Moore defends 'Fahrenheit'
Filmmaker presses points in CNN interview
(CNN) -- The Bush administration "made a half-hearted effort" in pursuing Osama bin Laden immediately after the September 11 attacks, and devoted resources to invading Iraq instead, Michael Moore said in an interview, defending points he's made in his new film, "Fahrenheit 9/11."
"I think -- and I think most Americans agree with this -- that we should have seriously gone after anyone who was responsible for the murder of 3,000 people," Moore told CNN anchor Daryn Kagan Friday on CNN's "Live Today." "But, as Richard Clarke so eloquently has pointed out, on September 12th the Bush administration wasn't interested in going after the people who did this. They wanted to bomb Iraq."
Asked about the U.S. pursuit of bin Laden, whose al Qaeda organization was responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington, Moore added, "Richard Clarke's point, and my point, is they made a half-hearted effort. They kept our Special Forces from going into the part of Afghanistan where bin Laden was. They kept the Special Forces out of there for two months."
Moreover, Moore added, the U.S. sent 11,000 soldiers into the operation, "[and there are] more police here in Manhattan than the number of soldiers we sent in to get Osama bin Laden," he said, quoting something Clarke -- the former White House counterterrorist coordinator -- said.
Moore's film, an anti-Bush polemic the filmmaker has described as "an op/ed piece," has created a firestorm of controversy. The film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival -- the festival's highest honor -- but has come under attack from Bush defenders and some commentators.
"Fahrenheit" is "slick propaganda that indicts President Bush for a variety of things, using cut-and-paste video interspersed with the opinions of far-left people such as Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Washington) and John Conyers (D-Michigan)," wrote Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly in his column.
"To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental," wrote iconoclastic columnist Christopher Hitchens in the online magazine Slate. Hitchens generally leans to the left but has been in favor of the Iraq war.
The White House called Moore "outside the mainstream."
"I can speak for myself and I can speak for the President, and I can assure you that neither of us have seen ['Fahrenheit']," said White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett. "We don't have a lot of free time these days and when we do have free time to see a good fiction movie, we'll pick 'Shrek' or some other enjoy[able] feature like that.
"Mr. Moore has every right to produce and show movies that express his very radical views. He's outside of the mainstream. ... This is a film that doesn't require us to actually view it to know it's filled with factual inaccuracies."
'Most of all, entertaining'
Movie critics, however, have been more favorable. As of midday Friday, the film had garnered 81 percent positive reviews (out of 100 surveyed), according to the review compilation site Rottentomatoes.com.
The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert gave "Fahrenheit" 3-1/2 stars; so did USA Today's Claudia Puig, who wrote, "No moviegoer will be bored. The documentary's scathing attack on the war in Iraq and George W. Bush's presidency is informative, provocative, frightening, compelling, funny, manipulative and, most of all, entertaining."
CNN's Paul Clinton said the film is "an accomplished documentary with an extremely powerful message."
Moore's ire isn't only directed at Bush. In the interview with Kagan, Moore was also critical of members of Congress who support the war but whose children haven't served in Iraq.
"I would favor a draft for the children of those people, because I'll tell you what, if their kids had to go and die in this war, we'd have -- we wouldn't have any wars," Moore said. "Unless it was in the true self-defense of this country. And that's not what this war is about."
"Fahrenheit 9/11" has been dogged by -- and has courted -- controversy since Moore announced the project. The filmmaker's previous films, "Roger and Me" and "Bowling for Columbine," have been criticized for factual and contextual inaccuracies, and critics claimed Moore would give Bush the same treatment.
The Walt Disney Co. refused to let subsidiary Miramax distribute "Fahrenheit 9/11," saying the movie was too politically charged. The film is being distributed by Lions Gate in partnership with IFC Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group, an independent entity set up by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Miramax's co-founders.