Monday, September 11, 2006

9.10 and a half

abc/disney/"constitutional crisis" image via

You already know, in all likelihood, about the fuss about the Disney/ABC miniseries, "The Path to 9/11", part 1 of which aired last night.

Tim Grieve in Salon's War Room writes:

"...there was also a new scene in which the actor playing Richard Clarke suggests that Clinton was not distracted by the Lewsinky affair. And then there was the world-gone-mad portrayal of a TV correspondent, reporting from the midst of riotous chaos overseas that Clinton's critics in Congress were claiming that he launched missiles in the direction of bin Laden as a "Wag the Dog" ploy. In our eyes, at least, that short clip brought home pretty well the ridiculousness of the Republicans' focus in the late 1990s and the fallacy of choosing an inadequate president based on a trumped-up notion of restoring "honesty and integrity" to the White House."

The main point of contention has been that the series attempts to smear the Clinton administration as hindered by a preoccupation with bureaucratic protocols and unwilling to go after Bin Laden in the '90s, including the assertion that Albright once held up a clandestine attack on Bin Laden by insisting that the Pakistani government be informed first. Given that the series has been touted as being based on the 9/11 Comission's report, it's awfully difficult to argue for "poetic license" when the report details no such thing. Moreover, if you're going to say your dramatization is based on the 9/11 report, you are effectively telling your audience that the details you offer aren't poetic licence at all, but part of the record.

I watched some 10 minutes of the show last night, tuning in at random. It was a sequence about the capture of Ramzi Yousef, the guy responsible for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Shortly after a team of American and Pakistani forces capture him, there's a scene in which an American operative is sitting next to him in the back seat of a Landcruiser as it's driving away from the arrest scene, and the American guy asks Yousef:

"so who's been backing you, Ramzi? Saddam? Come on, we know you didn't have the resources to pull this off by yourself!"

Where do I even start? Steering the audience to that old lie? Hell, that's a gimme. First, I assume, perhaps foolishly, that US intelligence operatives would be trained to not introduce suggestions to a subject being interrogated, as it will simply give him an idea of what you want him to say, and irrespective of what actually occurred, he may then decide to tell you what you want to hear so you will have corrupted your own interrogation.* Second, I don't think a US intelligence guy is supposed to question a high-level suspect, even informally, in front of the two Pakistani military guys (in the front seats of the Landcruiser in this scene). Wasn't that the whole point of smearing Albright in the first place, that you don't necessarily want the Pakistani military to know everything our guys know?

[also see "the path to iraq" a dandy set of links, also thanks to Tim Grieve.]

*The reason why torture doesn't work, apart from moral and diplomatic considerations.