Monday, September 11, 2006
Despite a strong desire not to, I sat through ABC's controversial "The Path to 9/11" Sunday, marveling at the incomplete, often fictionalized events that comprised Part 1. For starters, let's set the record straight: terrorism is not a phenomenon that began with the first WTC bombing in February 1993. This new kind of murderous, cowardly warfare has been perpetrated on society for decades. To discount these tragic events--Munich, the Achille Lauro, etc--and the role they've played leading up to 9/11, is irresponsible and ignorant. Bill Clinton was not the first U.S. president forced to deal with this new enemy, which is what the producers of "The Path to 9/11" would have you believe.
Next, it's wrong for the film to trivialize the due diligence, rational, responsible thinking, deference towards diplomacy, and respect for international law exercised by the Clinton administration when contemplating an attack on Osama bin Laden at one point. Factored into team-Clinton's decision was the collateral damage from such an attack: the risk to citizens; fallout over not adhering to no-fly zone restrictions; and concerns about accusations of overreaction were we to use ground troops and/or assassinate bin Laden (remember, this was pre-9/11. The attacks then against the U.S. were much more limited in scope by comparison). To the contrary, the Busheviks acted like wild, drunken cowboys leading up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. In retrospect, too bad they hadn't demonstrated the same vigilance as the Clinton administration.
Third, the film portrays several key Clinton officials in a highly negative light. For example, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright--a normally affable, charming woman--as a shrill, personality-less robotic bully. Sandy Berger, Richard Clarke and George Tenet don't fare much better either.
Lastly, Clinton himself is portrayed as the face of evil. Scenes of hate-spewing Muslims violently demonstrating in the streets of Afghanistan screaming "Clinton is Satan" casts a highly charged, biased cloud throughout the film. That he is portrayed as a distracted, kinky fool mired in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal is even worse.
Look, there's culpability all around for 9/11. The Clinton administration certainly could've done a better job at the intelligence, prevention, and law enforcement levels. The same is true for President Bush. And Nixon, Carter and every president since. Muslim extremism has been around a helluva lot longer than Bill Clinton and George Bush.
We won't get into all of the factual problems of the film. Those have been discussed ad infinitum for days now. But one thing should be crystal clear: the tragic events of 9/11 should never be used, misused and exploited for political purposes, but that's precisely what this often fictionalized account does right before a critical election. The most horrific attack in U.S. history deserves to be preserved in history in its factual state. Anything less is a dishonor and disgrace to the memory of those who died on that day, to those they left behind, and to every single American.