"What Does a 99-cent Bic Lighter Tell Us About the Bush War on Terrorism?"


by Michael Moore


On September 22, 2001, just 11 days after the terrorist attacks in New York and

Arlington, I had to fly. I had been scheduled to give a talk in San Antonio, and

so off I went on an American flight out of Newark. At the airport there was a

newly, hastily put-together list of all the items that I could NOT bring aboard

the plane. The list was long and bizarre. The list of banned items included:


   No guns. (Obviously)

   No knives. (Ditto)

   No boxcutters. (Certainly now justified)

   No toenail clippers. (What?)

   No knitting needles. (Huh?)

   No crotchet hooks. (Now, wait a minute!)

   No sewing needles.

   No mace.

   No leaf blowers. (OK, now it's personal)

   No corkscrews.

   No letter openers.

   No dry ice.




Frankly, I was a little freaked-out about flying so soon after 9-11 and I guess

there was just no way I was going to fly without a weapon for my protection. So

I took the New York Yankees-signed baseball that Mayor Giuliani had given me on

"TV Nation," put it in a sock, and ? presto! Whip that baby upside somebody's

head, and they're going to take a little nap. Note to budding terrorfuckers: If

you try something on a flight I'm on, I'll Clemens ya. That, or the smell from

my ratty sock, is going to do you in.


Though I now felt "safe" with my makeshift weapon, as I continued to fly through

the fall and winter, I did NOT feel safe being greeted at airport security by

weekend warriors from the National Guard holding empty M-16s and looking like

they shop in the same "special needs" department at K-Mart which I visit from

time to time.


More importantly, though, I kept noticing something strange. The guy in front of

me, while emptying his pockets into the little plastic tray to run through the

x-ray machine, would take out his butane lighter or matchbook, toss them into

the tray, then pick them up on the other side -- in full view of security. At

first I thought this was a mistake until I looked at the list of banned items

again -- and saww that butane lighters and matchbooks were NOT on the forbidden



Then came December 22, 2001. Richard Reid, on an American Airlines flight from

Paris to Miami, attempted to light his shoes on fire, using matches. His shoes,

the police said, contained a plastic explosive and, had some passengers and

flight attendants not taken quick action to restrain him, he would have been

able to blow the entire plane out of the sky. But his lighter would not light

the shoes fast enough, and everyone survived.


I was sure after this freakish incident that the lighters and matches would

surely be banned. But, as my book tour began in February, there they were, the

passengers with their Bic lighters and their books of matches. I asked one

security person after another why these people were allowed to bring devices

which could start a fire on board the plane, especially after the Reid incident.

No one, not a single person in authority or holding an unloaded automatic

weapon, could or would give me answer.


My simple question was this: If all smoking is prohibited on all flights, then

why does ANYONE need their lighters and matches at 30,000 feet -- while I am up

there with them?!


And why is the one device that has been used to try and blow up a plane since

9-11 NOT on the banned list? No one has used toenail clippers to kill anyone on

Jet Blue, and no one has been blowing away the leaves in the aisle of the Delta

Connection flight to Tupelo.



AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT #63. And this did nothing to force the Bush

Administration to do something about it.


I began asking this question in front of audiences on my book tour. And it was

on a dark and rainy night in Arlington, Virginia, at the Ollsson's Bookstore a

couple miles from the Pentagon that I got my answer. After asking my Bic lighter

question in my talk to the audience, I sat down to sign the books for the people

in line. A young man walks up to the table, introduces himself, and lowering his

voice so no one can hear, tells me the following:


"I work on the Hill. The butane lighters were on the original list prepared by

the FAA and sent to the White House for approval. The tobacco industry lobbied

the Bush administration to have the lighters and matches removed from the banned

list. Their customers (addicts) naturally are desperate to light up as soon as

they land, and why should they be punished just so the skies can be safe?


The lighters and matches were removed from the forbidden list.


I was stunned. I knew there had to be some strange reason why this most obvious

of items had not been banned. Could the Bush mob be so blatant in their contempt

for the public's safety? How could they do this, and at the same time, issue

weekly warnings about the "next terrorist threat"? Would they really put Big

Tobacco's demands ahead of people's lives?


Yes, of course, the answer has always been YES but not now, not in a time of

national crisis, not NOW, so soon after the worst domestic mass murder in U.S.



Unless there was no real threat at all.


The hard and difficult questions must be asked: Is the "War on Terrorism" a

ruse, a concoction to divert the citizens' attention?


Accept, if you will for just a moment, that George W. Bush would not be so evil

as to help out his buddies in tobacco land that that would be worth suffering

through another 9-11. Once you give the man that ? and for once I am asking you

to do just that ? once you admit that not even he would allow the murder of

hundreds or thousands more just so Marlboro addicts can light up outside the

terminal, then a whole other door opens ? and that door, my friends, leads to

the Pandora's Box of 9-11, a rotten can of worms that many in the media are

afraid to open for fear of where it might lead, of just how deep the stench



What if there is no "terrorist threat?" What if Bush and Co. need, desperately

need, that "terrorist threat" more than anything in order to conduct the

systematic destruction they have launched against the U.S. constitution and the

good people of this country who believe in the freedoms and liberties it



Do you want to go there?


I do. I have filed a Freedom of Information Act demand to the FAA, asking that

they give to me all documents pertaining to the decisions that were made to

allow deadly butane lighters and books of matches on board passenger planes. I

am not optimistic about what the results of this will be.


And let's face it ? it's just one small piece of the puzzle. It is, after all,

just a 99-cent Bic lighter. But, friends, I have to tell you, over the years I

have found that it is PRECISELY the "little stories" and the "minor details"

that contain within them the LARGER truths. Perhaps my quest to find out why the

freedom to be able to start a fire on board a plane-full of citizens is more

important than yours or my life will be in vain. Or maybe, just maybe, it will

be the beginning of the end of this corrupt, banal administration of con artists

who shamelessly use the dead of that day in September as the cover to get away

with anything.


I think it's time we all stood up and started asking some questions of these

individuals. The bottom line: Anyone who would brazenly steal an election and

insert themselves into OUR White House with zero mandate from The People is,

frankly ? sadly ? capable of anything...