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Does ABC/Disney Movie Include Bush Allowing Osama Bin Laden to Escape from Tora Bora?


(Graphic from our own twolf1.)

I am as furious as I can ever remember being at the moment.  LHP sent me a link this morning to a WaPo article, and I only got about seven paragraphs into it before I had to stand up and walk around the house a while before I could read any more of the article.  Here’s what cause my sharp intake of breath and increasing feeling of rage:

The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world — no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image — has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

"The handful of assets we have have given us nothing close to real-time intelligence" that could have led to his capture, said one counterterrorism official, who said the trail, despite the most extensive manhunt in U.S. history, has gone "stone cold."

But in the last three months, following a request from President Bush to "flood the zone," the CIA has sharply increased the number of intelligence officers and assets devoted to the pursuit of bin Laden. The intelligence officers will team with the military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and with more resources from the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies….

Intelligence officials think that bin Laden is hiding in the northern reaches of the autonomous tribal region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This calculation is based largely on a lack of activity elsewhere and on other intelligence, including a videotape, obtained exclusively by the CIA and not previously reported, that shows bin Laden walking on a trail toward Pakistan at the end of the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, when U.S. forces came close but failed to capture him.

Many factors have combined in the five years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to make the pursuit more difficult. They include the lack of CIA access to people close to al-Qaeda’s inner circle; Pakistan’s unwillingness to pursue him; the reemergence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; the strength of the Iraqi insurgency, which has depleted U.S. military and intelligence resources; and the U.S. government’s own disorganization.  (emphasis mine)

You think the GOP-U-Drama about to be broadcast on ABC/Disney includes a scene showing George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld giving the order for forces to stand down in Tora Bora, with a flash to Bin Laden walking away unscathed toward the territory of our good old ally, Pakistan?  You think the Director’s CIA folks told them about that — or would they even use it if they knew?  Doubt it — doesn’t fit the political world view and agenda of a "blame Bill Clinton" group of financiers, does it?

They apparently have made a few changes to the GOP-U-Drama, if it airs here the same as it has already aired in New Zealand.  I got an e-mail from a reader living there — Kevin Jon Heller who blogs at Opinio Juris — and I thought I’d share it with everyone else.  Here’s what things looked like in NZ’s version of the film:

To the best of my knowledge — which comes from E&P’s summary — there are only three changes, all very, very minor:

1. There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the program. It is never repeated.

2. Berger does not hang up on the snatch team in Afghanistan — the scene ends with him staring straight ahead, not responding to Tenet.

3. After Massoud asks if everyone in Washington is a coward, there is no cut to Clinton.

Other than that, the Berger scene is exactly the same. And the Albright scene has not been touched. Even the scene with the reporter saying that "pundits" are blaming the Sudan bombing on Clinton’s desire to divert attention from Lewinsky is still there.

"The Path to 9/11" — Part One

Opens with disclaimer. (Never repeats it.)

Notes the film is based in part on “The Cell.”

Quotes the 9/11 Commission Report about the need to get the history right!

Includes the scene where “American Airlines” lets Atta onto the plane despite the warning.

Includes scene with Berger and Tenet worrying about the snatch.

Includes the scene with Clarke telling O’Neill that the Administration is worried about political fallout and legalities, view terrorism as a law and order problem.

Includes the cut from “covering your own ass…” to Clinton denying sexual relations with Lewinsky.

Includes O’Neill telling Clarke that Clinton’s refusal to order the killing is “pathetic.”

Includes the call to Langley for approval to snatch bin Laden. Berger says he doesn’t have the authority, they’re not on the same page, he’s worried about the intel.

Deletes the hang-up – the scene ends with Berger staring straight ahead, not responding to Tenet’s angry statement about the buck stopping with him after Berger tells him he can recommend the snatch to Clinton.

Deletes the cut to Clinton after Massoud asks if they are "all cowards in Washington."

Includes “Patricia” blaming Tenet for not ordering the strike on bin Laden when they had the chance.

Includes O’Neill insisting Clinton has to do something, has to act.

Includes Albright saying they have to focus on bin Laden, not on the Taliban, because the latter is too major of an operation and the President is not willing to go that far.

Includes the reporter in the Sudan saying that Republicans and pundits are accusing Clinton of ordering the attack to divert attention from Lewinsky.

Includes Massoud claiming that Washington informed Pakistan of the Afghanistan strike.

Includes Albright confirming that the Administration warned the Pakistanis because of “regional factors” and Berger mentioning the problems with covert action.

Includes O’Neill praising Tenet’s “cojones.”

Includes the mock assassination of Clinton.

So it looks like the wingnut brigades who are more interested in political revenge than honesty will be happy — but I am just plain disgusted. And I can’t imagine that Part II will be any more historically accurate. Shame on ABC and Disney.

A reader with ties to Hollywood sends in the following question about ABC/Disney:

When networks do "docudramas" they have standards and practices department that goes over this with fine tooth comb… what happened here? Who was doing the fact checking? Who looked over the script and approved stuff that never happened?

I’d like to know the answer to that myself, because I happen to know that the legal department for television and movies, in the same way that they do for publishing, normally goes over all of the facts and representations with a nitpicky fine-toothed comb that demands accountability for every tiny detail. Where were they on this film? This is exactly the nightmare scenario that give lawyers ulcers and sleepless nights: fact free defamatory moments that tie you up in litigation for the rest of your freaking life.  Unless, of course, there was either complete incompetence (hello shareholders demanding accountability) or an agenda that disregarded potential litigation (um…yeah…accountability would go double here).

It is worth a reminder that several leading historians sent a letter to Robert Iger saying that this GOP-U-Drama should be pulled:

Dear Robert Iger:

We write as professional historians, who are deeply concerned by the continuing reports about ABC’s scheduled broadcast of “The Path to 9/11.” These reports document that this drama contains numerous flagrant falsehoods about critical events in recent American history. The key participants and eyewitnesses to these events state that the script distorts and even fabricates evidence into order to mislead viewers about the responsibility of numerous American officials for allegedly ignoring the terrorist threat before 2000.

The claim by the show’s producers, broadcaster, and defenders, that these falsehoods are permissible because the show is merely a dramatization, is disingenuous and dangerous given their assertions that the show is also based on authoritative historical evidence. Whatever ABC’s motivations might be, broadcasting these falsehoods, connected to the most traumatic historical event of our times, would be a gross disservice to the public. A responsible broadcast network should have nothing to do with the falsification of history, except to expose it. We strongly urge you to halt the show’s broadcast and prevent misinforming Americans about their history.


Arthur Schlesinger

Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

Michael Kazin, Georgetown University

Lizbeth Cohen, Harvard University,

Nicholas Salvatore, Cornell University;

Ted Widmer, Brown University;

Rick Perlstein, Independent Scholar;

David Blight, Yale University;

Eric Alterman, City University of New York.

The losses suffered by Americans on 9/11 should not be trivialized by a manipulative, false, anti-historical piece of fiction masquerading as fact to manipulate the public. That is so far from what ought to be considered ethical or responsible, and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves, if they had any scruples left at all. 

At long last, ABC and Disney and every single person involved in this craptastic GOP-U-Drama, have you no shame?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com