Agam's Gecko
Sunday, September 10, 2006

h, look at that. It's September 10th again, a reminder of what the world used to be. The fifth anniversary of the last day that we (many of us) could pretend that a growing threat to civilisation was nothing more than a law enforcement nuisance; the last day to ignore the fact that world civilisation's enemies were already at war with us all -- and had been for years.

And how is the five year milestone being marked, in the country which bore the calamitous attack? In thousands of thoughtful and honourable ways, undoubtedly. But also, it seems in some instances, with recriminations and partisan blame games. The kerfuffle over the ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 seems to have sucked up most of the subject's attention last week, and for very good reason. The controversy itself is shining a bit of strong sunlight on some very willful hypocrisy.

The ABC movie, as we all know, has been fiercely attacked by the leading lights of the Democrat Party, the previous administration, and a plethora of radical proggy bloggers (proggers?), as a "right wing propaganda smear campaign," or variations of that theme.

The counter-campaign moved very quickly from having minor lefty figures demanding changes to the script, to hauling out all the big guns -- Bill Clinton, and most of his national security team -- to demand the movie be banned altogether. The radical proggers then fell back to organising mass emailings, "Google bombings" and other people-powered peoples' censorship actions. None of these folks had actually seen what was making them so upset. The film makers quietly defended their work, and their right not to be censored, on the film's weblog here.

Before continuing with this, may I suggest that an excellent memorial to that day which ended our sleep, and all those lost or harmed on it, may be found right here: >bt: Crystal Morning. Footage shot by David Vogler, edited by Evan Coyne Maloney. Don't worry, nothing partisan or political there -- just an honourable and honest memorial, one of the thousands of thoughtful ways I mentioned earlier.

Now back to September 10 world for a moment, and the ABC controversy. When I first heard about this, I thought the whole thing might be a satire. A fictionalised dramatisation of the years when fighting jihadi terrorists was something most of the public never even thought about, is met by a consolidated campaign (by the "progressive left"?) to edit, censor or outright ban the film. Somebody has to be joking, I thought. Don't they remember a guy several years ago, who made a "documentary" (and who later actually admitted that it wasn't a documentary at all, but simply agitprop that happened to win documentary awards) called Fahrenheit 911, who was feted by all the Dems' leadership on its opening night in D.C. and seated in the most honoured place next to Jimmy C. in their big convention?

Had they forgotten that Big Mike's movie, built mainly (and indisputably) out of some outright lies, more than a few carefully couched deceptions and an awful lot of hand-waving, was not threatened with censorship or banning but rather countered by facts and honest debunking? Moore was criticised for his work after his work was known, when his script could be analysed and not merely rumoured about by people with no idea. Nobody that I know ever demanded that he not be able to make his flick, or distribute it, or accept awards for his deception. Its veracity was debated with facts and logic, not with suppression. Now, all of a sudden the shoe's on the other foot, and the techniques employed to suppress a dramatisation not even claimed as a documentary, are very enlightening as to the actual ideals of those employing them.

At the Blue Crab Boulevard was the first place I saw this hypocrisy explicitly pointed out: Have You Noticed?
Have you noticed the difference here?

One group decries the accuracy, the other decries the existence. Who is in favor of silencing the opposition again? Who is in favor of curtailing the free speech of others?

