Watching the three-hour "docudrama" on ABC, I was surprised that the news network of Jennings and Koppel would endorse the subliminal political agenda that threads through it. At the beginning, the producers stated that they meant to address not the "why" but the "how" of the tragedy. On balance, they came close to doing just the opposite: filling in the "why" while sketching the "how" in flawed fashion.
What was ABC's answer to WHY? Key officials from President Clinton on down through Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger and George Tenet were either asleep at the switch prior to 2001, or impeachably negligent, or excessively timid in taking on the terrorists led by Osama bin Laden. In other words, Part I of this fiction-nonfiction tale was neatly tailored to fit the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove mantra of the Democrats being soft on terrorism and not understanding the true nature of the enemy in the WW III battle with 21st century fascism. Iraq is barely in the picture.
There are frequent uses of " this is war" and "a new kind of war" by FBI officials, and incidental praise for former director Louis Freeh. The real-life bumbling FBI comes off looking savvy and on the ball compared to a CIA painted as squeamish. Light is made of laws and precedents governing presidential "findings" required to authorize significant covert operations, ever since the exposure of widespread intelligence community skulduggery by the Frank Church-chaired Senate oversight committee of the late 1970's. If only the bureaucrats and policymakers could be set free to break or skirt the law. (In the new age, there is the implication that our government needs to be free to assassinate.) Diplomatic concerns get in the way of timely action against the bad guys; a reluctance to use military force is unfortunately evident. Due process under our judicial system is often a hindrance to protecting the country. "Why is it the women that are always the alert ones?" is an odd remark for an FBI leader to make after the track record of not acting on reports from the field! "Are there any men left in Washington?"--spoken by a brave Afghan leader--with periodic suggestions of a feckless and indecisive President Clinton. Does this not all sound familiar?
How to explain this skewed approach by ABC producers and screenwriters except to note that the November Congressional elections are not far away, and the neo-conservatives are in hot water? By contrast, the delayed firefighters documentary film on CBS--shown in the Charlotte region on WBTV at a late hour due to language content--was a compelling human story with no discernible political agenda. Title: "Gedeon & Jules Naudet Update Their 2002 Documentary on the September 11 Attacks."
Which is more deplorable: the censoring of real-life language on the "ground zero" scene, or the editing of central facts about the leadup to the national tragedy? Part II is next. Viewer discretion advised, indeed.