that ran into that building never asked a question. And they’re dead. And families’ lives are ruined. And they’ll never have peace. And if I had to inconvenience a member of the bin Laden family with a subpoena or a grand jury, do you think I’d lose sleep over it? Not for a minute, Mike. No one would question it. It’s right. Not even the biggest civil libertarian.
Michael Moore: No one would question it —
Jack Cloonan, Senior FBI agent (retired) Al Qaeda Task Force: You know, you got a lawyer? Fine. Counsel? Fine. Mr. bin Laden, this is why I’m asking you. It isn’t because I think you’re anything. I just want to ask you the questions that I would anybody. And that’s all.
Michael Moore: None of this made any sense. Can you imagine in the days after the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing, President Clinton helped to arrange a trip out of the country for the McVeigh family? What do you think would have happened to Clinton if that had been revealed?
Witchburners: Burn him! Burn him!
Larry King: Prince Bandar, do you know the bin Laden family?
Prince Bandar: I do, very well.
Larry King: What are they like?
Prince Bandar: They’re really lovely human beings. He is the only one I never, I don’t know him well, but I met him only once.
Larry King: What was the circumstance under which you met him?
Prince Bandar: This is ironic. He came to thank me for my efforts to bring the Americans, our friends, to help us against the atheists, the Communists. Isn’t it ironic?
Larry King: He came to thank you for helping bring America to help him. And now he may be responsible for bombing America.
Prince Bandar: Absolutely.
Larry King: What did you make of him when you met him?
Prince Bandar: I was not impressed too much, to be honest with you.
Larry King: Not impressed?
Prince Bandar: No. I thought he was a simple and very quiet guy.
Michael Moore: Hmm. A simple and quiet guy, whose family just happened to have a business relationship with the family of George W. Bush. Is that what he was thinking about? Because if the public knew this, it wouldn’t look very good. Was he thinking, “You know, I need a big, black marker”?
Moore then tells us that, “In the days following September 11th, all commercial and private air line traffic was grounded” but that a group of Saudis, including Bin Laden family members staying in America, was permitted to fly out of the country. He then implies that something was wrong with these flights, that the people who departed were not properly interviewed by the FBI, and that this happened because the Saudis used their influence with the White House. He even has a former FBI agent (whom he admits was no longer in the FBI by the time of the attacks and so would have no direct knowledge of what happened) say that these people should have been interviewed.
But Moore’s assertions are all wrong. First of all, the flights carrying Bin Laden family members did not take place while other civilian flights were grounded, as Moore suggests. The one flight that actually carried Bin Laden family members took place on September 20, a week after flight restrictions had been lifted. Flights carrying other Saudis also occurred on or after September 13, when flying was no longer restricted. Also, all the Saudis who left the country on the flights Moore mentions were in fact thoroughly interviewed by the FBI before leaving. And finally, the flights were approved personally (and exclusively) by White House counterterrorism head Richard Clarke, whom Moore later cites with approval as an authority.
The 9/11 Commission Report makes short shrift of all of Moore’s accusations, stating that the commission “found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001. To the contrary, every flight we have identified occurred after national airspace reopened.” It states further that there was “no evidence of political intervention” to permit the flights, and finally observes that, “the FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to their departures. They concluded that none of the passengers was connected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change that conclusion. Our own independent review of the Saudi nationals involved confirms that no one with known links to terrorism departed on these flights” (http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf, pp. 329-30; also see pp. 556-558). In response to this, a spokeswoman for Moore told the Washington Post that “Moore did not intend to suggest that the Bin Ladens flew away while civilian flights were grounded”—which is preposterous given what is plainly said in the film, and also fails to address all of the film’s other false claims on this issue (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10070-2004Jul23.html).
Moore is guilty of a classic game of saying one thing and implying another when he describes how members of the Saudi elite were flown out of the United States shortly after 9/11.If you listen only to what Moore says during this segment of the movie—and take careful notes in the dark—you’ll find he’s got his facts right. He and others in the film state that 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country after Sept. 13.
The date—Sept. 13—is crucial because that is when a national ban on air traffic, for security purposes, was eased
But nonetheless, many viewers will leave the movie theater with the impression that the Saudis, thanks to special treatment from the White House, were permitted to fly away when all other planes were still grounded. This false impression is created by Moore’s failure, when mentioning Sept. 13, to emphasize that the ban on flights had been eased by then. The false impression is further pushed when Moore shows the singer Ricky Martin walking around an airport and says, “Not even Ricky Martin would fly. But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens.”
