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Dude, Where's My Country
Michael Moore
London: Allen Lane, 2003.
£17.99, 272 pages, ISBN 0713997001.

David McBride
University of Nottingham

In his latest quest to rid the planet of the President who once said "more and more of our imports come from overseas" [25-12-2000], Michael Moore makes a plea to America to vote out George W. Bush in the 2004 election. Using the same humorous satire that made Stupid White Man a worldwide best seller, Moore has again struck gold. With the election a year away, this disgruntled citizen has firmly ensured that he will continue to be a six-foot thorn in the side of the President, and his new book is just his latest kick to the presidential groin.

Moore's attack on the current White House administration begins with a list of questions for "Dubbya" involving his business relationship with the bin Laden family, a relationship that stems back over two decades and involves lucrative oil business deals. The highlight of these questions is when Moore asks the President:

Why did you allow a private Saudi jet to fly around the US in the days after September 11 and pick up members of the bin Laden family and then fly them out of the country without a proper investigation by the FBI? [19]

Moore finds this fact a bit disturbing, and as a caring American, he is disappointed that the nation's leader looked to the welfare of the world's-most-wanted-man's family, who just may have some information on Osama bin Laden, and not to the best interests of his own country.

The second chapter of the book examines the many lies surrounding the war in Iraq and Bush's argument as to why the war was justified. While the rest of the Western world are in near unison that Iraq could not have blown up the UK in 45 minutes, nor did Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden share a Winnie the Pooh and Piglet friendship in which they plotted out 9/11 together, Bush remains content to support his war in Iraq on such "facts." In addition to exposing these lies, Moore also confronts such issues as the "Coalition of the Willing," which is the group of countries that supported the US in its war against Iraq. Besides Italy (with 69% of its people against the war), and the UK, other notable countries who joined America v. Iraq were Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Nicaragua. Moore comments on some of the other countries willing to support the war:

Palua is a group of North Pacific islands with 20,000 citizens, barely enough to fill Madison Square Garden. They do have—as The Washington Post pointed out—yummy tapioca and succulent coconuts but, unfortunately, no troops. Of course not having an army is no impediment to being in the Coalition of the Willing. Other army-less members include Iceland, Costa Rica, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, and Micronesia. But hey, we don't expect them to send their kids off to die! That's our job! We just want them to be willing to do it!
Wait! News flash! Poland did offer to send 200 troops! Thank you for your willingness!
And while Morocco also was short on military assistance, they did offer to send 2,000 monkeys to help detonate land mines in Iraq. [72]

Moore also makes it known that countries such as Canada, China, Mexico, Ireland, Iran, Russia, France, and Germany were amongst those opposed to the war... as well as over 110 other countries.

One of the best chapters of the book is the fourth chapter, "The United States of BOO!". The focus of this section is that while it may be inevitable that terrorist strikes will occur again, terrorism is not a serious threat to Americans. Moore's point is that American leaders and the American media blow the terrorist threat so far out of proportion that they scare the general public into submission. Thus, support for their suspicious goals, such as the unconstitutional Patriot Act and herding up enough public support to blow the hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq, is gathered by scaring people in a paranoid frenzy. In such a state of fear, people will support any measure that will end the terrorist threat that they believe has entered their once safe suburbs. Moore gives examples of various stories that have appeared in the US media that adequately show the ignorant hysteria that has smothered the nation. He writes:

Especially keep an eye out for undercover al Qaeda agents with portable blow torches attempting to cut through the 21,736 wires holding up the Brooklyn Bridge! The FBI nabbed a truck driver who had been casing the bridge and counting the wires. Best estimate is that you could cut through the wires in about a week, so be on alert! [100]

Moore also attempts to ease our fears of being blown up by terrorists by reminding his readers that even in 2001, "your chance as an American of dying in an act of terrorism in this country was 1 in 100,000" [96]. He adds:

In 2001, you had a greater chance of dying from the flu or pneumonia (1 in 4,500), from taking your own life (1 in 9,200), being a homicide victim (1 in 14,000), or riding in a car (1 in 6,500). But no one freaked out over the possibility of being killed every time you drove in your dangerous car to buy a heart-disease-inducing doughnut from a coughing teenager [...]. But when multiple deaths happen at the same time, with such viciousness, and on live TV, no rationalization with statistics like these above can undo the visceral response of witnessing actual horror as we did on September 11. We have come to believe that we are in harm's way, that any of us anywhere in this vast country could die at any time. Never mind that the chances of that happening are virtually nil. [96-97]

Moore reasons with his reader to take a step back, calm down, and then realise that Americans are still amongst the safest people on the planet (in terms of terrorism on their home soil—as for doughnut-related diseases, that is another story). Other highlights of the book include Moore's presidential backing of both Oprah Winfrey and General Wesley Clark, his claim that if Americans want to be safe from terrorists, then America needs to stop acting like terrorists, and a chapter written by God. In his guest appearance, God explains that He is not perfect, thus the creation of Dubbya. God writes:

Not all of My creations are perfect. And, in the case of the human you know as George W. Bush, well, this is one that really got away from Me. I'm not quite sure how it happened. I have a pretty strict inventory process and it's rare that something I create turns out to be a clunker. But when I screw up, I screw up big. Take Pompeii—I still don't know what happened there. [130]

Moore has been able to voice his messages to a massive worldwide audience largely because of his ability to speak to the everyday man. His success has prompted criticisms of the state of American liberals, as currently it is the Michael Moores and Al Frankens who carry the torch for liberal minded Americans. This claim does not lack merit, since the Democrats continually struggle to unite as one strong party, as the Republicans have been able to do since the 1980s. While Moore writes in the manner of comical satire, it is apparent from the first page of his first book that he is utterly passionate about his work, and, more important, his nation and his nation's role in the world. In many ways, he has become the figurehead for liberals seeking a role model who is capable of opposing the Bush empire. Moore has reached out to the average American, who often remains disenfranchised from American politics. He helps to raise more political awareness among the masses, whom he believes are far more liberal than conservative, overall.

Dude, Where's My Country? is a must-read for anyone interested in (American) foreign and domestic affairs, and for those who wish to see the end to pre-emptive strikes against countries too poor to have tanks. Moore seeks to awaken American citizens from their current political hibernation, and does so in a brilliantly humorous fashion. With "Mike," there is hope yet for America. There is hope that America can derail itself from stripping its citizens of their constitutional rights (see Patriot Act), and the arresting of people on the sole basis of being brown. There is hope that America will end its current trend of blasting everlasting hell out of any country through which Cheney can imagine an oil pipeline running—or was it in defence of Democracy and western freedoms? Or was it the Iraqis America was liberating? No wait, it was the threat to Britain, wasn't it? If you've become as confused about US policies as this reviewer, reward yourself with a breath of fresh air and give Dude, Where's My Country? a chance.

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