KAHLILI: Michael Moore, rethink your trip to Iran

Filmmaker fixates on anti-Americanism while ignoring mullah massacres

Illustration: Michael Moore by Linas Garsys for The Washington TimesIllustration: Michael Moore by Linas Garsys for The Washington Times


American filmmaker Michael Moore has asked for permission to travel to Iran to attend Cinema Verite, an Iranian international festival for documentary films, according to Mehr News, the mouthpiece news agency of Iran's Islamic regime.

In a big-headlined story in the Iranian media, Mr. Moore is quoted as saying he wants to visit Iran to do research about the country. In addition, he is an opponent of U.S. government policies, and he wants to show his objection by traveling to Iran.

Mr. Moore, who has directed several well-known documentaries, has always claimed to take the side of ordinary people and has portrayed himself as someone who stands up for the rights of the abused.

It is this reputation that makes Mr. Moore's proposed visit to Iran a betrayal of the very principles he claims to stand for.

Since the 1979 revolution, the Islamic regime of Iran has executed tens of thousands of Iranian youths without giving them the right to a defense. During the summer of 1988 alone, about 30,000 young people were executed and buried in mass graves because they were accused of being "mohareb" - enemies of Allah - all because they objected to the harsh rule of the clerics.

Mr. Moore should know - he should understand - that Iranian citizens have no rights. Women are subjected to flogging for failing to wear the Islamic hijab; men are beaten for drinking, even in the privacy of their home. People suffer amputation for stealing; they are stoned for adultery; and rape, torture and hanging are common for speaking out against the clerics. Thousands of Iranian girls, boys, poets, writers, activists, teachers, artists and others from every walk of life remain in Iranian prisons without the right to defend themselves. Iranian officials are routinely sanctioned for violating human rights in Iran.

The very cinema festival that Mr. Moore wants to endorse is subjected to extreme censorship by the Guidance Ministry, which decides which films will be shown and which will be banned. Many movies don't make it to the screen because they promote free thinking or give a hint of what freedom really means. Many directors and actors end up in prison because they try to defend the rights of the people.

More recently, one of the most influential Iranian filmmakers, Jafar Panahi, was imprisoned - because he supported the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and had sympathized with the youths who had protested the fraudulent 2009 presidential elections. The secret police arrested him in March of 2010 along with his wife, children and friends. He was sentenced to prison and barred from making movies for 20 years.

Mr. Panahi stated in an open letter on the occasion of the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival, Berlinale (which he was barred from attending) "The reality is that they have deprived me of thinking and writing for twenty years; however, I cannot avoid dreaming that in twenty years the inquisition and intimidation will be abolished. ... They have condemned me to 20 years of silence. However, in my dreams, I scream for a time when we can tolerate each other, respect each other's opinions, and live for each other."

Many before Mr. Moore have traveled to Iran to show their opposition to the policies of America, the very country that has provided them the opportunity of free thinking and free will.

Mr. Moore fails to understand what endorsing evil does. He fails to understand that any affirmation, any recognition of the radicals ruling Iran is a direct insult to all the Iranians who have paid dearly with their blood to have what Mr. Moore takes for granted.

Instead of traveling to Iran, where the Islamic government will use him as a means for its propaganda, as it has done with others, Mr. Moore should make a documentary about the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy - a documentary about the injustices done to young people, middle-aged people, old people who want nothing more than their rights as human beings.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who is a fellow with EMPact America and the author of "A Time to Betray," about his double life in Iran's Revolutionary Guards (Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster, 2010).

Views: 786

Comment by Unseen on September 6, 2011 at 5:36pm

@Dale Headley   You mentioned a few of the good causes Moore has championed. I think I speak for myself and a few others when I say it isn't the causes that are the problem most of the time, it's his intellectual dishonesty in POSING as a documentarian when actually he's very much a propagandist with almost no commitment to providing an intellectually balanced view of any topic he takes on. You might look at atheist Chritopher Hitchens' critique of Moore:




@justin gold   Chomsky simply hates America. As for his linguistics, that's a debate for another day and has nothing to do with this debate pro or con. He could be the greatest linguist of all time and still be wrong on everything else. I'm not sure why you brought it up. It's irrelevant. Chomsky just feeds all the fringe groups who believe in the most outrageous and improbable kind of conspiracies, such as that Geo. Bush (no friend of mine, BTW) send teams out to wire the twin towers to come down. In that regard, he's responsible on a personal level for millions if not billions of misspent intellectual hours.

Comment by Arcus on September 6, 2011 at 6:02pm

About Iran, there's a recent great story in FP called 'Notes from the Underground'.

Some highlights:

"The Green Movement? Ha! It would have become a red movement from all the bloodshed if it had gone on any longer! It would have been worse than Syria!" a contentious 80-something veteran of the shah's army told me once over tea. His son Ali, a soon-to-be married engineer in his 30s who had enjoyed hurling stones at riot police in 2009, weighed in frankly: "I think the Arabs are much braver than Iranians, especially in Syria."

"In 2009, many people didn't know why and for what they were fighting," he continued. "They only came into the streets because they wanted freedom. But Iranians are concerned about their safety. They are afraid of blood and violence."


When I asked Laleh whether she thought Iran's regime was capable of the kind of violence employed against civilians in Libya and Syria, she said, "Most Iranians have not got to such a desperate point that they're willing to risk their lives. But if things get to that point, our government will, absolutely, kill even more people than those regimes."


"Egypt was different," she reasoned. "When [Egyptians] came out, they didn't go home. But the army was with them, and our army is not with us. And [former President Hosni Mubarak] stepped aside before too many people got killed. But now look at Syria: It's so violent there, more violent than Iran. We never thought Assad would do that. And if there's a revolution in Syria, there could be bad consequences here because our two governments are chained together in so many things and they back each other up."