But the movie fails to mention that the FBI interviewed about 30 of the Saudis before they left. And the independent 9/11 commission has reported that “each of the flights we have studied was investigated by the FBI and dealt with in a professional manner prior to its departure.”
McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times. (Note: The Sun-Times article was correct in its characterization of the Ricky Martin segment, but not precisely accurate in the exact words used in the film. I have substituted the exact quote. On September 13, U.S. airspace was re-opened for a small number of flights; charter flights were allowed, and the airlines were allowed to move their planes to new airports to start carrying passengers on September 14.)
Tapper: [Y]our film showcases former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, using him as a critic of the Bush administration. Yet in another part of the film, one that appears in your previews, you criticize members of the Bush administration for permitting members of the bin Laden family to fly out of the country almost immediately after 9/11. What the film does not mention is that Richard Clarke says that he OK’d those flights. Is it fair to not mention that?
Moore: Actually I do, I put up The New York Times article and it’s blown up 40 foot on the screen, you can see Richard Clarke’s name right there saying that he approved the flights based on the information the FBI gave him. It’s right there, right up on the screen. I don’t agree with Clarke on this point. Just because I think he’s good on a lot of things doesn’t mean I agree with him on everything.
Jake Tapper interview with Michael Moore, ABC News, June 25, 2004. In an Associated Press interview, Clarke said that he agreed with much of what Moore had to say, but that the Saudi flight material was a mistake. Clarke testified to the September 11 Commission, on September 3, 2003, that letting the Saudis go “was a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House.” It’s possible to read Clarke’s 2003 statement as consistent with his 2004 statements; if you believe that what Clarke is saying now contradicts what he said in 2003, then Clarke is a liar, and all other claims he makes in Fahrenheit are discredited. Although he really did not make those claims for Fahrenheit; according to National Public Radio:
“I think Moore’s making a mountain of a molehill,” he said. Moreover, said Mr. Clarke, “He never interviewed me.” Instead, Mr. Moore had simply lifted a clip from an ABC interview.
Fahrenehit includes a brief shot of a Sept. 4, 2003, New York Times article headlined “White House Approved Departures of Saudis after Sept. 11, Ex-Aide Says.” The camera pans over the article far too quickly for any ordinary viewer to spot and read the words in which Clarke states that he approved the flights.
Like Clarke, most of the political figures in Fahrenheit 9/11 were not filmed by Moore; he used footage which had been shot by news organizations. The Internet Movie Database lists 40 public figures in the “cast” of Fahrenheit; of these, 37 are listed as from “archival footage.”
Some Saudis left the U.S. by charter flight on September 14, a day when commercial flights had resumed, but when ordinary charter planes were still grounded. When did the bin Ladens actually leave? Not until the next week, as the the 9/11 Commission staff report explains:
Fearing reprisals against Saudi nationals, the Saudi government asked for help in getting some of its citizens out of the country….we have found that the request came to the attention of Richard Clarke and that each of the flights we have studied was investigated by the FBI and dealt with in a professional manner prior to its departure.
No commercial planes, including chartered flights, were permitted to fly into, out of, or within the United States until September 13, 2001. After the airspace reopened, six chartered flights with 142 people, mostly Saudi Arabian nationals, departed from the United States between September 14 and 24. One flight, the so-called Bin Ladin flight, departed the United States on September 20 with 26 passengers, most of them relatives of Usama Bin Ladin. We have found no credible evidence that any chartered flights of Saudi Arabian nationals departed the United States before the reopening of national airspace.
The Saudi flights were screened by law enforcement officials, primarily the FBI, to ensure that people on these flights did not pose a threat to national security, and that nobody of interest to the FBI with regard to the 9/11 investigation was allowed to leave the country. Thirty of the 142 people on these flights were interviewed by the FBI, including 22 of the 26 people (23 passengers and 3 private security guards) on the Bin Ladin flight. Many were asked detailed questions. None of the passengers stated that they had any recent contact with Usama Bin Ladin or knew anything about terrorist activity.
The FBI checked a variety of databases for information on the Bin Ladin flight passengers and searched the aircraft. It is unclear whether the TIPOFF terrorist watchlist was checked. At our request, the Terrorist Screening Center has rechecked the names of individuals on the flight manifests of these six Saudi flights against the current TIPOFF watchlist. There are no matches.
