Movie Review: Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
The documentary ìHijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empireî discusses how the Bush Administration ñ which they say is a radical fringe of the Republican Party -- exploited the trauma of the 9/11 terror assault to advance a pre-existing agenda to fundamentally transform American foreign policy while eroding our civil liberties and social programs. It asserts that the neo-conservative Bush Administration devised a plan over the last two decades to dramatically increase military spending and American power globally via military force. The Bush Administration's false rationalizations for entering into war with Iraq are viewed in the context of this plan. The documentary advances the idea that the Bush administration has sold this far-reaching and divisive plan for aggressive American military intervention by deliberately manipulating intelligence, political imagery, and the fears of Americans after 9/11.

The film opens dramatically with the following quote: ìThe people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.î Then, on the next frame we see that this is a quote from Nazi Reich- Marshal Herman Goering at the Nuremberg War Trials.

That quote is followed by dozens of film clips of the Bush administration claiming that Sadddam Hussein presents an imminent danger to the U.S. because of their weapons of mass destruction. Bush, Rumsfeld, Ari Fleisher, Condoleza Rice, Colin Powell, Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz each assert Iraqís danger to the U.S and the need for a pre-emptive strike. Some intimate a connection between Iraq and the 911 attacks. Then later when the media reports there are no WMD in Iraq, there are clips of President Bush saying that he never said there were any WMD there.

ìHijacking Catastropheî is a difficult title to remember, but the content ranks right up there with the other powerful documentaries weíve seen this year, ìFahrenheit 911î, ìControl Roomî, ìThe Corporationî, ìFog of Warî, and the re-released ìHearts & Minds.î It is well-researched and relies mostly on news clips, interviews with an impressive line-up of credible pundits, and narration by Julian Bond. Each interview helps build a strong case for the ideas they are advancing. The list of experts is twenty-six long, one with more impressive credentials than the next, including Daniel Ellsberg, William Harting of the World Policy Institute, Professor Robert Jensen, author Benjamin Barber, Norman Mailer, Mark Danner, and Shadia Drury, Noam Chomskey and Jody Williams.

Norman Soloman, Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy says that the Bush Administration has created a politics of fear. He says that the message from this administration is a counterpoint to FDRís message. This administrations message is: ìThe only thing you have to fear is not enough fear.î He says that this administration is a ìgang that needs people to be afraid. This is a gang that canít have any political success whatsoever in a state of tranquility and peace of mind.î There are several clips of President Bush and others with messages about how dangerous the world is.

The documentary talks about how we are not allowed to see what the war is really like in Iraq. Our media shows us views from behind the guns or tanks, or we see bombs explode from afar. They juxtaposed shots of President Bush and his administration and shots of dead or injured Iraqi civilians, especially children. It was heartbreaking.

The documentary stresses the gravity of our economic problems, especially the national deficit caused by the military spending and tax cuts. Author and professor Chalmers Johnson says that financial bankruptcy could spell the end of the United States. ìThings that canít go on forever donítÖwhat weíre talking about right now is a rigged American economy that canít go on ñ itís not rocket science.î

The star of this documentary was Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski (Air Force, ret.). She was working at the Pentagon when the Bush administration was launching the campaign to convince the American public that we needed to invade Iraq. Lt. Col Kwiatkowski passionately and articulately describes how the Bush administration convinced the American public to go to war in Iraq, and why the U.S. government is really there.

I ended up watching ìHijacking Catastropheî three times. Itís powerful and evocative, as well-researched and densely-packed as it is captivating. ìHighjacking Catastropheî is showing in a handful of theaters around the country and can be purchased for $20.00 through their website at It will be in San Francisco at The Red Vic from October 24 to 26.

In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire
USA - 2004