Honey, he trashed
By Chanakya Sen
A Review of
Dude, Where's My
Country? by Michael Moore
Michael Moore burst into world consciousness with the Oscar-winning
documentary film Bowling for Columbine (2002), a critical look at
the United States's violent gun culture and racism. Slipping into the
shoes of a political humorist, Moore then authored the record-selling
non-fiction book of that year, Stupid White Men, nailing American
woes to a narrow elite of exploitative conservative males. Carrying
forward in the same self-critical and satirical style, his latest book,
Dude, Where's My Country?, hinges on the seminal choice facing
the world's most powerful nation: will the 2004 presidential elections
return to power George W Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and
all their right-wing cronies, or does a fairer dispensation exist for
which Americans are wise enough to vote?
As behooves a quintessential Moore parody, the opening page features a
fictitious warning by Tom Ridge, Secretary of the United States
Department of Homeland Security. "If you have purchased this book we are
required to notify you per Section 29A of the USA Patriot Act that your
name has been entered into a database of potential suspects. It's too
late! You don't have any rights! You no longer exist!"
From the beginning, Moore touches on the September 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks on New York and Washington - the subject of his next movie -
writing in his introduction that they were used by Bush as a "convenient
cover, justification, for permanently altering our American way of
life". Moore repeats this theme throughout the book, going on to add
that Bush's "band of deceivers", as he dubs them, used the attacks as
the excuse for every wrongful act the American state has committed over
the past two years. "It is the manna from heaven the right has always
prayed for," (p 113) Moore writes.
And it doesn't stop there. Aiming to conceal unanswered puzzles, the
Bush administration stonewalled the special commission investigating the
September 11 attacks from collecting evidence. Within days of the twin
tower tragedies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation mysteriously
whisked Osama bin Laden's Saudi relatives to a "secret assembly point in
Texas", and thence out of the United States. Bush and his ex-president
father have known the bin Laden family since the late 1970s. A 5-percent
equity of Bush junior's first oil company, Arbusto, was owned by Osama's
brother, Salem bin Laden. The Carlyle Group, the US's largest defense
contractor, for which Bush senior acted as "consultant", received a
minimum of US$2 million from the same bin Laden family.
When the US Congress released its own investigation into the attacks on
September 11, Bush censored 28 pages that revealed a Saudi hand in the
attacks. "Like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia [would find bin Laden's arrest]
highly embarrassing, exposing his continuing relationship with
sympathetic members of the ruling elites and intelligence services of
both countries" (p 18). On September 15, 2001, Bush promised his friend
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador, to "hand over" al-Qaeda
operatives caught by the US. Affectionately known in the president's
circle as "Bandar Bush", the ambassador also succeeded in getting Bush
loyalist James Baker to represent the House of Saud in a lawsuit filed
by victims of the terror strikes.
On page 19 a perplexed Moore addresses Bush: "Why have you and your
father chosen to align yourselves with a country that is among the worst
and most brutal dictatorships in the world? Why are you so busy
protecting the Saudis when you should be protecting us?"
Later, Moore addresses the issue of protection in reference to Attorney
General John Ashcroft, who despite attacking several constitutional
rights after September 11, has since stuck his neck out to defend the
holy cow Second Amendment right to bear arms. Moore writes: "When it
comes to guns, rights count for something" (p 25). Such bogus rights, he
argues, must be juxtaposed with the fact that 94 percent of Americans
want federal safety regulations on the manufacture and use of all
But lets get back to Bush. As governor of Texas in 1997, Bush rolled out
the red carpet to the Taliban, who were negotiating Unocal's natural gas
pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. Just days before September 11,
2001, US administration officials again met with Taliban figures. As
soon as the war in Afghanistan had ended, Bush appointed a Unocal
consultant, Zalmay Khalilzad, as the new US ambassador to Kabul.
Afghanistan's American-installed president, Hamid Karzai, also has a
Unocal background. In logical succession, Afghanistan signed the $5
billion pipeline deal within weeks of the Taliban's fall. Moore chides
Bush for his hypocrisy: "Go straight for the oil and cut out the
bullshit about nation building or democracy" (p 125).
In the propaganda blitz before the Iraq war began, Bush proved the
aphorism that "if you tell a lie long enough and often enough, it
becomes the truth" (p 42). Though British claims that Iraq tried to buy
"yellow cake uranium" proved false, the White House kept the hoax alive,
showing documents that carried the signature of the non-existent Niger
foreign minister. The alleged aluminum tubes "discovery" that could have
lead to nuclear centrifuges under Iraq's former leader, Saddam Hussein,
was also negated after clarification by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA). Secretary of State Colin Powell's tall talk of
"intelligence" about Iraq's seven "mobile factories" and of biological
agents "enough to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets" also fell flat when
the occupying US forces found none. As one commander on the ground
admitted, "they're simply not there".