The FBI has concluded that nobody was allowed to depart on these six flights who the FBI wanted to interview in connection with the 9/11 attacks, or who the FBI later concluded had any involvement in those attacks. To date, we have uncovered no evidence to contradict this conclusion.
The final Commission Report confirms that Clarke was the highest-ranking official who made the decision to let the Saudis go, and that Clarke’s decision had no adverse effect on September 11 investigations. See pages 328-29 of the Report.
Finally, Moore’s line, “But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens,” happens to be a personal lie. Stranded in California on September 11, Michael Moore ended up driving home to New York City. On September 14, he wrote to his fans “Our daughter is fine, mostly frightened by my desire to fly home to her rather than drive.” Moore acceded to the wishes of his wife and daughter, and drove back to New York. It is pretty hypocritical for Moore to slam the Saudis (who had very legitimate fears of being attacked by angry people) just because they wanted to fly home, at the same time when Moore himself wanted to fly home.
“In a long and paranoid (and tedious) section at the opening of the film” liberal columnist Christopher Hitchens says Moore “makes heavy innuendoes about the flights that took members of the Bin Laden family out of the country after Sept. 11″. As Hitchens notes in a recent article, he too had a problem with this, but changed his position when the facts came out. So why didn’t Moore? From Hitchens:
I banged on about this myself at the time and wrote a Nation column drawing attention to the groveling Larry King interview with the insufferable Prince Bandar, which Moore excerpts. However, recent developments have not been kind to our Mike. In the interval between Moore’s triumph at Cannes and the release of the film in the United States, the 9/11 commission has found nothing to complain of in the timing or arrangement of the flights.
Moore interviews former White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke, who, as Newsmax noted, served as a principal source for Fahrenheit 9/11. However, Clarke has gone on record saying that the central premise of Moore’s film is “a mistake.” From Newsmax:
In an interview with the Associated Press, Clarke took issue with Moore’s criticism that President Bush allowed prominent Saudis, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, to fly out of the U.S. in the days after the 9/11 attacks.
Saying Moore’s version of the episode has provoked “a tempest in a tea pot,” Clarke called his decision to make the bin Laden family flyout a big part of the film’s indictment against Bush “a mistake.”
Note the word “HIS”. Not president Bush’s decision…Richard Clarke’s (a published Bush critic) decision. Once again, Moore’s own source proves him wrong.
“After 9/11, I think the Saudis were perfectly justified … in fearing the possibility of vigilantism against Saudis in this country. When they asked to evacuate their citizens … I thought it was a perfectly normal request,” he explained.
In May, Clarke confessed that he, and he alone made the decision to approve the flyouts.
A desperate Moore-fan has to really scramble over this one yet again to find some excuse for Moore to somehow not be lying here. But Clarke leave no room for honest mistake here.
“It didn’t get any higher than me,” he told The Hill newspaper. “On 9/11, 9/12 and 9/13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI.”
STILL want to give Moore a free pass for missing Clarke’s confession in May and still brush this off as an honest mistake that Moore spends a large chunk of time on in his movie? Not a smart move if you want to keep from looking foolish.
Clarke told the 9/11 Commission the same thing in March, after first detailing the episode for Vanity Fair magazine last August – leaving plenty of time for Moore to adjust his film to the facts as recounted by his primary source.
And back to Hitchens:
This might not matter so much to the ethos of Fahrenheit 9/11, except that—as you might expect—Clarke is presented throughout as the brow-furrowed ethical hero of the entire post-9/11 moment. And it does not seem very likely that, in his open admission about the Bin Laden family evacuation, Clarke is taking a fall, or a spear in the chest, for the Bush administration. So, that’s another bust for this windy and bloated cinematic “key to all mythologies.”
But this entire criticism has a huge gaping damming hole in its logic, as if we are to believe Moore’s argument that Bush is in an unseemly partnership with the Saudi’s, why then didn’t they join “the Coalition of the Willing”? Hitchens asks:
Why instead did they force the United States to switch its regional military headquarters to Qatar? If the Bush family and the al-Saud dynasty live in each other’s pockets, as is alleged in a sort of vulgar sub-Brechtian scene with Arab headdresses replacing top hats, then how come the most reactionary regime in the region has been powerless to stop Bush from demolishing its clone in Kabul and its buffer regime in Baghdad?
