October 26, 2004 -- “Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” is an extremely provocative political documentary which originally aired, in a slightly different version, on BBC.
This intriguing film explores the many connections between the Bush family and the Saudi Royal family and the Bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia. This film covers much of the same ground in this area as “Fahrenheit 9/11” did. It also makes a bolder assertion, that the real reason for the war in Iraq is to wrest incredibly rich oil fields from Iraqi control and give them to international oil corporations. The film produces some blurry-looking documents to back this up. The film also makes a connection between Dick Cheney's secret oil policy talks in Washington and Enron officials.
The film also explores the method by which George Bush escaped military service in Vietnam. This, of course, has been covered to death by the American news media. Probably most people think the whole story was made up, thanks to the CBS News document fiasco, but this film provides plenty of unrelated evidence to support the thesis that Bush, and a lot of other young men, were able to escape hazardous duty Vietnam by joining the National Guard. The film provides evidence that Bush lost interest in the Guard and simply stopped showing up for duty. Through political connections, he was able to escape serious disciplinary action and obtain an honorable discharge, despite going AWOL. Evidently, procedures in the Guard are tighter now than they were then. Also, guardsmen don't escape fighting anymore. Plenty of them have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to President Bush's decisions.
There is a lot of background on George Bush's early career in the oil business and in Texas politics, and how Bush and Saudi money and influence smoothed over the bumps in his spotted career. This is very provocative stuff. What emerges is a story about a spoiled rich kid who never really had to suffer the consequences of his life choices. He benefitted from powerful connections which smoothed over his problems. Way back there, pulling the strings and providing ample money, is the vast wealth of the Saudi Royal family, the Bin Laden family and Enron money, before Enron went belly up. It explains the energy policy, and the current military strategy of the U.S. If you want to know where that policy came from, just follow the money.
The film also explores the fishy 2000 vote count in Florida during the presidential election. Greg Palast, the primary BBC reporter in the piece obtains documents that prove Florida officials knowingly conspired to purge thousands of black voters from the lists of those eligible to vote, ostensibly because black voters in Florida are mostly Democratic voters, not Republicans. Officials made use of a law forbidding convicted felons from voting. By insisting that middle initials, exact birth dates, and other means of verification not be used, officials were able to get a lot of false positive matches on the list. Thousands of voters were listed as felons simply because their names roughly matched the names of felons in other states with similar names.
Again, the Florida voting debacle has been covered in other films, like “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election,” “Counting on Democracy” and, of course, “Fahrenheit 9/11.” In fact, some of those other films feature some footage from “Bush Family Fortunes,” including Palast's dramatic confrontation with a Florida voting official who leaves the room, rather than talk to the pesky reporter.
This is a very provocative film, and it is supported by strong documentation. You don't see stuff like this on American television, at least not anymore. You certainly wouldn't see it on the Fox News Channel. Documentary films like this seem to be the last refuge of this kind of challenging investigative journalism, besides the Internet, that is. This film rates a B.
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