Along this line, Moore goes on to list all the chemical agents US
corporations sold to Iraq between 1985 and 1998. Delinquents include
American Type Culture Collection, Alcolac International,
Matrix-Churchill Corporation, Sullaire Corporation, Pure Aire and
Gorman-Rupp. While delivered toxins include Anthrax, Botulinum,
Capsulatum, Melitensis, Perfringens, Escherichia Coli - a cause of
food-borne illness, etc. In addition, American companies such as
Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Bechtel, Caterpillar, DuPont, Kodak and Hughes
Helicopter gave Iraq dual-use technologies for two decades. Many of
these companies happened to be campaign backers of Reagan and the both
Bushes. If Saddam was a devil, "the devil was actually our devil", cries
The evidence continues. Bush indulged in a "continuous loop of lying" by
insinuating a make-believe Saddam-bin Laden connection when it was known
that the al-Qaeda chief considered the Iraqi dictator an apostate. The
rhetoric of "freeing the people of Iraq" has also been punctured, as now
the US prepares to "give the country over to some rabid fundamentalist".
Accusing the French of being an "axis of weasels" was "done to distract
the American public from the real rats who were in Washington" (p 63).
While the so-called "coalition of the willing" was in reality the
"coalition of the coerced", with citizens of all the pro-war countries
opposing their governmental imprimaturs. Moore also reminds his readers
that in the US itself, a simple reality is often forgotten that before
the Iraq war began, a majority of Americans were against an invasion
without allied participation and UN approval.
Regarding action and death tolls in Iraq, Moore writes that Pentagon
sound bytes on Lockheed Martin rocket carriers and their "perfect
guidance systems" were pure shams, as a British-American research group
calculated civilian deaths during the Iraq war to be between 6,806 and
7,797. "When they kill civilians we call it terrorism. But we drop bombs
[and] then apologize [for] the collateral damage spill over" (p 124).
Thanks to the "Fox News effect", the supposedly liberal American media
covered up what Iraqi civilians went through during the bombing.
American television viewers were "25 times more likely to see a pro-war
US source than someone with an anti-war point of view".
Moore tries to make common sense mincemeat of the exaggerated terrorist
threat Bush has used as a pretext to curtail American freedoms. Even in
the fateful year 2001, "your chance as an American of dying in an act of
terrorism in this country was 1 in 100,000" (p 96). Mass psychosis and
irrational fear were indoctrinated by the US government for ulterior
ends. Neo-cons Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Crystal and Richard Perle had been
planning an endless war for long, and "to maintain an endless war, they
need endless fear" (p 103). The USA Patriot Act, Total Information
Awareness and Policy Analysis Market were some of the neo-con pet
projects ostensibly created to "protect" Americans. But if the neo-cons
had a genuine interest in protecting Americans, Moore asks, why did they
ignore the 19 percent increase in homelessness and hunger in the US from
2001 to 2002. "The war on terror," he writes, "should be a war on our
own dark impulses" (p 127).
After all, this terrorism was the red herring behind which "business
bandits" wrecked the US economy. Moore blames the seductive Horatio
Alger myth of rags-to-riches that prevented chief executive officers
from being punished for robbing millions of small savers from their life
earnings during the stock market boom (covered more empirically in
economist Joseph Stiglitz's new book, The Roaring Nineties). The
great "American Dream" was a "ruse concocted by the corporate
powers-that-be who never had any intention of letting you into their
club" (p 141). Those "Republicans never want to make their tent any
bigger so that there's room for you". (p 200)
Between 1999 and 2002, it was these corporate power and the ultra-rich
who knew the economic downturn was coming and quietly sold off their
stocks. Meanwhile, average investors were cajoled into staying the
course for the "long run". So "before you knew it, your money was gone,
gone, gone" (p 143). Some of the robber barons were George W Bush's
bosom buddies. Enron chairman Kenneth Lay, pet-named "Kenny Boy" by the
president, has given $736,800 to the Bushes since 1993 and allowed Bush
junior to use his corporate jet during the 1999 presidential campaign.
Lay was repaid by Bush by planting his appointees in the energy
department and by being allowed to draft the US "energy policy" that
unveiled its fangs at Kyoto. Thus it seems that "one of the greatest
corporate scandals in the history of the United States was committed by
one of the president's closest friends" (p 150).
Perhaps he was thinking of these friends when Bush proposed his most
recent $350 billion tax cut, which provides for "millionaires getting
back so many millions", but says absolutely nothing for poor, low-income
Americans. Those who paid 10-15 percent taxes still pay 10-15 percent.
Twelve million children whose parents made between $10,000 and $26,000 a
year have been excluded from Bush's so-called present to the wealthy.
Moore concludes by calling on the American people to overthrow the
Republican presidency this November. Democrats have "basically written
off 2004. They see little chance of defeating George W Bush" (p 204).
But if they can get women of all colors, as well as black men and
Hispanic men to vote against Bush, they would have a powerful winning
combination. Moore believes Americans are liberal at heart, and they are
ready for a female president or a black president. Television icon Oprah
Winfrey could beat Bush, Moore says. More realistically, Moore is
willing to back any Democratic candidate who is capable of ousting Bush.
However, nothing should be left to the Democrats who lost after winning
in 2000. "This election will require the active participation of all of
us to get out there and snatch our country back" (p 213).
Moore's rib-tickling, comedic call-to-action uses colloquial American
phrases and references that foreign readers might not easily vibe with,
but the case for Bush's removal is compelling and unarguable. If you're
an American unsure about who to vote for, or even if you will vote this
November, this savage comedy is especially packaged for you.
Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore (Warner Books, New
York, October 2003). ISBN: 0-446-69262-X; 249 pages. Price: US$24.95.