Logic and historical fact crush Moore’s argument to pieces, but Moore’s appeal is never with facts or logic, but rather emotion, and thus the audience is tempted to go along with his leaps of believability due to their presentation. The truth is much different:
The Saudis hate, as they did in 1991, the idea that Iraq’s recuperated oil industry might challenge their near-monopoly. They fear the liberation of the Shiite Muslims they so despise. To make these elementary points is to collapse the whole pathetic edifice of the film’s “theory.” Perhaps Moore prefers the pro-Saudi Kissinger/Scowcroft plan for the Middle East, where stability trumps every other consideration and where one dare not upset the local house of cards, or killing-field of Kurds? This would be a strange position for a purported radical. Then again, perhaps he does not take this conservative line because his real pitch is not to any audience member with a serious interest in foreign policy. It is to the provincial isolationist.
Spinsanity slices at another angle:
In another scene, Moore suggests that members of Osama Bin Laden’s family and other Saudis were able to fly out of the country while air traffic was grounded after September 11. After an initial report in Newsweek inaccurately characterized the scene, saying it had made a direct claim to that effect, Moore’s staff replied with a legalistic parsing. The film does accurately date the Saudi flights out of the country to “after September 13″ as they claim (flights leaving the country resumed on the 14th), but Moore does not take the important step of explaining the meaning of this date in the film:
Moore: In the days following September 11, all commercial and private airline traffic was grounded… Not even Ricky Martin could fly. But really, who wanted to fly? No one, except the Bin Ladens.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND): We had some airplanes authorized at the highest levels of our government to fly to pick up Osama Bin Laden’s family members and others from Saudi Arabia and transport them out of this country.
Moore: It turns out that the White House approved planes to pick up the Bin Ladens and numerous other Saudis. At least six private jets and nearly two dozen commercial planes carried the Saudis and the Bin Ladens out of the US after September 13th. In all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country.
Given that Moore states that “In the days following September 11, all commercial and private airline traffic was grounded,” how are viewers to know that this description did not include the Saudi flights out of the country? The “after September 13th” clause may show that Moore’s claim was technically accurate, but it leaves viewers with the distinct impression that the Bin Ladens left the country before others were allowed to.
6. The flight of the bin Ladens. Moore makes this a major theme; supposedly the bin Ladens and Saudis pulled strings with the President, and were flown out of the country during the no-fly period right after 9/11.
The 9/11 Commission Report takes Moore to pieces on this. (pp. 329-330):
“First, we found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopenning of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001. To the contrary, every flight we have identified occurred after national airspace reopened.
Second, we found no evidence of any political intervention. (Discussion of how decision was made by Richard Clarke in coordination with the FBI).
Third, we believe that the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals who left the United States on charter flights. (discussion of the screening). The FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to their departures. They concluded that none of the passengers was connected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change that conclusion.”
Clarke (portrayed by Moore as a hero) confirms this. He told The Hill: “I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again.” “It didn’t get any higher than me,” he said. “On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI.”
As to style:
There is no question as to one thing. Moore is simply the most brilliant propagandist who has ever lived. Bar none. This may be due to the inept competition (the field is dominated by government-types, often totalitarian, and those are callings that do not encourage brilliance and art), but it is still a distinction.
I try here to use “propaganda,” not as a pejorative, but as a neutral description of a field of human endeavor. Unless we understand its techniques, we cannot understand how Moore stands out. Let’s take a look at some principles of state-of-the-art propaganda.
1. The spokesman must never quite say that which is provably false, but must create false impressions indirectly.
I cannot think of any communicator who approaches Moore’s skills at this aspect of the propagandist’s art. Moore knows how to juxtapose footage and statements in a way that leaves the viewer with the belief that X is true, without Moore ever quite saying X. If someone then demonstrates that X is false, Moore has the “out” that he never really said that.
Classic example: in F 9/11, Moore has a sequence on the flights of the Saudis out of the US. He states that everyone was grounded right after 9/11, but then who would want to fly — except the bin Ladens. Cut to an aircraft zooming away, and Moore discussing how chartered planes were used to round up Saudis, including some bin Laden family members. Cut to former FBI agent discussing how the FBI should have been allowed to interview them first.
Viewers naturally conclude that the Saudis were sent out of the US while everyone else was grounded, and the FBI was prevented from interviewing them. But Moore didn’t really say that. And thus when confronted with the 9/11 Commission Report, which concluded that the Saudis were NOT flown out during the ban on flying, and that the FBI had opportunity to interview all of them it wanted to, Moore had his out. The Washington Post reported, “Joanne Doroshow, an associate producer of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” said Moore did not intend to suggest that the bin Ladens flew away while civilian flights were grounded.” Yeah, sure.
