Michael Moore Discusses Documentary

Michael Moore Calls Fahrenheit 9/11 a Valid, Alternate View

June 25, 2004

Michael Moore's political documentary Fahrenheit 9-11 is facing critics for its accusations about the Bush administration's reasons for invading Iraq. The filmmaker defends his film in an interview with ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper. The following are excerpts:

TAPPER: Well there are some questions about the substance of the film, and I would just like to give you the opportunity to respond to these questions. So they don't go unanswered.

To begin with your 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.

TAPPER: But the film, you don't as a narrator of the film, discuss Richard Clarke's involvement in that part of the decision to let bin Laden family members to fly out of the country.

MOORE: Because it was the FBI who ultimately gave the information to Richard Clarke, that's correct.

TAPPER: Discussing pre-war Iraq, your films shows many tranquil scenes of the country, kids flying kites, smiling Iraqis, but knowing what we do know about the brutality of Saddam's regime, which you do mention at one point in the film, are those pictures a fair representation of pre-war Iraq?

MOORE: They're a fair representation of the civilians that were killed by our bombs.

And I wanted to spend just 20 seconds so that the people in the United States could see what human beings look like in Iraq. Children flying kites, a kid getting his hair cut in a barber shop, a couple getting married — these were human beings.

And we bombed and we bombed in an indiscriminate manner and according to The New York Times two weeks ago 50 airstrikes, we were zero for 50 in hitting our targets and what we did hit were a lot of civilians. And that is what I show in this movie. The ABC News and the other networks did a very good job and have done a good job in showing what a brutal dictator Saddam Hussein was. But we rarely got to see images of everyday life in Iraq and I wanted to show that, just as one human being that thought that we should see these human beings and not have them dehumanized as statistics in a war.

TAPPER: But would it not be a more fair representation in your film to have also included some images of the brutality of Saddam's regime, the Kurds he gassed, the Iraqis he oppressed, the millions of Iraqis he killed?

MOORE: I do show Saddam Hussein shaking hands with Don Rumsfeld in 1983 back when he was our good friends and our ally. A Saddam Hussein that received nearly $4 billion in some form of aid from the United States during that time. We also supplied him with satellite photos of Iranian troop movements which he then used to gas Iranian troops. He was our good friend in the 1980s, Don Rumsfeld and others are well aware of that because they were involved in the Reagan administration. And that's what I show in my movie, things you haven't seen that much on the news.

TAPPER: Well, the picture of Rumsfeld shaking Saddam's hand is fairly well-known but …

MOORE: Oh no, the American people don't know that.

The American people are not that aware that Saddam Hussein was our ally, that we helped to create the Saddam Hussein that he became. See, this is our problem as Americans, we create these monsters like Osama bin Laden, we helped to fund his mujahadeen in the 1980s, we helped to train him and his troops in the 1980s to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan and then once the Soviets are gone Osama gets other ideas in his head and we're going "Whoa, what's he doing that for?" It's like, what, what were we doing funding a guy like that I the first place? We need to seriously examine this as Americans, why we back brutal dictators, like we did with Saddam Hussein, why we fund terrorists like we did with Osama bin Laden, these are legitimate questions to ask.

TAPPER: Is it not also legitimate to question whether, however, you are doing the same thing you're accusing the U.S. government of doing? You fault Saddam Hussein for being a brutal dictator back in the '80s when the United States was allied with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, yet when it comes to the part of the movie where you discuss going to war in Iraq in 2003, that's not a part of the movie you talk about how brutal Saddam Hussein was.

MOORE: Because people like you and this network and other networks over and over and over again told us that. Look, we all get it. We all know that. I'm just trying to present another side of the story. Why don't you think that's a good idea to have a filmmaker out there presenting a point of view and a side of the story that really wasn't well represented in our mainstream media?

TAPPER: You declare in the film that Hussein's regime had never killed an American …

MOORE: That isn't what I said. Quote the movie directly.

TAPPER: What is the quote exactly?

MOORE: "Murdered." The government of Iraq did not commit a premeditated murder on an American citizen. I'd like you to point out one.

TAPPER: If the government of Iraq permitted a terrorist named Abu Nidal who is certainly responsible for killing Americans to have Iraq as a safe haven; if Saddam Hussein funded suicide bombers in Israel who did kill Americans; if the Iraqi police — now this is not a murder but it's a plan to murder — to assassinate President Bush which at the time merited airstrikes from President Clinton once that plot was discovered; does that not belie your claim that the Iraqi government never murdered an American or never had a hand in murdering an American?

MOORE: No, because nothing you just said is proof that the Iraqi government ever murdered an American citizen. And I am still waiting for you to present that proof.

You're talking about, they provide safe haven for Abu Nidal after the committed these murders, uh, Iraq helps or supports suicide bombers in Israel. I mean the support, you remember the telethon that the Saudis were having? It's our allies, the Saudis, that have been providing help and aid to the suicide bombers in Israel. That's the story you should be covering. Why don't you cover that story? Why don't you cover it?

TAPPER: I've been told that's all the time we have. Thank you very much for this spirited debate, I appreciate your time, good luck with the movie — Michael Moore in New York.