Victors write history

Sabbath day.

Yesterday Leah and I ventured to Seguin to see Zero Dark Thirty, a sobering film depicting the manhunt and eventual assassination of Osama bin Laden. The show was riveting, the drama thick, action sequences well orchestrated, meticulously paced and produced. I am led to believe the story results from interviews and accounts taken from participants portrayed in the film; what you see on screen closely resembles what actually took place on the ground.

Some decry the film because it depicts torture sequences that led agents to Osama bin Laden. Popular sentiment amongst the more gentle natured amongst us suggests torture doesn’t work. Unfortunately, sometimes it does. While true that those being tortured often can and will lie, even lies sometimes reveal truths, as experienced interrogators hear not only what is said, but also what is not and can compare offerings from one detainee with evidence from other sources, playing one against another. Having endured torture myself, I know that when someone applies enough heat to your ass, most if not all will say something. To my personal shame and regret, I squealed on more than one occasion, dating as far back as my own childhood and a couple of wrecked motorcycles….

The more conspiratorial among us will say the whole story of Osama’s demise was a hoax; he died long ago; the fact that no pictures were provided and that his body was buried at sea destroyed evidence of the whole charade.

For what it’s worth, I think Osama bin Laden was killed as depicted by the film, that he did actively plan and participate in a plan to hijack airliners which were then flown into buildings on suicide missions. However, that is only part of the story.

I learned from the film and for that reason, I recommend watching it. But not without issuing a warning: you are being propagandized when you do. I’m not sure that’s the intent of the filmmaker, but it is the effect. As did the lead interrogator pursuing Osama in the film, I learned not only from what the film depicts, but also what it omits.

To begin, there was no plan to capture Osama alive. Period. Why, may I ask, is that?

While each participant may have told the truth to the best of his or her ability, considering the modes operandi of armies and espionage agencies, the requirement that agents and soldiers are told what they know on a need to know and only on a need to know basis, and therefore are rarely cognizant of the big picture (including even the president of the land, I would add), a series of truths may be arranged in a way that supports undeserved and unwarranted conclusions.

The film begins with phone conversations from people trapped in the twin towers, gut-wrenching stuff. In a matter of minutes, viewers are drawn into a man-hunt for the obvious perpetrator and master-mind, without offering much in the way of how this man became the lead suspect in the case.

I will not drag you through conflicting and contradictory evidence refuting the official version of 9-11 events; suffice it to say I do not believe the whole truth has been revealed, not by this film, and certainly not by our government.

Assassinating Osama bin Laden assured that we would never hear his first-hand account of events.

I don’t cry for the man; he was a killer of innocents, in thought and deed. But he shares that trait with people of high repute in our own society.

And the victors write history.

Oddly enough, today, Robert Kennedy Jr. shared that he doesn’t believe a lone gunman killed his uncle, a sitting president. Furthermore, apparently his father, Robert Kennedy, the attorney general of the land at the time, didn’t believe the Warren Commission either.

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Don Henry Ford Jr.

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    • I don’t buy it. I’ve got pretty good insight into how the special task forces they set up worked on the intelligence side. When they have the option, capture is their bread and butter. They *love* capture because it plays to what are now their strengths and the enemy’s weaknesses. From what I’ve seen, the cost-benefit seems to be primarily dependent on access, the scale of the opposition, existing knowledge, and the nature of their network. If access is poor, the scale of the opposition is low, the state of existing knowledge is high and the network trends towards the nodal, kill has more benefit for unit of cost. If access is good, the opposition has significant capability (particularly in terms of being able to project into the homeland), existing knowledge is low, and the network is highly distributed, then capture comes to the fore. What folks seem to not quite get is that both approaches involve risks and although those risks fall into somewhat different categories, both are quite consciously balanced.

  • “I learned from the film…” That assumes that the film contains truth, which I think is an unrealistic assumption. It is also contradicted by your statement that “you are being propagandized.” If it contains both truth, from which you can learn, and propaganda, which is by definition false, how precisely do you differentiate between the two? That is not a difference which can be discerned by someone who was not there, or who has not worked in that field, in which case what are you learning?

    • It would be quite difficult to fabricate the story with so many first-hand sources from disparate vantage points and the hard evidence in the form of the bodies of his son and his protectors, and also the wives and children at the scene. I remember some of the events, in particular when a woman field agent and several other CIA agents were killed at the base in Afghanistan. I did not know however, that the same woman was involved in the investigation that led to bin Laden. So, I learned something.

      I learned that Osama was shot through the door after he opened it and peaked out. He was not armed but there was an AK hanging on the wall behind the bed. Every victim prior to Osama was shot and then given a coup de grace with no chance to surrender. Not that they would have; but no attempt was offered or made to capture any of them alive.

      My own father is ex-military counter intelligence and a skilled interrogator. Some of this wore off on me, from the wrong end of the equation. I also underwent numerous torture sessions both here and abroad during my stint as a criminal and a prisoner. You learn to hear not only what’s said, but also what is avoided, and the ability to detect lies and potential traps.

      The last thing our government wanted was a live Osama bin Laden disputing the official narrative of events.

    • Don’s seemingly contradictory assertion works if one expands their definition of ‘propaganda’ to something a bit less reductive.

      I prefer Jowett & O’Donnell’s:

      Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.

      For me, it boils down to whether one believes it is possible to resist manipulation if one is aware they are being manipulated. How would one compare the apparent propagandizing of ZD30 vs less-sophisticated examples of hawkish agit-prop from Hollywood’s past, eg, Invasion USA or Delta Force?

      (JFTR, my ZD30 review is pending — hopefully up by this Wednesday.)

  • Sorry, I can’t buy the “9-11 was an inside job” horseshit. It doesn’t pass the Occam’s razor test. You mean ten years later, not one person who was in on this vast conspiracy hasn’t come forward or spilled the beans? Uh-uh, doesn’t wash. 9-11 happened more because we had an ignorant arrogant cowboy from Texas who thought he didn’t have to listen to any smarty pants liberals – which sounds a little bit like the current discussion….

    • I was no fan of W. I vehemently opposed the man and his policies. That is how I first arrived at the Agonist and found myself in the company of self-described liberals.

      I remain undecided about the events of 9-11. A large number of people from day one did stand up and dispute the official line of events, beginning with first responders to the scene that reported explosions, etc. More have come forward since, only to face ridicule. There’s film of the owner of WTC-7 saying pull the building. Etc. etc, ad-nauseum.

      Even if the 9-11 story boiled down to essentially what we were told, it would have been interesting to hear Osama’s description of how our own government built and funded the Al-Qaeda network, particularly since we once again have employed some of the bastards in Syria, while fighting others elsewhere.

      I don’t want this to devolve into another useless discussion between people that don’t know deciding what happened on 9-11.

      So I will take my leave here.

  • I should add that the question liberals should ask is not whether torture works, but instead whether torture is morally defensible behavior.

    Fraud works, for a time. As does theft, cheating, murder, intimidation, etc.

    Furthermore, liberals shouldn’t be arguing how to fight the “war on terror” but instead, asking why is it that we feel the need to run the whole damn world in the first place.

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