When the truth is known, why supply inaccuracies?

ABC has produced a pre-911 docudrama (using such things as composite characters and incidents which are not technically correct), and predictably, the former Clinton admininistration officials and their supporters are alleging the film is inaccurate.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- An upcoming TV mini-series about the origins of the Sept. 11 plot is provoking angry complaints from Democrats about the portrayal of the Clinton administration's response to terrorism.

"The Path to 9/11," a five-hour dramatization laying out the history of the Sept. 11 plot from the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, will be aired over two nights on the anniversary of the attack next week by ABC Television.

The movie is billed as a dramatization based on the report of the U.S. commission that investigated the events of Sept. 11 and circumstances leading up to it. According to a disclaimer shown at the beginning of each episode, it "has composite and representative characters and incidents, and time compressions have been used for dramatic purposes."

But a portion of the film showing an aborted effort to capture al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden before the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa has aroused the ire of some of the officials portrayed.

A statement from Samuel "Sandy" Berger, who was national security adviser to President Bill Clinton at the time, calls the scenes involving him "complete fabrications."

And Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., called on ABC to show disclaimers throughout each episode, not just at the beginning. "ABC has a responsibility to make clear that this film is not a documentary, and does not represent an official account of the facts surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks," she said.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who astutely notes that it isn't wise for the Democrats to call attention to the film.)

Glenn is absolutely right, because no matter how fictionalized the account might be there's no question that there were serious omissions in the operations against bin Laden. Here's Manssor Ijaz in 2001, from the LA Times:

In July 2000--three months before the deadly attack on the destroyer Cole in Yemen--I brought the White House another plausible offer to deal with Bin Laden, by then known to be involved in the embassy bombings. A senior counter-terrorism official from one of the United States' closest Arab allies--an ally whose name I am not free to divulge--approached me with the proposal after telling me he was fed up with the antics and arrogance of U.S. counter-terrorism officials.

The offer, which would have brought Bin Laden to the Arab country as the first step of an extradition process that would eventually deliver him to the U.S., required only that Clinton make a state visit there to personally request Bin Laden's extradition. But senior Clinton officials sabotaged the offer, letting it get caught up in internal politics within the ruling family--Clintonian diplomacy at its best.

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.

Read the whole thing. (And bear in mind that it's just one of many such accounts.)

Acccording to this Washington Times report, Berger nixed the capture of bin Laden not once, but four times:

According to the September 11 commission's 567-page report, released Thursday, Mr. Berger was told in June 1999 that U.S. intelligence agents were confident about bin Laden's presence in a terrorist training camp called Tarnak Farms in Afghanistan.

Mr. Berger's "hand-written notes on the meeting paper," the report says, showed that Mr. Berger was worried about injuring or killing civilians located near the camp.

Additionally, "If [bin Laden] responds" to the attack, "we're blamed," Mr. Berger wrote.

The report also says that Richard Clarke, Mr. Berger's expert on counterterrorism, presented that plan to get bin Laden because he was worried about the al Qaeda leader's "ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction."

These revelations come as Mr. Berger is under investigation by the Justice Department for smuggling several copies of classified documents that dealt with the Clinton administration's anti-terror policies out of the National Archives.

That's of course the notorious sock stuffing incident, which resulted in Berger's guilty plea. You'd think that if the Clintons were going to do battle with ABC to stop the film, they'd find a better point man.

These reports find confirmation in numerous other places, including the New York Sun, and the Washington Post, which has Berger blaming the FBI:

"The FBI did not believe we had enough evidence to indict bin Laden at that time, and therefore opposed bringing him to the United States," said Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, who was deputy national security adviser then.
The evidence of Clinton administration incompetence (especially Berger's) is so overwhelming that ABC didn't need to fabricate anything. So why produce a "docudrama" of the sort normally associated with the likes of Oliver Stone?

I more than share Dean Barnett's concerns about historical inaccuracies.

Is there anything wrong with just telling the truth?

UPDATE: "The Path to 9/11" is looking a lot like "The Reagans, Part II."

Spare me.

posted by Eric on 09.06.06 at 03:01 PM


I think we nned to watch this asap

Pakistan: We Will Capture Bin Laden If He's Found

fwerf   ·  September 6, 2006 9:41 PM

Eric- you have this kind of time??? There is soo much stuff on here, you typing this or cutting and pasting? I don't have the time to read it all. And I'm assuming this is the only Eric Scheie I've herad of. I'm starting to find other Scheie's out there...found one in Georgia but his name isn't Eric.

Maren   ·  September 6, 2006 10:38 PM

Whenever I quote something, (as I did with the three excerpts above), I do so by cutting and pasting, and I always try to make sure I provide a link.

What I write is not cut and pasted (except maybe from my brain).

And yes, this takes a lot of time. (Too much, I'm afraid.)

(You're right that there are a couple of other Eric Scheies out there, but I'm the only one blogging here!)

Eric Scheie   ·  September 7, 2006 9:46 AM

If I were the producers of this piece, I would ensure that the intitial content would provoke a controversy.

Look at all the free publicity it has brought!

Dean does make some very good points about "docudramas." However, they should continue to be made since so many need a story to sit still for any exposition. Yet there will remain the tension between the art form of docudramas and the complete and accurate reconstruction of events. Real life is just too slow and unclear for TV!

For me, as a potential viewer, I haven't decided whether to devote the time to watching or not. How factual or compromised is the film? I'd have to know everything BEFOREHAND to judge.

I will have to read the extensive post-mortums to get to the truth - more time devoted to the subject when I'm already of the informed opinion that the CLinton team dropped the ball big time, just as Democrats in general fumble today.

Whitehall   ·  September 7, 2006 8:19 PM

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