by Austin Bay
September 13, 2006
This year, Iran's theocratic dictators celebrated Sept. 11 by
banning several opposition newspapers, including Iran's leading "reformist"
Shargh had committed political sin and published a cartoon that
Tehran's robed dictators found insulting to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Associated Press reported the cartoon featured a chessboard with a white
horse confronting a black donkey. "In Iranian culture," the AP opined, "the
donkey is a symbol of ignorance. Iranian judiciary officials apparently took
the donkey to represent Iran in negotiations with the West over nuclear
Americans may be dismayed, but the urge to censor runs deep in
politicians of all stripes. A week earlier, U.S. Senate Minority Leader
Harry Reid, D-Nev., threatened to use government powers to censor ABC
Television and prevent ABC and its owner, Disney, from showing its
"docudrama," "The Path to 9/11."
On his Website, Reid urged Disney/ABC to cancel the miniseries.
Reid damned the show's writer-producer, Cyrus Nowrasteh, by name and
questioned "the motivations" of the show's creators. He also mentioned
invoking the Communications Act of 1934 -- a not-too-subtle threat of
"The usual voices" who claim to defend artistic freedom and free
speech didn't speak out for Nowrasteh. Remember their silence next time
conservatives gripe about faux-art like Andres Serrano's infamous "Piss
Christ." Serrano's unimaginative presentation was lauded by the
self-described "arts community" as a great, courageous statement. Alas, if
urine on a crucifix is courage, I'd like to see cowardice.
But back to ABC's "Path to 9/11." Reid's threat of censorship,
followed by a series of threats and protests by former Clinton
administration officials, ensured I'd give the docudrama at least a short
I can't say I'm not a fan of the "docudrama" genre, per se.
Shakespeare's history plays are docudramas of a sort. For the sake of poetry
and plot, "Henry V" substitutes imagination for fact, as does "Julius
There's a limit, however, to phony facts. Former Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright and Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger
complained -- after a number of journalists and politicians saw the film in
preview -- that they never spoke several of the lines attributed to them.
Unlike "Henry V," Albright and Berger aren't ancient history, and having
actors portraying them speak inaccurate words -- particularly craven
words -- is a blow too low. Apparently, ABC edited those scenes, and it
ABC also added a label to its product, informing the consumer
that the movie was, well, a movie -- a dramatization, where events and
characters were condensed in the interest of storytelling. This might be an
encouraging trend. Some of the more execrable television "news" programs,
which are little more than sensationalist claims of doom and gloom, need to
carry the same label.
So -- with these caveats -- I watched the ABC docudrama instead
of the Sunday night football game.
As a thriller, the movie was mediocre. However, its re-enactment
of the assassination of North Alliance leader and U.S. ally Ahmed Shah
Masood on Sept. 9, 2001, was particularly compelling. Mahsood had done far
more to defeat the USSR in Afghanistan than any of Osama bin Laden's "Arab
Afghans." His murder -- a historical fact -- demonstrated that al-Qaida and
the Taliban fear Muslims who don't buy their poisoned brand of Islam, and
especially fear them when they are allies of the United States. The movie
The flick wasn't much of a political statement, either, unless
the viewer happened to believe Islamo-fascists aren't at war with the
civilized world. As for the folks who believe the West or George W. Bush
created Islamo-fascist terrorism, then their own conspiracy theories are far
more fictional than this movie.
The movie did dramatize several of al-Qaida's pre-9/11 terror
attacks. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 attacks on U.S.
embassies in East Africa and the bombing of the USS Cole aren't Hollywood
fantasies, they are horrible facts.
It's also a fact the Clinton administration spent eight years
and the Bush administration eight months playing cops and robbers, while
al-Qaida was implementing unrestricted warfare. Both administrations treated
Islamo-fascist terrorism as a law enforcement issue.
Perhaps Sen. Reid still believes in a cops and robbers strategy.
If so, then he must also censor history.