From CNSNews.com: When Bush-Bashers Collide? Moore’s Film at Odds with Clarke Remarks:
One of the central charges made by left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore in his upcoming, Bush-bashing film is being undermined by another critic of the president — former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke.
Moore’s upcoming film, Fahrenheit 911, points to President Bush’s rumored relationship with Saudi officials as the motivating factor in the president allegedly allowing relatives of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden to fly out of the country following the Sept.11, 2001 terror attacks.
But Clarke recently admitted that he alone approved the exit of the bin Laden kin — damaging the key premise of Moore’s film.
Chris Horner, a GOP strategist, finds irony in the fact that the credibility of Moore’s film is being undermined by one of Bush’s biggest critics even before the film is released in the United States.
“When self-promoting, Bush-hating conspiracy theorists collide,” Horner said of Moore and Clarke.
“One self-promoting, Bush-hating conspiracy theorist (Clarke) proves the undoing of another Bush-hating conspiracy theorist (Moore),” Horner told CNSNews.com.
Moore has alleged in interviews promoting the film that Bush and his father, former president George H.W. Bush, had close ties to the Saudis, which led to the decision to help bin Laden’s family leave the country following the terrorist attacks.
Clarke’s sworn testimony before the 9/11 Commission in March, describing how the FBI approved the flights for the bin Ladens and other Saudis to leave the U.S., may have strengthened that premise. But Clarke’s interview with The Hill newspaper, published on May 26, contradicted that previous testimony.
The decision to approve the flights, Clarke admitted last week, had been his own. The request “didn’t get any higher than me,” he told The Hill .
“On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI,” Clarke said of the plane flight carrying bin Laden’s relatives.
“I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again,” he added. The Saudis and bin Laden’s relatives were flown from the U.S. out of fear for their safety following the terror attacks.
Clarke turned against the Bush administration and became a darling of the left earlier this year when he criticized the government’s anti-terror policies. His book Against All Enemies : Inside America’s War on Terror , detailed his frustrations working in the administration, and news clips of Clarke appear in Moore’s documentary, according to film critics who have screened the movie.
But Moore’s film relies in part on Clarke’s original comments, the ones he has now contradicted.
According to a movie review by the BBC, one of the film’s “chief accusations is Bush allowed planes to pick up 24 members of the bin Laden family and fly them out of the U.S. in the days following the attacks – when all other aircraft were grounded.”
The BBC review states that the movie explores “the relationships between the Bush and bin Laden dynasties.”
Fahrenheit 911 received a 10-minute standing ovation and the top award at the Cannes Film Festival in France in May. It is expected that the film will be released in the U.S. in July.
While promoting the documentary, Moore has not been shy in linking Bush’s alleged “relationship” with the bin Laden family to the flight that took the bin Ladens and other Saudis from the U.S. following Sept. 11, 2001.
“So here is Bush trying to deal with everything on Sept. 11, 12 13th, you know. You remember, everybody remembers the total state of chaos and people, just everyone, all of us, discombobulated by the whole thing, and he had the time to be thinking — what can I do to help the bin Ladens right now,” Moore told Pacifica radio last October.
“And all of these elaborate plans were made, because [the Saudis] were spread out throughout the country, to be able to pick them up, get them to Boston and then get them to Paris,” Moore said.
“While we are being told that the hunt is on for Osama bin Laden, what is really going on is when you got 24 bin Ladens here, (a disputed number) you know, none of them are asked for any kind of help. None of them are interrogated, and they are given the royal red carpet treatment in the days after September 11th. My question is why? What is really going on here?” Moore asked.
But Horner believes Moore’s film will eventually be discredited.
“In his rush to ensure that no credit goes un-annexed, Clarke exposes Moore’s rant as based on paranoia and the presumptions common among fever-swamp liberals that never survive the slightest encounter with facts,” he said.
Horner sees Clarke’s admission and its impact on the credibility of Fahrenheit 9/11 as just the latest setback for what he calls the “conspiratorial left” in the past year.
“First [former Democratic presidential candidate] Howard Dean implodes in a fury. Then Clarke bombs, and then the [Al] Franken/[Al] Gore political MoveOn-ment (MoveOn.org) lashes itself to the hilariously hapless [global warming disaster film] The Day After Tomorrow . And then there is the collective failure of [the liberal] Air America radio,” Horner explained.
