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The Vigilantism of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

"Zero Dark Thirty" movie poster

The Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty depicting the hunt for Osama bin Laden opened everywhere in the United States this weekend. Coincidentally, the date it opened was also the eleventh year anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Much has been written about the film throughout the past month, particularly how it shows torture helped the US government obtain the information necessary for eventually finding Bin Laden. Less has been written about the vigilantism of the film.

Just over a week ago, film director Oliver Stone appeared on “Up” with Chris Hayes on MSNBC to discuss the “Untold History of the United States” project he produced with Peter Kuznick. During his appearance, he addressed Hollywood mythmaking and said:

Zero Dark Thirty is to me biased (ph) on just on the torture level, but it`s biased among the fact that they don`t even think about the idea of taking the man back alive and wounded back to trial and showing him and dealing with the consequences of what he did. That kind of open discussion would have been very helpful. We would have been like Nuremberg, which [was] very important. It`s one of the best movies actually, Judgment at Nuremberg.

They took the Nazis. They unmasked them. They diminished them and we understood it better. But we never dealt with that. We just killed him, threw his body in the sea and walked away. We never talk about it. There`s no discussion about it.

Was it ever the intention of the CIA, JSOC or the Obama administration to capture Bin Laden alive?

The film leads one to believe there was no meaningful debate over executing Bin Laden in his compound. No scene shows discussion among officials at the CIA or any other government agency prior to the operation over whether to kill or capture him.

Two radar-evading black “Silent Hawk” helicopters carrying SEAL Team Six take off from Forward Operating Base Afghanistan. One of the helicopters crash-lands at Bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan. The other lands without malfunction. At the entrance to the compound, one squad shoots Ibrahim Sayeed, the courier who helped the CIA develop their hunch that Bin Laden was at this location. The other that crash-landed goes into where Bin Laden is hiding through another entrance. (And each one harbors a little to a fair amount of doubt that Bin Laden is actually in this compound.)

Inside, all military-age males are shot on sight, even if they are not holding weapons or firing at the team. Members of the team, who land kill shots, also do not hesitate to pump extra bullets into these men. The women scream and are restrained or held at gunpoint. The children cry and are put in another room.

The team continues to tactically move through the compound killing military-age males they encounter. Abruptly, shots are fired at a man who cannot be seen fully. He falls to the ground. Two team members look at who has fallen to the ground. It is Bin Laden. He never fired at anyone. One team member says, “For God and country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” He pauses and then adds, “Geronimo EKIA.”

SEAL Team Six collects hard drives, digital media and other files from the compound. They put Bin Laden’s corpse into a body bag and load into helicopters as Pakistan authorities are nearing the compound and may discover what happened. The team takes off and, when it lands, the body is identified by Maya (Jessica Chastain), the CIA agent who was 100% sure Bin Laden would be there. And no scene features any official asking whether SEAL Team Six could have taken him alive. [cont’d.]

CommunityThe Dissenter

The Vigilantism of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

"Zero Dark Thirty" movie poster (Photo found at Wikimedia Commons)

The Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty depicting the hunt for Osama bin Laden opened everywhere in the United States this weekend. Coincidentally, the date it opened was also the eleventh year anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Much has been written about the film throughout the past month, particularly how it shows torture helped the US government obtain the information necessary for eventually finding Bin Laden. Less has been written about the vigilantism of the film.

Just over a week ago, film director Oliver Stone appeared on “Up” with Chris Hayes on MSNBC to discuss the “Untold History of the United States” project he produced with Peter Kuznick. During his appearance, he addressed Hollywood mythmaking and said:

Zero Dark Thirty is to me biased (ph) on just on the torture level, but it`s biased among the fact that they don`t even think about the idea of taking the man back alive and wounded back to trial and showing him and dealing with the consequences of what he did. That kind of open discussion would have been very helpful. We would have been like Nuremberg, which [was] very important. It`s one of the best movies actually, Judgment at Nuremberg.

They took the Nazis. They unmasked them. They diminished them and we understood it better. But we never dealt with that. We just killed him, threw his body in the sea and walked away. We never talk about it. There`s no discussion about it.

Was it ever the intention of the CIA, JSOC or the Obama administration to capture Bin Laden alive?

The film leads one to believe there was no meaningful debate over executing Bin Laden in his compound. No scene shows discussion among officials at the CIA or any other government agency prior to the operation over whether to kill or capture him.

Two radar-evading black “Silent Hawk” helicopters carrying SEAL Team Six take off from Forward Operating Base Afghanistan. One of the helicopters crash-lands at Bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan. The other lands without malfunction. At the entrance to the compound, one squad shoots Ibrahim Sayeed, the courier who helped the CIA develop their hunch that Bin Laden was at this location. The other that crash-landed goes into where Bin Laden is hiding through another entrance. (And each one harbors a little to a fair amount of doubt that Bin Laden is actually in this compound.)

Inside, all military-age males are shot on sight, even if they are not holding weapons or firing at the team. Members of the team, who land kill shots, also do not hesitate to pump extra bullets into these men. The women scream and are restrained or held at gunpoint. The children cry and are put in another room.

The team continues to tactically move through the compound killing military-age males they encounter. Abruptly, shots are fired at a man who cannot be seen fully. He falls to the ground. Two team members look at who has fallen to the ground. It is Bin Laden. He never fired at anyone. One team member says, “For God and country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” He pauses and then adds, “Geronimo EKIA.”

SEAL Team Six collects hard drives, digital media and other files from the compound. They put Bin Laden’s corpse into a body bag and load into helicopters as Pakistan authorities are nearing the compound and may discover what happened. The team takes off and, when it lands, the body is identified by Maya (Jessica Chastain), the CIA agent who was 100% sure Bin Laden would be there. And no scene features any official asking whether SEAL Team Six could have taken him alive. (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."