Wed Sep 6th, 2006 at 07:57:49 AM EST
Okay, as revealed last night, the Path to 911 programme that ABC have confected is being broadcast on the BBC. Instead of the 5 hrs, it's been cut to 2 hrs. Nevertheless it still claims in a hold in the credits that "The preceeding dramatization is based on the 9/11 Commission Report and other published sources and personal interview. Composite and representative characters and incidents have been used for dramatic purposes".
However as Sheldon at FDL comments
"if the goal were simply to inform the public, however, ABC would have produced an actual documentary rather than a docudrama, which gives the producers license to distort facts whenever and however they wish, while also pretending that their work is somehow a re-enactment of reality."
The credits also roll fairly quickly through other sources such as based in part on "1000 years of Revenge" by Peter Lance and "Relentless Pursuit" by Samuel Katz (who is also a consultant on the project).
Problems with Path to 911 so far identified.
I apologise for taking so much from Sheldon's post at Firedoglake, but it is eesential that everybody here understand the depth of dishonesty within this film.
According to Barone, one "gripping scene" shows "CIA agents surrounding bin Laden's encampments and then being called back when National Security Adviser Sandy Berger refuses to give a go-ahead for the operation." Conservative filmmaker Govindini Murty was also impressed by the same scene, writing a glowing review that was published both on her own blog and on Human Events, the "national conservative weekly."
One astonishing sequence in "The Path to 9/11" shows the CIA and the Northern Alliance surrounding Bin Laden's house in Afghanistan. They're on the verge of capturing Bin Laden, but they need final approval from the Clinton administration in order to go ahead. They phone Clinton, but he and his senior staff refuse to give authorization for the capture of Bin Laden, for fear of political fall-out if the mission should go wrong and civilians are harmed. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger in essence tells the team in Afghanistan that if they want to capture Bin Laden, they'll have to go ahead and do it on their own without any official authorization. ... The episode is a perfect example of Clinton-era irresponsibility and incompetence.
The only problem with this "perfect example", which Murty praises because it "honestly depicts how the Clinton administration repeatedly bungled the capture of Osama Bin Laden," is that it didn't happen. In reality, it was CIA director George Tenet, not Berger, who called off the operation -- which never got anywhere near "surrounding Bin Laden's house in Afghanistan."
According to the 9/11 commision report on which the movie is supposedly based, Tenet told us that given the recommendation of his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to "turn off" the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger's recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.
The CIA's senior management clearly did not think the plan would work. Tenet's deputy director of operations wrote to Berger a few weeks later that the CIA assessed the tribals' ability to capture Bin Ladin and deliver him to U.S. officials as low.
In an interview with the far-right Front Page Magazine, "Path to 9/11" screenwriter Nowrasteh said that the 9/11 report "details the Clinton's administration's response -- or lack of response -- to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests.
The worst example is the response to the October, 2000 attack on the U.S.S. COLE in Yemen where 17 American sailors were killed. There simply was no response. Nothing."
Again, the actual commission report described thing differently:
As evidence of al Qaeda's responsibility for the Cole attack came in during November 2000, National Security Advisor Samuel Berger asked the Pentagon to develop a plan for a sustained air campaign against the Taliban. Clarke developed a paper laying out a formal, specific ultimatum. But Clarke's plan apparently did not advance to formal consideration by the Small Group of principals. We have found no indication that the idea was briefed to the new administration or that Clarke passed his paper to them, although the same team of career officials spanned both administrations.
The commission's executive summary explains that by the time Al Qaeda was definitely identified as the party responsible for attacking the Cole, Clinton had left office, and it was Bush who declined to take action:
After the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, evidence accumulated that it had been launched by al Qaeda operatives, but without confirmation that Bin Ladin had given the order. The Taliban had earlier been warned that it would be held responsible for another Bin Ladin attack on the United States. The CIA described its findings as a "preliminary judgment"; President Clinton and his chief advisers told us they were waiting for a conclusion before deciding whether to take military action. The military alternatives remained unappealing to them.