“Now Moore’s movie’s premises are revealed to be nothing more than huffing liberal anger. Every weapon in the pacifist arsenal has proven, fittingly, a dud,” Horner charged.
With his 2004 release of Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore set himself the ambitious goal of terminating a presidency. No longer content to merely pad his bank account, Moore attempted to alter history. He brought to Fahrenheit all the editing skills he had honed in Bowling for Columbine. Like his previous efforts, Fahrenheit was a faux documentary, a party platter of false histories, invented memories and fabricated “facts.” Each time Moore is questioned about the misleading nature of his film-clip montages his puerile defense is that he is not responsible for the false conclusions of others, so it’s your fault if you were misled. Again and again he petulantly whines “I didn’t really say that” even though it’s obvious that his carefully crafted montages were designed to push the viewer toward a false conclusion. His childish hair-splitting defenses demonstrate his utter disrespect for his audiences. For example: In Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore asserts that military action against Saddam Hussein was unprovoked because Saddam had not “murdered” even a single American. When Moore was reminded that Saddam had sheltered Abu Nidal and other terrorists and that he had attempted to assassinate President H.W. Bush with a bomb, Moore childishly responded that he had said “murdered” not “killed,” as though this fine legalistic distinction somehow absolved him of all responsibility for the misleading nature of his narration. When Moore claims that his misleading montages are not really lies he is speaking in exactly the same spirit in which Bill Clinton claimed that the oral stimulation of his erect penis was not really sex. Every adult knows better and every adult knows a big phony when they hear one.
Moore’s endlessly repeated claim that he did not intend to mislead anyone is belied by the painstaking artfulness of his ideological celluloid tapestries. For example, Michael Moore used his editing skills to persuade his viewers that George Bush personally helped members of the bin Laden family scram out of America right after the September 11th attacks when all commercial air traffic was grounded. Moore finds a former FBI agent who will say on camera that the Bureau should have been allowed to interview the bin Ladens before they flew away. Moore splices in footage of singer Ricky Martin grounded in a congested airport terminal and adds the overdub, “Not even Ricky Martin would fly. But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens.”
The 9/11 Commission Staff Report states flatly that there were no exceptions to the no-fly ban. The FBI questioned everyone of interest; the bin Ladens were grounded for almost two weeks, like everyone else. When reporters sought an explanation from Michael Moore, this coward used an associate as a human shield: according to the Washington Post “Joanne Doroshow, an associate producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, said Moore did not intend to suggest that the bin Ladens flew away while civilian flights were grounded.” [Emphasis added]
In his book Dude, Where’s My Country? Michael Moore sets up this same slimeball lie with a carefully excerpted passage from the New York Times: “In the first days after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Saudi Arabia supervised the urgent evacuation of 24 members of Osama bin Laden’s extended family from the United States…” He relied on the intellectual laziness of his readers whom he could count on not to dig up the entire article. In the next paragraph the Times tells how the two planes carrying Saudi nationals were “caught up in the FBI dragnet” and “Both planes, one Jumbo jet carrying 100 family members, and the other 40, were eventually allowed to leave when airports reopened and passports were checked.” The planes didn’t depart America until September 22nd; not a single bin Laden left America before that date. Some bin Ladens may have been on domestic flights as early as the 13th. The authority who granted permission for their departure was Michael Moore’s favorite Bush critic, Richard Clarke. Mr. Clarke is on record as declaring; “I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again… It didn’t get any higher than me . . . On 9/11, 9/12 and 9/13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI.” (The Hill)
On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday (7/24/04) Clarke stated flat out: “I think Moore’s making a mountain of a molehill.” Moreover, said Mr. Clarke, “He never interviewed me.” Moore had once again lifted a clip from an ABC interview rather than risk getting answers that did not comport with his paranoid thesis. For purposes of smearing the president innuendo worked better than the truth.
The lie about the favoritism shown the bin Laden’s is a central pillar of Moore’s confused Fahrenheit thesis. Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report had to say on this subject:
“First we found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001. To the contrary, every flight we have identified occurred after national airspace reopened.
“Second, we found no evidence of any political intervention. [Here there is a discussion of Richard Clarke’s consultations with the FBI before making his decision.]
“Third, we believe that the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals who left the United States on charter flights. [Here there is a discussion of that screening process.] The FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to their departures. They concluded that none of the passengers was connected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change that conclusion.”
