Last night, BBC2 showed the first part of the ABC docu-drama The Path to 9/11. Ostensibly to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington, this miniseries appears to be part of a wider agenda.
On the face of it, it was very well done and remarkably compelling. Big names like Art Malik and Harvey Kietel, slick production values and a fascinating story make this as watchable as any Tom Clancy film. A rare case of real life being just as good as fiction. However, when you look at it in context, there is a very obvious and very blatant subtext being presented here.
Firstly, it has been widely reported that veterans of the Clinton administration are up in arms about the portrayal of their role in the build up to the attacks. Clinton is shown to be distracted by the Lewinski affair, Madeline Albright at one point warns the Pakistani government of a cruise missile strike (and in turn warns Al-Queda of the attack - a charge she vigorously denies) and George Tennet (former head of the CIA) is portrayed as ineffectual in his role, unwilling to take responsibility for actions that could come back to haunt him.
Secondly, and more worryingly, is the not-so-subtle way that the drama apparently aims to justify recent changes in US policy. Numerous scenes feature exasperated CIA operatives exchanging glances that say "if only we could torture this guy, we'd get results" or "without the contraints of evidentiary procedure, we'd do better". The message put into viewers' minds seems clear: "if you don't want another 9/11, you need to accept the Patriot Act, or Guantanamo Bay, or a number of other draconian measures".
I can't help but think that there is Republican agenda being put forward here. With the forthcoming congressional elections in November, Bush et al. seem to be positioning themselves to capitalise, once again, on the events of five years ago. George Tennet seems to be being set up as the patsy who will take the fall - Condoleeza Rice is already shifting eyes that way, and this program only reinforces that.
Of course, it could all be bollocks conspiracy nonsense, which I tend to shy away from. Maybe ABC were simply aiming to tell a story and this was one particular valid interpretation of it? It will certainly be interesting to see the second part, and compare how they treat the Republican adminsitration's build up to the attacks.