Why Iraqi Detainees Should Sue Michael Moore

Last week, filmmaker Michael Moore admitted that he withheld footage documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees by US troops. He explained his bizarre decision this way: “I wanted to come out with it sooner, but I thought I’d be accused of just putting this out for publicity for my movie. That prevented me from making maybe the right decision.”

I’d like to make a stab at translating Michael Moore’s statement back into English:

“I wanted to release the information that U.S. soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners, thus, potentially, creating enough stir to stop the practice, save lives and reveal the inhumanity that is at the core of this war. In fact, when people more courageous than I did release this information, it went a long way to undermining the war and the Bush administration I profess to be against. I wanted to release the torture footage, but I thought that if I did, I would be accused of drawing attention to myself and my movie (which, like all my others, is based on drawing attention to myself).

“Instead, I withheld the evidence, allowing the torture to go on undetected.

“Then, I created a stir of publicity for myself and my movie by going public on Disney’s refusal to distribute the film. I accused Disney of being more concerned with its image than in getting the truth out although, geesh, as I think about it, that was kind of my thinking when I withheld the information about torture going on. But I liked creating publicity for myself and my movie when it seemed to be me against the big corporation, and I didn’t like the idea of publicity when it was me against the … err… war.

“The fear of being accused of being a self-promoter — that is, the possibility of my reputation being hurt — prevented me from acting. It prevented me. I wanted to do it, but I was prevented. I couldn’t help it. The verb is “prevented.”

“Now, with the movie about to open, I will almost concede that the right decision would have been to release the footage as soon as I obtained it. Although I’d like to keep a “maybe” in there because I still don’t want to take a stand. I’ve made my reputation by appearing to take a stand, and I wouldn’t want to actually take a stand because that my hurt my reputation.

“I hope you will understand from this statement that I, Michael Moore, am in the business of making money for me, Michael Moore, and my reputation as a “truth-teller” is more important than actually telling the truth.

“I’m only sorry that the candidate I endorsed, General Clark, isn’t the Democratic nominee because he understands the value of a cover-up.”

DANIEL WOLFF is a poet and author of the excellent biography of the great Sam Cooke, You Send Me, as well as the recent collection of Ernest Withers’ photographs The Memphis Blues Again. Wolff is a contributor to CounterPunch’s forthcoming collection on art, music and sex: Serpents in the Garden.

Daniel Wolff’s most recent books are Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913 and How to Become an American: a History of Immigration, Assimilation and Loneliness.