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June 30, 2004
Even His Supporters Agree: Michael Moore Lies

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek reporters who regularly pen the magazine's Terror Watch column, reviews the major distortions of Michael Moore's new "documentary" Fahrenheit-9/11. Even though Isikoff and Hosenball express sympathy for Moore's efforts in building criticism of the Bush administration, they acknowledge that most of Moore's major criticisms are nothing but a tissue of lies. In a moment of journalistic understatement, the subtitle of their Newsweek article is "Some of the main points in Fahrenheit 9/11 really arent very fair at all".

To start, F-9/11 makes the extraordinary claim that the Saudis have given the Bush family over $1.4 billion since the early 1990s, effectively buying them off in a sweetheart deal with the Carlyle Group and defense contractor BDM. Moore took the information from a book written by Craig Unger that is often referenced (incompletely) by conspiracy theorists on the Left, and Moore obviously did little research beyond this point. As Terror Watch notes, the Bushes had no connections to Carlyle or BDM at the time the deal Moore discusses was completed:

Moore derives the $1.4 billion figure from journalist Craig Ungers book, House of Bush, House of Saud. Nearly 90 percent of that amount, $1.18 billion, comes from just one source: contracts in the early to mid-1990s that the Saudi Arabian government awarded to a U.S. defense contractor, BDM, for training the countrys military and National Guard. Whats the significance of BDM? The firm at the time was owned by the Carlyle Group, the powerhouse private-equity firm whose Asian-affiliate advisory board has included the presidents father, George H.W. Bush.

Leave aside the tenuous six-degrees-of-separation nature of this connection. The main problem with this figure, according to Carlyle spokesman Chris Ullman, is that former president Bush didnt join the Carlyle advisory board until April, 1998five months after Carlyle had already sold BDM to another defense firm. True enough, the former president was paid for one speech to Carlyle and then made an overseas trip on the firms behalf the previous fall, right around the time BDM was sold. But Ullman insists any link between the former presidents relations with Carlyle and the Saudi contracts to BDM that were awarded years earlier is entirely bogus. The figure is inaccurate and misleading, said Ullman. The movie clearly implies that the Saudis gave $1.4 billion to the Bushes and their friends. But most of it went to a Carlyle Group company before Bush even joined the firm. Bush had nothing to do with BDM.

Moore's "war room", a group of paid consultants Moore uses to answer media challenges (some would say that they exist to intimidate legitimate criticism by Moore's open threat of legal action), shoots back that Bush served on the board of another Carlyle firm during that period of time and that Bush cronies James Baker and Richard Darman were principals with BDM as well. All true, Isikoff and Hosenball admit, but fatally out of context:

Like many similar entities, Carlyle boasts a roster of bipartisan Washington power figures. Its founding and still managing partner is Howard Rubenstein, a former top domestic policy advisor to Jimmy Carter. Among the firms senior advisors is Thomas Mack McLarty, Bill Clintons former White House chief of staff, and Arthur Levitt, Clintons former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of its other managing partners is William Cannard, Clintons chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Spokesman Ullman was the Clinton-era spokesman for the SEC.

As for the presidents own Carlyle link, his service on the Carterair board ended when he quit to run for Texas governora few months before the first of the Saudi contracts to the unrelated BDM firm was awarded. Moreover, says Ullman, Bush didnt invest in the [Carterair] deal and he didnt profit from it. (The firm was a big money loser and was even cited by the campaign of Ann Richards, Bushs 1994 gubernatorial opponent, as evidence of what a lousy businessman he was.)

In fact, as Newsweek points out, once Bush was in office, his only action on any Carlyle-connected issue was to cancel the Crusader rocket artillery system in order to fulfill a campaign promise to convert the Army into a lighter, more mobile and responsive fighting force. Far from being in thrall to the Saudis, the Bushes (especially 43) have little connection at all to them. In fact, in reviewing their policy towards the Saudis and the royal family, it is merely the continuance of supporting their stability in return for the freer flow of oil -- which the American government has done for decades.

Ask yourself this: if the Saudis had Bush under their thumb, why would they have allowed him to attack Iraq, or even the Taliban? American armed intervention has destabilized the region to a greater degree than they have seen since the initial establishment of Israel, and al-Qaeda have been targeting the Saudi royal family ever since the first Gulf War because of their alliance with Washington. The increased instability does nothing to help the Saudis, and it forces them to reform where they would far prefer to maintain the status quo ante.

Instead of Bush controlling the Saudis, it's fairly obvious that the Saudis depend on American security and American markets to maintain their lifestyle, and have been forced to adapt to policies they otherwise would oppose. Chief among these is the public toleration of Israel. In private, and in their mosques, they preach quite a different sermon, which is another problem altogether. If the Saudis held the upper hand, they simply could change America's foreign policy with a call to the White House, or failing that, by embargoing the US. Why don't they? Because the US could find other resources, including domestic, to replace the supply, and the Saudis would suffer far more economic damage than we would in the long run.

Also, a number of people in the region lust after their oil resources, and while their security services might be enough to keep the peace domestically, their armed forces could not possibly stand up to a sustained attack. And it's not just the natural resources at question. The Saudis guard the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, which would certainly be considered prizes beyond measure for Sunni and Shi'ite fanatics. Saddam himself was a pan-Arabist who dreamed of ruling a united Arabia comprising all of the territories in Southwest Asia, and the Sauds know that dream was not limited to Saddam alone.

Without the Saudis pulling the strings, Moore's bloviating conspiracy theories fall apart. Read the entire article; Newsweek does a good job of deconstructing the most lunatic of Moore's fantasies, including the Ted Rall-inspired rant about the Taliban and the Afghani oil pipeline.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 30, 2004 9:16 PM

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Newsweek presents some pretty damning evidence of Michael Moore's deception.... But a cursory examination of the claim reveals some flaws in Moores arithmeticnot to mention his logic. Moore derives the $1.4 billion figure from journalist Craig Unger... [Read More]

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