bin laden's movie

Long after the killing of bin Laden was accomplished, I read a full, blow-by-blow account of the entire SEAL siege on the Abbottabad complex that housed bin Laden written in The New Yorker. It was a thrilling, multi-page narrative and I read it with my mouth hanging open, gripped by the unfolding of the story (it was well-written).

Subsequently, I learned some interesting trivia surrounding it. Like, the day the siege took place, President Obama had been playing nine holes of golf at an American air force base. After that, he returned to the White House for a live viewing of the entire operation.

Typed on this blog, that doesn't seem like trivia that bears any weight or importance but it's just interesting for me to learn about how all the cast of characters of the thriller-drama that was the killing of bin Laden were that day and where they all were and how they handled it.

And I hope this isn't taken the wrong way. The info about Obama playing golf the day of the green-lit assassination of bin Laden doesn't strike me as evidence of casualness or coolness in the face of the killing of a terrorist, who is also, let us not forget, a human person.

For me, it was window to how a president can imaginably conduct himself and live his normal, day-to-day life while managing a job laden with terrifyingly difficult decisions and judgment calls to make, and how recommendatory it is for a president to show, outwardly, a veneer of coolness and calmness and not be all over the place and breaking out in nerves while an all-important operation for the elimination of your nation's number 1 enemy was being carried out, which could have inadvertently and undesirably alerted the entire world that something momentous was about to happen. Being president, especially of the US, all eyes are on you.

Another piece of trivia I learned was about the final scene of the death of bin Laden. Storming the main house of the complex were a small number of SEALS. Not knowing the floor plan, they methodically covered the house a hallway or staircase at a time until one of them spotted bin Laden just outside the door of his bedroom where he quickly retreated back in. Three of them stormed the room. The first tried to ward off the two women there by wrapping his arms around them in case they were wearing suicide vests and would blow off. They didn't but the action would have protected the two other Seals behind him if they did.

The second Seal was left in the clear and he trained his weapon on bin Laden and fired twice. End of bin Laden.

Subsequently, news of the successful elimination of the world's most wanted terrorist made headlines in news outlets everywhere. I heard of it that time, of course. Time magazine released a special report on the death of bin Laden and its cover image was the face of Osama crisscrossed by a big, red, thin X.

But though I didn't keep up with the news then, I am afforded a chance to relive the entire saga and watch the drama in greater detail now because there's a movie coming out on it - Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker.

The movie could be VERY interesting to watch and I am itching to watch it because it's supposedly "based on first-hand accounts of actual events". Moreover, Kathryn and company were purportedly granted by Obama special access to confidential files and information on the manhunt of Osama for the movie.

And the central character, played by the vulnerably lovely Jessica Chastain, is based on a real CIA intelligence analyst whose real identity remains classified. Sounds exciting? It sure is!

However, I think it bears mentioning that there IS one seriously contentious item about the film. Being a film about the search for Osama, Zero Dark Thirty cannot help but make its own contribution to the conversation that raged that time and still continues to rage about torture and its role in intelligence. In the real facts of the case, it is now known that the identification of Osama bin Laden's key courier was what led to the discovery of bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. That part is included in the film.

The problem lies in that the film, for some reason, makes a slight deviation from the purported real accounts of the case. In the film, a terror suspect is captured and tortured and consequently, he breaks down and divulges information that pinned down the identity of the courier.

This was actually not how it happened in real life, or according to other key people in the conversation anyway. Sen. John McCain from the (US) Senate Armed Services Committee, and backed up by another senator from the (US) Senate Intelligence Committee, had long slammed this version of events back in 2011 when it first surfaced and once again now, due to the release of the movie.

According to McCain, in a confidential letter from then CIA director Leon Panetta, information about Osama's courier had not come from any detainee in US custody. It came from another detainee, held in another country, but not under US custody, not interrogated by the US, and not tortured, who had given up the crucial information that placed the mark on the courier.

So why did the film subvert this version of events? It was a very public discussion so the filmmakers couldn't have been unaware of it.

Of course, it all sounds like some wild goose chase of the truth that leaves one feeling like the general public might never really know what the truth really was and who might be really telling it.

Personally, I think McCain is telling the truth. I think he's coming from good motives. He's also been through torture himself the time he served in the Vietnam War and he makes a really good case for what can and what cannot be achieved through torture.

Moreover, the CIA has more to lose and less to gain with a turn of events that counteracts and repudiates their painful interrogation techniques. Since they practiced torture, they need justification and validation, not refutation of it.

Unfortunately though, I think justification and validation are what Zero Dark Thirty delivers for them. I'm afraid the film will leave its viewers with the takeaway that without torture, they wouldn't have gotten their hands on bin Laden. It would seem to drive home the depressing conclusion that torture works, unarguably.

Actually, I'm still watching the film despite this perceived failing. The events of Osama's manhunt would be really exciting to watch in live action and I'm curious about the mysterious CIA analyst whose existence is only hinted at by Jessica Chastain's role in the movie. Moreover, I've read and done my research so I have context and will not be easily taken in by their entire version and color of events, I think. :)

At the end of the day, I'll just remember what the film's screenwriter said in response to protests against the film's deviation from the actual turn of events in the manhunt for Osama: "It's a movie, not a documentary."

Okay. Excited to watch your MOVIE! See you there in January!


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