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Michael Moore vs. the Third World

By Bill King
web posted July 19, 2004

A few years ago Michael Moore wrote a book called Stupid White Men, whose title I always thought described him perfectly. Waiting in a long line last weekend to see Fahrenheit 9/11, I mentioned to my girlfriend that Moore would now be able to write one entitled very rich Stupid White Men. But even though I wasn't a fan beforehand, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer unbridled racism that Moore unleashed half way into his "documentary" about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

Moore has always tried to present himself as a muckraking champion of the underdog. And a big part of that has meant focusing on images of African-American poverty, and then repeatedly blaming the Republicans, the rich, and "stupid white men" in general for that poverty -- the latter two being groups from which Moore conveniently excludes himself. Fahrenheit 9/11 is no exception, and Moore does an utterly banal job of "revealing" that many US soldiers are young, poor and Black, as if the unfortunate fact that countries tend to fill their armies with their less privileged citizens were a white Republican (or even American!) invention.

In reality, though, Moore's concern has never been about the poor or people of colour. His main concern has been to use them when he needs them to score political points, and to show all the empathy of a "stupid white man" towards them when they don't fit neatly into whatever pre-packaged left wing point he's trying to make. Moore demonstrates this in the crassest way possible when, halfway through Fahrenheit 9/11, he scoffs at the "Coalition of the Willing" that has supported the US in the war in Iraq for not being made up exclusively of "major" countries.

In what can only be described as a truly shocking piece of cinema coming from a self-proclaimed "progressive" filmmaker, Moore snidely ridicules -- by means of an exaggerated voice-over together with old, ostensibly funny black-and-white footage of dark-skinned "savages" that could have come right out of a 1920's propaganda film for colonialism -- those countries in the coalition that he deems to be insignificant, such as Costa Rica, Palau, and Morocco. Now the last country wasn't even in the coalition, but was included along with the others because Moore thought he could get a cheap laugh out of further mocking yet another inconsequential third world country. And indeed he did.

So what kind of contribution have the "non-major" third-world countries actually made to the coalition forces in Iraq? It's not one that can be measured by their GDP's, world standing, or size of their military. But it can be measured by the actions of their troops, who have carried out their duty in a selfless manner to the benefit of their fellow soldiers, their home countries, and most important of all, to the Iraqi people.

Cpl. Samuel Toloza of El Salvador's Cuscatlan Battalion poses for a photograph in Najaf, Iraq, on May 1
Cpl. Samuel Toloza of El Salvador's Cuscatlan Battalion poses for a photograph in Najaf, Iraq, on May 1

Such is the case with El Salvador's Cuscatlan Battalion, whose 380 troops earned the respect of the US forces as well as those of the other coalition countries, not to mention praise from US Secretary of State Colin Powell and members of the former Coalition Provisional Authority. Here's some of what they did to earn the admiration. On March 5th, they repelled an attack by insurgents on a CPA convoy outside of Najaf. The CPA diplomat in the convoy, Phillip Kosnett, called the Salvadorans "the bravest and most professional troops I've ever worked with". Kosnett later nominated six Salvadoran soldiers for the US Army's Bronze Star medals. And on April 4, during the height of Moqtada al-Sadr's uprising, outnumbered Salvadoran soldiers in Najaf helped fight off an attack by al-Sadr's thugs on an Iraqi police station and hospital. According to AP reports, the "El Sals" held their fire for half an hour so as not to hit civilians, even while under fire and taking casualties themselves.

This is just one small example of the contribution that small, "unimportant" countries from the third world have made to the coalition that helped the Iraqi people overthrow tyranny and that today continues to help them fight terror. But Moore wouldn't have wanted to mention that sort of thing in his manipulative and dishonest Fahrenheit 9/11. Besides, this "man of the people" is too busy to care about poor, non-white soldiers from the third world risking their lives. He's too busy telling people in other countries who to vote for and raking in the profits from his latest venture -- just like, as Moore would say, a rich, stupid, and racist white man would.

Bill King, a freelance writer in Surrey, BC, is proud that he was born in the small, "non-major" country of Colombia.

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