So, Michael Moore is just smearing our president so he can sell more tickets; rather than doing any honest investigating and reporting he scrapes up some former FBI guy who was totally out of the loop to offer his uninformed personal opinion. Moore’s witless followers can only bob their empty heads in agreement.
Now compare the truth of the 9/11 Commission Report with the lying jabber of Michael Moore:
“[W]hile thousands were stranded and could not fly, if you could prove you were a close relative of the biggest mass-murderer in U.S. history, you get a free trip to gay Paree!” and “A frightened nation struggled to get through those days after September 11. Yet, in the sky above us, the bin Ladens and Saudi royals jetted home. I think we deserve an explanation.” (Dude, Where’s My Country?)
Later, Moore would embellish this fantasy: “Bush said: No you’re not to interrogate any of the bin Ladens. They get a free pass out of the country. 280 million Americans, and the only people who flew on those three days were people named bin Laden.” (Playboy 2/02) This is slander, plain and simple.
Reviewers Who Fell For the Deceptions:
Arab businessmen, including many Bin Laden family members, were flown out of the country shortly after the attacks–while every other flight was still grounded. What are the implications?
The catalogue of offences that Moore emphasizes in the film are almost too numerous to mention. Here are some of the more frustration-inducing tidbits: […]
4. Right after September 11, when seemingly no flights in North America are granted lift-off (even ones including former President George H. Bush, Dubya’s dad) the White House helped expedite flights of Bin Laden family members back to their home country, no questions asked.
The most eye-opening, and likely the most controversial piece has to do with the Bush family’s connection to the Saudi Arabian oil tycoons. The controversy begins with the accusation that in the days following 9/11, when all airline flights across the country were grounded, hundreds of Saudi nationals were flown back to their country, including several members of the Bin Laden family.
A Republican with well seeded connections stole a presidency. The Bush family and their close circle have close ties to the Saudis and oil interests. George W. Bush was a lousy businessman before becoming president. The Bin Laden family was rushed out of the country after 9/11. […] All of these things should be known by now to the American public, but filmmaker Michael Moore presents them with a magician’s flourish in his anti-Bush screed, “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Moore provides heavy documentation of the long-standing personal and commercial relationships between the Bush and bin Laden families. The evacuation of members of the bin Laden family and other Saudi elites from the US immediately after 9-11, when all commerical air flights had been grounded, is also discussed.
On August 6, 2001, it was reported that Osama Bin Laden planned to attack the United States, yet Bush did nothing to prevent the attacks. Indeed, after the attacks, when the country was shut down with no airplane flights, somehow eight planes filled with Saudis and Bin Ladens were allowed to leave the country, without investigation and without consequence.
Media Fund Radio Ad:
Announcer: After nearly 3,000 Americans were killed, while our nation was mourning the dead and the wounded, the Saudi royal family was making a special request of the Bush White House. As a result, nearly two dozen of Osama bin Laden’s family members were rounded up…
Not to be arrested or detained, but to be taken to an airport, where a chartered jet was waiting…to return them to their country. They could have helped us find Osama bin Laden. Instead the Bush White House had Osama’s family flown home, on a private jet, in the dead of night, when most other air traffic was grounded.
We don’t know whether Osama’s family members would have told us where bin Laden was hiding. But thanks to the Bush White House…we’ll never find out.
Clarke claims responsibility
Ex-counterterrorism czar approved post-9-11 flights for bin Laden family
Richard Clarke, who served as President Bush’s chief of counterterrorism, has claimed sole responsibility for approving flights of Saudi Arabian citizens, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, from the United States immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In an interview with The Hill yesterday, Clarke said, “I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again.”
Most of the 26 passengers aboard one flight, which departed from the United States on Sept. 20, 2001, were relatives of Osama bin Laden, whom intelligence officials blamed for the attacks almost immediately after they happened.
Clarke’s claim of responsibility is likely to put an end to a brewing political controversy on Capitol Hill over who approved the controversial flights of members of the Saudi elite at a time when the administration was preparing to detain dozens of Muslim-Americans and people with Muslim backgrounds as material witnesses to the attacks.
Several Democrats say that at a closed-door meeting May 6, they pressed members of the commission investigating the attacks of Sept. 11 to find out who approved the flights.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who attended the meeting, said she asked former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) and former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, a Republican, “Who authorized the flight[s] and why?”