Have you noticed?
Well, I sure noticed. I also notice that Gaius can say it a lot more succinctly than I can. The thuggish tactics were also noticed by AllahPundit, getting a little more verbose than usual:
So it’s not about getting them to correct the record anymore; if it were, they’d be asking for only those scenes to be changed or cut. They’re obviously after something more, and they either don’t grasp or don’t care how thuggish it makes them look — presumably the latter, since the fightin’ nutroots is forever begging them to be more venomous and intractable. It doesn’t even pay to call them thugs because they’ll either wear it as a badge of pride or dismiss it as invective designed to cow them into backing off. It isn’t, sincerely. I say it because they’re genuinely goddamned thugs, whatever their reaction to that term. And if I had to guess, I’d guess that the only point of this browbeating at this point is as a demonstration of raw political power. Either that, or it’s an exercise in Lakoffian “branding,” whereby they’re finally going to show America that they too can demand unconditional surrender from an enemy. Just like Harry Truman. Except with Mickey Mouse in place of Hirohito.
While this controversy was bubbling into a crescendo (and taking over from the nutroots' castigation of President Bush's recent speeches as having "politicised the terrorist issue"), a new al Qaeda video aired on al Jazeera, showing Osama bin Laden meeting with Ramzi bin al Shib (recently relocated to Guantanamo Bay, with Hambali and a dozen others) and two of the September 11 hijackers. This would seem to throw the 911 "truthers" for a loop as far as the "inside job" conspiracy theories go, but I anticipate some skillful tapdancing to keep the hope alive. Also featured on Jihad TV were two martyrdom testaments, declaring their suicide-homicide actions to be in retaliation for US policy in Bosnia. That was when President Clinton sent the US military to stop a mass genocide by Milosevic and the Serbs. A genocide of Bosnian Muslims. You're welcome...

But this was no time for Democrat partisans to reflect on al Qaeda's own latest (not the first) airtight confession -- there was a movie to stop, and broadcasting licences to threaten. The movie was rumoured to have dramatised incidents in which excellent opportunities to kill Osama were achieved, yet the administration backed off. President Clinton said it was a lie, and thought the movie should be pulled (taking a principled stand on truth-telling). Madeline Albright was livid, and Sandy "I feel something funny in my pants" Berger wasn't too happy either.

Behind Enemy Lines picks it up from there, quoting from the letter Mr. Berger sent on Sept. 5, 2006 to Robert Iger of Disney Corp. (owner of ABC):
In no instance did President Clinton or I ever fail to support a request from the CIA or US military to authorize an operation against bin Laden or al Qaeda.
The National Commission's final report is still available here, from which the blogger quotes:
On December 4, as news came in about the discoveries in Jordan, National Security Council (NSC) Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke wrote Berger,“If George’s [Tenet’s] story about a planned series of UBL attacks at the Millennium is true, we will need to make some decisions NOW.” He told us he held several conversations with President Clinton during the crisis. He suggested threatening reprisals against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the event of any attacks on U.S. interests, anywhere, by Bin Ladin. He further proposed to Berger that a strike be made during the last week of 1999 against al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan—a proposal not adopted.11
That "11" there represents a footnote, which reads:
11. NSC note, Clarke to Berger, Dec. 4, 1999; Richard Clarke interview (Jan. 12, 2004). In the margin next to Clarke’s suggestion to attack al Qaeda facilities in the week before January 1, 2000, Berger wrote "no."
Wai little green footballs, and nice catch for Secret Agent X-9, Behind Enemy Lines.

Blogger SeeDubya at JunkYardBlog dug up a Hardball interview with Michael Scheuer (head of 'Alex Station' - the CIA unit focusing strictly on al Qaeda at that time) from last year. He says,
Mr. Clinton‘s administration had far more chances to kill Osama bin Laden than Mr. Bush has until this day.


But we had at least eight to 10 chances to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in 1998 and 1999. And the government on all occasions decided that the information was not good enough to act.


When we were going to capture Osama bin Laden, for example, the lawyers were more concerned with bin Laden‘s safety and his comfort than they were with the officers charged with capturing him. We had to build an ergonomically designed chair to put him in, special comfort in terms of how he was shackled into the chair. They even worried about what kind of tape to gag him with so it wouldn‘t irritate his beard. The lawyers are the bane of the intelligence community.
Wai again AllahPundit, who has more on the missed opportunities -- including the words of one Mansoor Ijaz, who had actually negotiated some of those opportunities:
As an American Muslim and a political supporter of Clinton, I feel now, as I argued with Clinton and Berger then, that their counter-terrorism policies fueled the rise of Bin Laden from an ordinary man to a Hydra-like monster…