"Men and women have a lot of trouble over money in Iran because the government keeps our country poor and doesn't let men and women be equal. This is not because of Islam. If you read the Quran, you will see that it gives women a very high place. Excuse my English, but if they hear what I am saying" -- she said, indicating some of the shrine's male staff with her eyes, "they will kill me."

"Well, they probably won't kill you," a friend interrupted, wary that I might take her literally, "but I understand they might make trouble for you."


"Do you believe in miracles?" the curator asked my companion. She hedged. "Are you a Muslim?" "Well, I grew up here," she hedged again. "You know, many of my friends are atheists," he said. "You can't be an atheist here, or they'll kill you!" she replied, a little alarmed. "That's not true!" he insisted, as if offended.

In Iran, the idea that blood could be shed over matters of faith is coming to appear antiquated, even absurd. Assessing the zeitgeist, one secular youth in Tehran remarked to me in English, "Iran is still a very Islamic country; it's just that most people aren't hotheads about religion anymore."


Comment by Jim Minion on September 6, 2011 at 7:36pm

Sassan So do you hold with the Bush, Cheney stance  don't talk to your enemies just bomb then far enough back into history that Mohammed didn't exist?

Comment by Sassan K. on September 6, 2011 at 7:42pm

Arcus, thanks so much for sharing that. It provided great insight.

And Jim, you make too ignorant of statements to respond to. You don't talk on rationality. The Iranian people demand nothing more and nothing less than complete secular democracy. We must stand side-by-side with the Iranian and Syrian people in assisting them with liberation.

Comment by justin gold on September 6, 2011 at 8:13pm

@unseen  why did someone bring Chomsky into it, that's exactly what I thought.Ummm let me think,ahh yes it was  this quote off you on page 2 of this discussion had something to do with it  "Moore, and Chomsky, too, should just move to Iran."                                                                  I'm sure now that I've jogged your memory that some sort of apology might be coming my way but it's alright will accept it before you give me one to save you the trouble(just in-case you forget about that too)

Comment by Dale Headley on September 6, 2011 at 8:15pm


   I did not claim that Michael Moore is a documentarian; and Moore himself has repeatedly said his films are NOT documentaries.  He is a filmmaker expressing his feelings and opinions.  He has no duty to present a "balanced" view, only a truthful one.  Do you not believe he has that right, since he is a liberal?  Ben Stein's atrociously ignorant, "Expelled" also uses the documentary form to express a personal opinion: but I would not suggest that he has no right to do so.  Only Michael Moore, among those who make films that express a point of view is labeled unpatriotic, or is called a liar - by right wing ideologues.  By the way, I have yet to hear one critic of Moore's provide a clear cut example of a specific lie.  Like you, they cite his bias.  So what?  In "Bowling for Columbine," he asked Charlton Heston a simple question, and Heston answered with his true feelings, which Moore claims stunned him with its racist forthrightness.  He had expected Moses to hedge and avoid the question.  But when Heston said what he did, Moore made sure he "edited" it into his film.  That enraged the NRA, which claimed he had no right to include Heston's own words in the film - that it was "disrespectful."  Do you think Moore should have "edited" out what Heston clearly said and meant, simply because the gun suckers wouldn't like it?  

   Practically everything the government (and Fox News) puts on film is propaganda masquerading as documentary.  Why can't an individual citizen produce propaganda, as well?   And I take anything Christopher Hitchens has to say about Moore with a grain of salt, because he was (and still is) a rabid supporter of our shameful genocidal war in Iraq.  Yes, I agree that Michael Moore is a propagandist; and more power to him for how well he does it.  We need more like him.  

   As far as Noam Chomsky is concerned, there is no one who writes on political issues who so thoroughly researches his material.  His monumental book "Deterring Democracy," is a scathing indictment of American expansionist policy as told primarily through quoting, verbatim, the writings and speeches of the neocon politicians who promulgated our despicable policies in Central America.  The notes alone would fill an entire book.  Chomsky is America's most maligned political observer because he is profoundly outspoken, truthful, and accurate in his indictment of our leaders.  That is why he rarely is allowed to appear in the American media.  His unquestioned brilliance in linguistics is entirely irrelevant.  

Comment by Unseen on September 6, 2011 at 8:59pm

@Dale Headley   Well, I guess we'll have disagree over whether propaganda can ever be good. But I suppose, if you can argue that propaganda can be good then there might be some good in all the things Chomsky rails against. Chomsky doesn't ever argue on behalf of the US. Apparently, he can't find one good thing to say about us although he'd be lucky just to be locked up if he was in most other places in the world (e.g., Central America) and talked about their governments as a citizen of those countries.


Maybe if he just once said, "But you know what? At least I live where I'm free to criticize the government."

Comment by Unseen on September 6, 2011 at 9:16pm

@Dale Headley   Let me know when we take over those oil fields. Right now we are paying market for oil and are talking about developing internal sources of oil and natural gas, not about sending troops over to secure the oil just for us.

Comment by Unseen on September 6, 2011 at 9:21pm

@Samantha J   Oh, if he's going to Iran to do one of his famous gotchas, that'd be too rich. He'd never make it out alive, so I imagine he's going there to kiss some ass. Time will tell.

Comment by Unseen on September 6, 2011 at 9:30pm

@justin gold   I have news for you: every country does shameful things. You just want to be toughest kid on the block or you'll be the one having shameful things done to you. International politics is all about power, not being nice and fuzzy. To make it nice, it'll have to be done by everyone all at once. The first one to do it will go directly to the bottom of the pile.


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