“They said it’s been a part of their inquiry and they haven’t received satisfactory answers yet and they were pushing,” Boxer added.
Another Democrat who attended the meeting confirmed Boxer’s account and reported that Hamilton said: “We don’t know who authorized it. We’ve asked that question 50 times.”
Referring to questions about who authorized the flights, former Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.), one of the 10 members of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission, said in an interview Monday: “In my mind, this isn’t resolved right now. We need more clarity and information from the relevant political sources and FBI sources.”
But Clarke yesterday appeared to put an end to the mystery.
“It didn’t get any higher than me,” he said. “On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI.”
Clarke’s explanation fit with a new stance Hamilton has taken on the issue of the Saudi flights.
Hamilton said in an interview Friday that when he told Democratic senators that the commission did not know who authorized the Saudi flights, he was not fully informed.
“They asked the question ‘Who authorized the flight?’ and I said I did not know and I’d try to find out,” Hamilton said. “I learned subsequently from talking to the staff that we thought Clarke authorized the flight and it did not go higher.”
“I did not at any point say the White House was stalling,” Hamilton added. “They asked me who authorized it, and I said we didn’t know.”
Hamilton said, however, that “we asked the question of who authorized the flight many times to many people.”
“The FBI cleared the names [of the passengers on the flights] and Clarke’s CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] team cleared the departure,” Hamilton said.
He cautioned that this is “a story that could shift, and we still have this under review.”
This new account of the events seemed to contradict Clarke’s sworn testimony before the Sept. 11 commission at the end of March about who approved the flights.
“The request came to me, and I refused to approve it,” Clarke testified. “I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it or not. I spoke with the — at the time — No. 2 person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue. The FBI then approved … the flight.”
“That’s a little different than saying, ‘I claim sole responsibility for it now,’” Roemer said yesterday.
However, the FBI has denied approving the flight.
FBI spokeswoman Donna Spiser said, “We haven’t had anything to do with arranging and clearing the flights.”
“We did know who was on the flights and interviewed anyone we thought we needed to,” she said. “We didn’t interview 100 percent of the [passengers on the] flight. We didn’t think anyone on the flight was of investigative interest.”
When Roemer asked Clarke during the commission’s March hearing, “Who gave the final approval, then, to say, ‘Yes, you’re clear to go, it’s all right with the United States government,’” Clarke seemed to suggest it came from the White House.
“I believe after the FBI came back and said it was all right with them, we ran it through the decision process for all these decisions that we were making in those hours, which was the interagency Crisis Management Group on the video conference,” Clarke testified. “I was making or coordinating a lot of the decisions on 9-11 in the days immediately after. And I would love to be able to tell you who did it, who brought this proposal to me, but I don’t know. The two — since you press me, the two possibilities that are most likely are either the Department of State or the White House chief of staff’s office.”
Instead of putting the issue to rest, Clarke’s testimony fueled speculation among Democrats that someone higher up in the administration, perhaps White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, approved the flights.
“It couldn’t have come from Clarke. It should have come from someone further up the chain,” said a Democratic Senate aide who watched Clarke’s testimony.
Clarke’s testimony did not settle the issue for Roemer, either.
“It doesn’t seem that Richard Clarke had enough information to clear it,” Roemer said Monday.
“I just don’t think that the questions are resolved, and we need to dig deeper,” Roemer added. “Clarke sure didn’t seem to say that he was the final decisionmaker. I believe we need to continue to look for some more answers.”
Roemer said there are important policy issues to address, such as the need to develop a flight-departure control system.
Several Democrats on and off the Hill say that bin Laden’s family should have been detained as material witnesses to the attacks. They note that after the attacks, the Bush administration lowered the threshold for detaining potential witnesses. The Department of Justice is estimated to have detained more than 50 material witnesses since Sept. 11.
Clarke said yesterday that the furor over the flights of Saudi citizens is much ado about nothing.
“This is a tempest in a teapot,” he said, adding that, since the attacks, the FBI has never said that any of the passengers aboard the flight shouldn’t have been allowed to leave or were wanted for further investigation.
He said that many members of the bin Laden family had been subjects of FBI surveillance for years before the attacks and were well-known to law-enforcement officials.
“It’s very funny that people on the Hill are now trying to second-guess the FBI investigation.”
The Sept. 11 commission released a statement last month declaring that six chartered flights that evacuated close to 140 Saudi citizens were handled properly by the Bush administration.
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