Clinton’s failure to grasp the opportunity to unravel increasingly organized extremists, coupled with Berger’s assessments of their potential to directly threaten the U.S., represents one of the most serious foreign policy failures in American history.
But we mustn't talk about that now, say Mr. Berger and the others in the Democrat establishment. Apparently it may detract from Bush Derangement -- the seemingly incurable syndrome afflicting millions. And especially important is not to remember the questions one may have had after Mr. Berger pleaded guilty to his mishandling of the classified national archive documents he accidentally stuffed into his socks and pants (and only upon his sentencing did he admit that he'd cut them up into teeny-tiny pieces with his very own scissors). Do not wonder what was in those documents, or why they had to get lost on the eve of the Sept. 11 Commission's public hearings in early 2004. Notes in margins, you know.

At this point, it's time for the Greatest Movie Line Ever. Watch it: it's a video, it's very short, and it's perfect. Wai Instapundit for that one, and a chance reading of a post of his from last year. Serendipity!

Well I've been poking at this over much of the day, and by now it's already Sept. 10 in North America. I don't know whether the Path to 911 will be seen over there this evening, or not. I'd heard that ABC would offer it as a free download (the broadcast was to be free of advertisements, befitting a hot potato I suppose). But in any case, this inter-tubes thingy comes through again, as Hot Air tips us off that the segments causing all the ruckus are available for viewing at Redstate. See it while you can, before the forces of suppression get it pulled. They're in 6 parts, Quicktime format -- and a text synopsis of each is made available too, if you can't watch the clips. But if my crappy connection can do it, I'm sure most can. It looks like they give a good portrayal of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Lion of the Panjshir Valley. Al Qaeda killed him with two booby-trapped journalists, five years ago yesterday.

Allah also catches Johnny Dollar with a short video of Michael Scheuer:

KASICH: Do you really believe, in the depths of your soul, that we could have had him? [bin Laden].

SCHEUER: [laughs] His innards, sir, should be splattered all over the desert of southern Afghanistan. There's no reason why Osama bin Laden is alive today, except that President Clinton and his national security advisors refused to press the button.
Does the conflation of those 10 missed opportunities which Scheuer refers to, into a single incident in a dramatised account, amount to dishonesty? Perhaps. Maybe it's worse than we thought, or are allowed to think. Accuracy is important in depictions of historical events, but that's never stopped Hollywood before. As for whether the script goes against the Sept. 11 Commission report, perhaps critics need to wait and see it first. Then decide if there's really dishonesty at work here. That would seem to be the reality-based way of going about it.

But after having viewed the 6 above mentioned clips from the movie (presumably encompassing the disputed material), it seems to me to comport fairly well with this portion of the Commission report.
Kandahar, May 1999
It was in Kandahar that perhaps the last, and most likely the best, opportunity arose for targeting Bin Ladin with cruise missiles before 9/11. In May 1999, CIA assets in Afghanistan reported on Bin Ladin's location in and around Kandahar over the course of five days and nights.The reporting was very detailed and came from several sources. If this intelligence was not "actionable," working-level officials said at the time and today, it was hard for them to imagine how any intelligence on Bin Ladin in Afghanistan would meet the standard. Communications were good, and the cruise missiles were ready."This was in our strike zone," a senior military officer said. "It was a fat pitch, a home run." He expected the missiles to fly.When the decision came back that they should stand down, not shoot, the officer said, "we all just slumped." He told us he knew of no one at the Pentagon or the CIA who thought it was a bad gamble. Bin Ladin "should have been a dead man" that night, he said.
I want to end this on a more positive note, by offering a column by Ralph Peters on why Islam is not our enemy, and why the irrational Islam-haters are ... an enemy within. Islamist fascism is a plague upon Muslims as much as it is upon non-Muslims, and we need to try and stick together. Peters has spent plenty of time in Muslim societies. As one who has spent lots of time in the most populous Muslim nation over the past 15 years, I think he's right. Those who want a war against Islam, which the war against Islamist fascism most certainly is not, are not our friends. They may be the enemy of our enemy, but they are not our friends.

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