The transition to the new Bush administration in late 2000 and early 2001 took place with the Cole issue still pending. President George W. Bush and his chief advisers accepted that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the Cole, but did not like the options available for a response.
Bin Ladin's inference may well have been that attacks, at least at the level of the Cole, were risk free.
There is another political wrinkle to this that should be noted. The attack on the Cole occurred in October 2000, near the end of Clinton's presidency and at the peak of the election campaign between George W. Bush and Al Gore. A military strike under those circumstances, in the absence of clear evidence linking Al Qaeda to the Cole attack, would have been instantly denounced by Republicans as an election-season publicity stunt designed to benefit Gore. And it was the FBI and CIA that failed to provide the clear rationale that Clinton would have needed to justify such action. In Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, he describes the handling of the Cole attack as follows:
The Yemeni government also dragged its feet in the investigation, leading to President Clinton's becoming personally involved. The U.S. government left the Yemenis in no doubt about the two alternative paths that Yemeni-American relations could take.
Meanwhile in Washington neither CIA nor FBI would state the obvious: al Qaeda did it. ... It was difficult to gain support for a retaliatory strike when neither FBI nor CIA would say that al Qaeda did it.
Clinton left office with bin Laden alive, but having authorized action to eliminate him and to step up the attacks on al Qaeda. He had defeated al Qaeda when it attempted to take over Bosnia by having its fighters dominate the defense of the breakaway state from Serbian attacks. He had seen earlier than anyone that terrorism would be the major new threat facing America, and therefore had greatly increased funding for counterterrorism and initiated homeland protection programs. He had put an end to Iraqi and Iranian terrorism against the United States by quickly acting against the intelligence services of each nation.
Because of the intensity of the political opposition that Clinton encountered, he had been heavily criticized for bombing al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, for engaging in "Wag the Dog" tactics to divert attention from a scandal about his personal life. For similar reasons, he could not fire the recalcitrant FBI director who had failed to fix the Bureau or to uncover terrorists in the United States.
When Clinton left office many people, including the incoming Bush administration, thought that he and his administration were overly obsessed with al Qaeda. ... Why was Clinton so worked up about al Qaeda and why did he talk to President-elect Bush about it and have Sandy Berger raise it with his successor as National Security Advisor, Condi Rice? In January 2001, the new administration really thought Clinton's recommendation that eliminating al Qaeda be one of their highest priorities, well, rather odd, like so many of the Clinton administration's actions, from their perspective.
William Rivers Pitt has written a detailed account of the initiatives initiated under Clinton to deal with Al Qaeda and the threat of terrorism. PBS has produced a documentary (not a docudrama) that offers fascinating insights into the life and career of John O'Neill, the counterterrorism expert who presciently warned about Al Qaeda prior to 9/11 and who is portrayed in "The Path to 9/11" by actor Harvey Keitel. The New Yorker has also written a nuanced, detailed profile of O'Neill that avoids political spin.
If people want to understand the failures that led to 9/11, they should turn to these and other examples of actual journalism rather than the mix of fact, fantasy and deliberate distortion that ABC/Disney plans to broadcast on the fifth anniversary of America's deadliest terrorist attack
Although the full programme has been shortened, these scenes are still in the version to be broadcast here.
Now the question is "what do we want to do about it ?" And if so, "what tack do we take?" The fact is that although this is fake history, it has no direct impact on domestic British politics. Fake history has been broadcast before and few, if anybody, died as a result. So what is our approach ?
The BBC is the broadcaster of record. There is a tendency, despite the fulminations on websites such as "BBC Biased", for its productions to attain an aura of the official record. So if this is broadcast unchallenged it will attain the imprimature of "this is what happened". So what approach do we take to make British people care that the version portrayed is misleading and deceitful ?
