The Guardian September 19, 2001


Death, Downtown
Letter from Michael Moore

Dear friends,

I was supposed to fly today on the 4:30 pm American Airlines flight from 
LAX to JFK. But tonight I find myself stuck in L.A. with an incredible 
range of emotions over what has happened on the island where I work and 
live in New York City.

My wife and I spent the first hours of the day  after being awakened by 
phone calls from our parents  trying to contact our daughter at school in 
New York and our friend JoAnn who works near the World Trade Center.

I called JoAnn at her office. As someone picked up, the first tower 
imploded, and the person answering the phone screamed and ran out, leaving 
me no clue as to whether or not she or JoAnn would live. It was a sick, 
horrible, frightening day.

On December 27, 1985, I found myself caught in the middle of a terrorist 
incident at the Vienna airport  which left 30 people dead, both there and 
at the Rome airport. (The machine-gunning of passengers in each city was 
timed to occur at the same moment.)

I do not feel like discussing that event tonight because it still brings up 
too much despair and confusion as to how and why I got to live  a fluke, 
a mistake, a few feet on the tarmac, and I am still here, there but for the 
grace of...

Safe. Secure. I'm an American, living in America. I like my illusions. I 
walk through a metal detector, I put my carry-ons through an x-ray machine, 
and I know all will be well.

Here's a short list of my experiences lately with airport security:

* At the Newark Airport, the plane is late at boarding everyone. The 
counter can't find my seat. So I am told to just "go ahead and get on"  
without a ticket!

* At Detroit Metro Airport, I don't want to put the lunch I just bought at 
the deli through the x-ray machine so, as I pass through the metal 
detector, I hand the sack to the guard through the space between the 
detector and the x-ray machine.

I tell him, "It's just a sandwich". He believes me and doesn't bother to 
check. The sack has gone through neither security device.

* At LaGuardia in New York, I check a piece of luggage, but decide to catch 
a later plane. The first plane leaves without me, but with my bag  no one 
knowing what is in it.

* Back in Detroit, I take my time getting off the commuter plane. By the 
time I have come down its stairs, the bus that takes the passengers to the 
terminal has left  without me.

I am alone on the tarmac; free to wander wherever I want. So I do. 
Eventually, I flag down a pick-up truck and an airplane mechanic gives me a 
ride the rest of the way to the terminal.

* I have brought knives, razors; and once, my travelling companion brought 
a hammer and chisel. No one stopped us.

Of course, I have gotten away with all of this because the airlines 
consider my safety SO important, they pay rent-a-cops US$5.75 an hour to 
make sure the bad guys don't get on my plane."

That is what my life is worth  less than the cost of an oil change.

Too harsh, you say? Well, chew on this: a first-year pilot on American 
Eagle (the commuter arm of American Airlines) receives around US$15,000 a 
year in annual pay. That's right  US$15,000 for the person who has your 
life in his hands.

Until recently, Continental Express paid a little over US$13,000 a year. 
There was one guy, an American Eagle pilot, who had four kids so he went 
down to the welfare office and applied for food stamps  and he was 
eligible! Someone on welfare is flying my plane? Is this for real?

Yes, it is. So spare me the talk about all the precautions the airlines and 
the FAA (Federal Airports Authority) are taking. They, like all businesses, 
are concerned about one thing  the bottom line and the profit margin.

Four teams of three to five people were all able to penetrate airport 
security on the same morning at three different airports and pull off this 
heinous act? My only response is  that's all?

Well, the pundits are in full diarrhoea mode, gushing on about the 
"terrorist threat" and today's scariest dude on planet earth  Osama bin 
Laden.

Hey, who knows, maybe he did it. But, something just doesn't add up.

Am I being asked to believe that this guy who sleeps in a tent in a desert 
has been training pilots to fly our most modern, sophisticated jumbo jets 
with such pinpoint accuracy that they are able to hit these three targets 
without anyone wondering why these planes were so far off path?

Or am I being asked to believe that there were four religious/political 
fanatics who JUST HAPPENED to be skilled airline pilots who JUST HAPPENED 
to want to kill themselves today?

Maybe you can find one jumbo jet pilot willing to die for the cause  but 
FOUR? Ok, maybe you can  I don't know.

What I do know is that all day long I have heard everything about this bin 
Laden guy except this one fact  WE created the monster known as Osama bin 
Laden! Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA! Don't take my word 
for it  I saw a piece on MSNBC last year that laid it all out."

When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, the CIA trained him and his 
buddies in how to commit acts of terrorism against the Soviet forces. It 
worked! The Soviets turned and ran. Bin Laden was grateful for what we 
taught him and thought it might be fun to use those same techniques against 
us.

We abhor terrorism  unless we're the ones doing the terrorising. We paid 
and trained and armed a group of terrorists in Nicaragua in the 1980s who 
killed over 30,000 civilians. That was OUR work. You and me. Thirty 
thousand murdered civilians and who the hell even remembers!

We fund a lot of oppressive regimes that have killed a lot of innocent 
people, and we never let the human suffering THAT causes interrupt our day 
one single bit.

We have orphaned so many children, tens of thousands around the world, with 
our taxpayer-funded terrorism (in Chile, in Vietnam, in Gaza, in Salvador) 
that I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised when those orphans grow up and 
are a little whacked in the head from the horror we have helped cause.

Yet, our recent domestic terrorism bombings have not been conducted by a 
guy from the desert but rather by our own citizens: a couple of ex-military 
guys who hated the federal government."

From the first minutes of today's events, I never heard that possibility 
suggested. Why is that? Maybe it's because the Arabs are much better foils.

A key ingredient in getting Americans whipped into a frenzy against a new 
enemy is the all-important race card. It's much easier to get us to hate 
when the object of our hatred doesn't look like us.

Congressmen and Senators spent the day calling for more money for the 
military; one Senator on CNN even said he didn't want to hear any more talk 
about more money for education or health care  we should have only one 
priority: our self-defence.

Will we ever get to the point that we realise we will be more secure when 
the rest of the world isn't living in poverty so we can have nice running 
shoes? In just eight months, Bush gets the whole world back to hating us 
again."

He withdraws from the Kyoto agreement, walks us out of the Durban 
conference on racism, insists on restarting the arms race  you name it, 
and Baby Bush has blown it all.

The Senators and Congressmen tonight broke out in a spontaneous version of 
"God Bless America." They're not a bad group of singers!

Yes, God, please do bless us. Many families have been devastated tonight. 
This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to 
get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID 
NOT VOTE FOR HIM!

Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California  these 
were places that voted AGAINST Bush! Why kill them? Why kill anyone? Such 
insanity...

Let's mourn, let's grieve, and when it's appropriate let's examine our 
contribution to the unsafe world we live in. It doesn't have to be like 
this.

Yours,

Michael Moore

Back to index page