Instead, he belabors the Bush family and administration's ties to the ruling Saudi family, stating evidence with mounting horror, yet offering no salient reasons why this evidence is significant. And he presents Iraq as an innocent victim of our strafing bombs, just a country of typical citizens like us. Moore's simplistic good-versus-evil constructions are no more insightful or helpful than Bush's. His sarcastic voiceovers feel as inappropriate in the context of such grievous events as Bush's golf game.

Fahrenheit 9/11 can be most generously understood as Moore's attempt to expose what hasn't been widely seen: U.S. citizens (even white males!) reported to the FBI for expressing dissent, the gap between what Homeland Security professes to do and the underfunded attempts by local authorities to do it, the disconnect between the administration's military aims and the small, vulnerable armies sent to accomplish them. Perhaps the film's most riveting footage is of minority U.S. representatives for Florida, protesting the voting rights abuses inflicted on their African American constituents in the 2000 election; their protests were not considered in Congress's vote to crown George president because no single senator would sign onto their testimony. (What would Wellstone do? Sit on his hands, apparently.)

Again, these truths flit by too rapidly to absorb. Fahrenheit 9/11's hodgepodge of unsustained narratives leaves it, like Bowling for Columbine, a great discussion starter, but not really a great movie. Yet, like that earlier film, it's powerful almost despite itself: because it shows people asking why things are as they are. I keep thinking of one young black man in the movie, speaking of a future in the military; politely, without heat, he wishes that he could enjoy the experience of college "without having the possibility of dying." Answer that, critics.

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