Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, May 24, 2004  

Frank Rich had a nice piece in the Times yesterday about Farenheit 911. Forget Moore's grandstanding about Disney. (Or not. Personally, I found it pretty amusing. When PT Barnum stands up in a crowded theater and shouts "fire," you better look to see if he's grinning or not before you join the stampede to the door.) Forget even the Palm d'Or (which probably was more than a little payback for Freedom Fries). Rich talks about the movie. For the GOP, that's the real problem.

Of course, Mr. Moore is being selective in what he chooses to include in his movie; he's a polemicist, not a journalist. But he implicitly raises the issue that much of what we've seen elsewhere during this war, often under the label of "news," has been just as subjectively edited. Perhaps the most damning sequence in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the one showing American troops as they ridicule hooded detainees in a holding pen near Samara, Iraq, in December 2003. A male soldier touches the erection of a prisoner lying on a stretcher underneath a blanket, an intimation of the sexual humiliations that were happening at Abu Ghraib at that same time. Besides adding further corroboration to Seymour Hersh's report that the top command has sanctioned a culture of abuse not confined to a single prison or a single company or seven guards, this video raises another question: why didn't we see any of this on American TV before "60 Minutes II"?

...Mr. Moore says he obtained his video from an independent foreign journalist embedded with the Americans. "We've had this footage in our possession for two months," he says. "I saw it before any of the Abu Ghraib news broke. I think it's pretty embarrassing that a guy like me with a high school education and with no training in journalism can do this. What the hell is going on here? It's pathetic."

This points to what has become the emerging central meme of the Bush failures--incompetence. Last night, that was the charge Anthony Zinni made on 60 Minutes. ("If I were the commander of a military organization that delivered this kind of performance to the president, I certainly would tender my resignation. I certainly would expect to be gone.") As more and more GOP politicians watch the horror unfold, they'll have a choice to make: back the White House and its absurd claims about why Iraq is a mess, or take the best excuse they've got--that the war was conducted by idealogically-driven incompetents. It appears that however well things may go after June 30 (and it's hard to imagine a positive scenario), in theaters, at least, things will still be looking pretty horrific.

posted by Jeff | 7:59 AM |
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