By Marc D. Allan
We’re about to be bombarded with reminders of 9/11 and its aftermath. On Saturday, President Obama paid tribute to the victims. There have been, and will continue to be, TV specials and newspaper special sections recalling and commemorating the 10-year anniversary. We will be reliving planes flying into the towers and Pentagon. Bin Laden. The smoking gun that becomes a mushroom cloud. Mission Accomplished. And more.
It will be in your face and impossible to avoid.
I imagine I speak for many people when I say 9/11 is a day I’ll never forget but would prefer not to remember. But since 9/11 recollections are inevitable, I had hoped to find a different point of view. And perhaps I have: “The 9/11 Decade,” from Al Jazeera, the Arabic news channel, and directed by Dominic Streatfeild, author of “A History of the World Since 9/11.”
This three-hour, three-part series, which premieres the next three Thursdays (watch it on Al Jazeera's site), looks at the past 10 years from the intelligence, images and clash of civilizations angles.
I’ve seen part one, “The Intelligence War,” and it’s a good, thorough and, yes, even-handed recap of what happened and continues to happen in the so-called War on Terror. It also documents the efforts and the errors of both sides — the United States for taking its eye off the ball in Afghanistan in 2003 and thus allowing al Qaeda leaders to escape to Pakistan; al Qaeda for terrorizing not only the United States but Iraqis.
This first hour begins, more or less, with the voice of an al Qaeda operative saying they celebrated 9/11 because they were able to disrupt the U.S. economy.
Then it goes backward in time to 1996, as the United States traces Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone, then lost that ability when someone leaked that information to the media.
I don’t think there’s anything particularly new in “The Intelligence War,” but the segment on how al Qaeda leaders escaped from Tora Bora mountains into Pakistan is worth revisiting to see both the devastating bombing and remind us that by choosing to take the fight to Iraq, we gave al Qaeda the opportunity to regroup.
“Faith triumphed over all the materialistic forces of the people of evil,” an al Qaeda member boasts.
At that point, al Qaeda appeared to have, if not the upper hand, at least momentum. But by killing Iraqis, the terrorists angered the very people who might have been sympathetic to its cause. The producers of this documentary suggest that al Qaeda is directly responsible for the current wave of democracy movements in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring.
“The Intelligence War” ends with an al Qaeda voice saying what happened to America on 9/11 “will all happen again.” But the message you’re really left with is that this is a war nobody wins.