September 7th, 2006


ABC's 9/11 "Docudrama" Consciously Lies to Help GOP


I would give anything for that to be a scare headline. Far as I can tell, it is not.

This is one of the worst things I have ever posted about; one of the worst that has happened in my lifetime. Its implications are staggering, and very frightening to me.

As one would have expected, a major U.S. TV network (ABC) is showing a two-part docudrama ("The Path to 9/11") tied in to the five-year-anniversary of the 9/11/01 terror attacks. It features a strong cast, purports to be based directly on the 9/11 Commission Report, and focuses on the lead-up to 9/11 itself. Despite that pedigree I had, as you may have, heard some rumblings about this one being out of the ordinary: it was being put together by a good buddy of Rush Limbaugh's, pre-screeners were only being made available to right-wingers (including right-wing bloggers), it was being pushed hard on young people in schools (with teacher "study guides" through Scholastic), and the Clinton era officials portrayed in it -- including the former President -- were being denied the chance to preview it. Frankly, none of this disturbed me as much as it should have, at first: though billed as an "objective" portrayal of the events leading up to 9/11, I sorta figured it might tilt to the right some -- pretty typical for TV, particularly where national security issues are involved. In any event, I figured if I posted about it at all, I'd certainly wait until it had actually been shown (next Sunday and Monday nights, I believe).

That was before I heard what we now know about it, something which is astonishing (and outraging) national security professionals -- Republicans as well as Democrats (see the second link below); before I knew that it includes deliberate, calculated falsehoods of historic magnitude.

I would have bet you money that such a thing was impossible in this country. I hereby apologize to all my "paranoid" friends. You were right, I was wrong. :(

To pick one choice example (details at the links*), this show portrays a CIA officer on the ground in Afghanistan, pre-9/11, with the head of the Afghan Northern Alliance (Ahmed Shah Massoud) and direct visual sighting of bin Laden, prepared to kill bin Laden himself...said CIA guy frantically calling the Clinton national security staff to try to get their okay. The Clinton staff refuses...and Clinton national security advisor Sandy Berger, by name, hangs up on the astonished CIA dude.

Only problem: the entire thing is a lie. It never happened.**

Let me say that again: the CIA-Massoud sighting of bin Laden, and Clinton team refusal to act on it, NEVER HAPPENED. But there the imaginary CIA guy is, on the screen: furious and incredulous that Clinton's people refuse to take bin Laden out. And millions of Americans will see that, and BELIEVE that it happened. Which is just what ABC WANTS them to believe...and if that doesn't scare the shit out of you, then you would have fit in really well in Stalin's (actual) Russia, or Orwell's (imaginary) 1984.

I thought I was beyond being astonished these days, but I was wrong about that, too.

Remember the hyperventilating about Oliver Stone's JFK -- an admittedly fictional film? Can you imagine if Stone had been invited to script ABC's 9/11 anniversary docudrama (!), and had portrayed, say, a Bush aide talking to Katherine Harris about her plans to steal the 2000 election? Never happen in a million years. And even that example isn't good enough: because we don't know FOR SURE that such a conversation didn't happen; we DO know FOR SURE that the scene with the imaginary CIA officer didn't happen.***

No wonder ABC refused to let Clinton or his aides see the thing: they hope the propaganda damage will be done before anyone can refute it.

Does this mean the show won't criticize the Bush administration? I hardly think that's possible; you can't cover the bare facts without the Bush administration looking bad, and even if they downplay, say, the month-long vacation in August 2001 -- or the national security advisor who didn't think bin Laden was her job -- they'll almost have to pay some attention to this administration having cut the terrorism budget, downgraded the anti-terror specialist from a cabinet position, etc., etc., etc. But no amount of deserved criticism of the Bush administration will make up for one key, fundamental fact: the show knowingly falsifies the record in a slanderous way. That is not inadvertence, or dramatic license, or anything else we are accustomed to. America is entering a new phase, as of right now...on which a final thought:

Having now reached the stage where one of the major TV networks will knowingly lie to try to help one party in upcoming elections, one can no longer, I believe, definitively rule out the wild conspiracy theories we keep hearing; for if the fix is THAT far in, who can say how much further it goes? Does the GOP keep "winning" by changing vote counts in elections they actually lose? My God, did the administration have some guilty role in 9/11 itself? Once you know FOR SURE that the ABC television network -- in a broadcast approval which has to involve at least hundreds of people -- will falsify history, in such melodramatic ways, with such political significance, two months before a crucial election? -- you can't rule anything out any more. Period.

Maybe St. Hunter Thompson had it right, after all: "There is no more paranoia. It's all true."

93 93/93 -- AJ
(who probably really is done with political posts now; good night, & good luck!)


These are Kos links because that's where I first heard about it (then on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC cable show) -- but note that the second one involves a Bush appointee appearing on rightwing former Congressman Joe Scarborough's show to refute the ABC miniseries in question. Wow.

** I am bending over backwards to be fair here; "lie" is a big word. The closest real event was a single-source allegation (not Massoud, and not any CIA officer, none of the latter of whom we had onsite) that somebody had spotted bin Laden, and did they want to execute him pursuant to Clinton's existing kill order. On CIA Dir. Tenet's advice that the sourcing wasn't strong enough to justify the civilian casualties, the administration -- which wanted to kill him -- agreed to back off. Note that: we had ZERO CIA people there to judge the report, much less with a visual of bin Laden, and Massoud -- a real person, named in the show -- had nothing to do with it. They simply made this crap up, so they could falsely blame Clinton for 9/11, period.

Look, I expect confusion with all the misinformation (and disinformation) afoot -- you still hear people, e.g., saying (as a character says in this film) that Clinton treats terrorism as a matter for "law enforcement, period"...despite the fact, confirmed by the 9/11 Commission (to the obvious surprise of witness John Ashcroft, btw, who had evidently himself been lied to about this by his bosses) that Clinton had already signed a "capture or kill" order on bin Laden; and for that matter, the fact that Bill Clinton is STILL the ONLY American official to have tried to kill bin Laden -- only to be ATTACKED FOR DOING SO by the Republicans on the "wag the dog" theory (that he was trying to distract from their own attempts to impeach and remove him for the unauthorized use of a penis).

Ahem. As I say, I expect errors, and spin, and some outright distortions...but these are not errors, spins, distortion: this is the deliberate slander of a former President, on national security issues, in the middle of a crucial election, broadcast will full knowledge of its falsity. The implications for American freedom can hardly be overstated.

*** For that matter, we also know that President Bush pulled assets off of the hunt for bin Laden to prepare, instead, to go into Iraq; and that Bush refused to commit U.S. ground troops to kill bin Laden at Tora Bora, thus allowing bin Laden to escape. These are unquestioned facts...which may explain why they had to invent a fake "Clinton did it, too" story to cover their sorry butts. :P