Once we decide on that, I would suggest that we make the editors of the Guardian (which had a woeful war and may wish to catch up), the Independent (obviously) and maybe even the Mirror aware of the firestorm over the deceptions in this programme and let them run with it.
As Public enemy nearly sang;-
You better wake up and smell the real flavor
Path to 911 is a Bush repute saver
So get up, get, get get down
Path to 911 is a joke in yo town
Get up, get, get, get down
Path to 911 wears the fake crown
Path to 911 is a joke
Update [2006-9-8 10:56:3 by Helen]:
I've sent this letter to the editor's of the Guardian, Independent and Mirror. I just feel it is the least I can do
This weekend the BBC intends to broadcast a shortened form of the ABC/Disney docudrama "The Path to 911. However, this production has a such a rabidly partisan political slant that there is a growing concern in the USA as to whether it should be broadcast at all.
This mockudrama, which takes real people and creates about them fake events with fake dialogue to completely misrepresent their intentions & actions is an insult to the memory of the 3,000 dead who died that day. For instance, the opening half hour sequence portrays a US team in position to "take-out" Osama Bin-Laden, only to have their mission aborted by Presidential dithering has only one flaw…it never happened. Not. Even. Close.
The entire programme takes the same viewpoint from start to finish, it invents episodes that never happened and puts dialogue into people's mouths. The point at all times is to consistently blame Clinton and the Democrats for apparent inaction and to praise Bush and the Republicans for their supposed decisive activity. As the firestorm developing in the USA right now testifies, this programme which is allegedly based on the 9/11 Commission is a travesty of misinformation and dishonesty.
So why does it matter ? On the one hand we should say that when it comes to honouring the dead of that day, we owe then nothing less than the most honest Truth. Even by the standards of Hollywood re-modellings of history this is a step too far. Taking a national tragedy and using it for short-term Party Political gain.
There is a critical election in the USA this November. to say it will determine the future course of American politics may seem like hyperbole, but is not too far from reality The BBC has become a global "Broadcaster of Record" and world-wide it is assumed that when the Corporation speaks, it speaks The Truth. This programme is nothing more-nor-less than a $60 million commercial for the Republican party (ABC are not even showing adverts !!!). So after broadcast in the USA this weekend when a more widespread fury erupts, ABC will be able to say "But this was shown on the BBC and they never complained"
So the BBC is reduced to providing a fig-leaf of credibility for an act of dishonour in a domestic American political war. And in doing so it will collude in insulting all who died that day.
Popular culture has a way of inculcating certain concepts into people's minds, especially young minds, far more effectively than talking head programs or earnest debates among political bloggers and columnists. This is the kind of thing that could taint the debate for generations if it takes hold. The short form of which is "a lie will be halfway around the world before the truth can pull its boots on"
We owed them only The Truth and the BBC have let them down.
This is an extract from an article about an 18 month old victim, Christine Lee Hanson.
Her father was on the phone with her grandfather during those last moments. Her father knew they were about to die. Imagine if you will what it was like to be Christine's father and mother. You know you are about to die with your young daughter next to you. Your dreams of growing up together with her, teaching her to read a book, watching her climb a tree, playing catch with her, sending her off to school, are about to end.
It must have been horrifying. Yet at the same time you probably fight to reassure her and reassure your father on the phone with you that it is all right because you do not want her last moments on earth to be terrifying. You probably want to fill them with love, with comfort. Christine's grandfather said later that his son told him, "don't worry Dad, when it happens, it'll be quick"
One plane had already crashed into a Twin Tower. Then their plane sped into the second tower.
Christine's father said, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God" and her grand father heard a scream and he watched on television as the second plane flew into the World Trade Center.
Moments after Christine died, the president's top adviser whispered in Bush's ear.
Bush went back to listening to children read "My Pet Goat" to him.
Democratic party response to ABC/Disney
Bill Clinton's response
Overview of errors