Column: Disney’s newest fairy tale: ‘The Path to 9/11’ docudrama on ABC

By Jack McMillin

ABC commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by showing a film. “The Path to 9/11,” produced and directed by conservative activist Cyrus Nowrasteh, attempts to place the blame for the attacks of September 11th, 2001 on President Clinton. No ads were shown during the broadcast of “The Path to 9/11.” In essence, Disney produced and ran it for free.

Like other films produced by Disney, not everything in “The Path to 9/11” is grounded in reality. The film has been promoted by ABC as being based on the 9/11 Commission Report and as the “official true story” of the events leading up to the attack. However, it contains fictionalized scenes and, on multiple occasions, directly contradicts the findings of the 9/11 Commission.

The film has been described as conservative fan fiction and has production values to match. “The Path to 9/11” contains scenes depicting events that never actually happened. In one scene set in an alternate-reality version of the year 1998, the CIA and the Northern Alliance have Osama bin Laden surrounded and call Washington, asking for the permission to “load the package.”

Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, is on the other end of the line. He responds by saying “I don’t have that authority,” then hangs up the phone. Viewers are led to believe that Clinton did not want to take out bin Laden for fear of the political repercussions.

According to the 9/11 commission, there was no “clear shot” at bin Laden that the Clinton administration threw away. Nobody from the CIA or the United States military even saw bin Laden and nobody called Washington ready to strike. The Northern Alliance was not even there.

Clinton was extremely concerned about the threat posed by al-Qaida. The 9/11 Commission report states that Clinton had given George Tenet, director of the CIA from 1997 to 2004, the authority to kill Osama bin Laden. According to Roger Cressy, the former director for counterterrorism for the National Security Council, “Clinton approved every request made of him by the CIA and the U.S. military involving using force against bin Laden.”

While “The Path to 9/11” attempts to portray Clinton as weak and as soft on terror, it ignores the failures of the Bush administration. The truth is that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened under Bush’s watch. Bush and his crack team of counterterrorism experts had been in power for eight months before Sept. 11.

In the summer of 2001, the U.S. received warnings from both Russian and German intelligence about plans to use hijacked planes against American targets. After Bush took office, Sandy Berger sent the next National Security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, a massive dossier with information on bin Laden and al-Qaida. She has admitted that nobody even read it until after Sept. 11.

On Aug. 6, 2001, a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack US” was given to Bush. When Rice was questioned about this briefing during the 9/11 Commission hearings, Dr. Rice stated that it was “not a warning” but a “historical memo” with “no actionable information.” Since then, this briefing has been declassified and Rice’s claims have been shown to be false.

In the five years since Sept. 11, has the Bush administration improved in its ability to protect the lives of American citizens? Judging from the response to Hurricane Katrina, where officials in the White House scarcely lifted a finger, the answer seems to be no. President Bush has stated that he will not bring our troops home from the civil war in Iraq as long as he remains President, and is pushing the United States to take military action against Iran.

Only through the eyes of the extremely misinformed do Bush and his Republican administration appear to be competent leaders and more adept than Democrats at protecting the lives of Americans. And that is what “The Path to 9/11” is all about.