Empty Days

Friday, April 16, 2004



In search of fallen heroes

Pretty damn powerful Frontline feature (originally broadcast in fall 2002) on The Man Who Knew - or John O'Neil, the maverick FBI guy who single-handedly tried to unravel the mounting Al-Qaeda menace but was constantly prevented by various bureaucracies and grey cronies who didn't like his cocky style.

It's a powerful documentary in a Tom Clancy kind of way - there are bad guys and underhanded enemies (within the FBI and other gov branches), and there is this single bright guy wrestling with powerful beaurocratic foes because he's alone to have a clue and they're blind. And in the end he dies in the plot he was about to unravel (WTC).

I am sure there is more to this story than this gloriously one-sided portrayal (all "enemies" obviously refused to be interviewed for the program) but the story itself is masterfully told and is a win-win scenario - since what we have here is the case of a martyrized prophetic truth-seeker and David-against-Goliath kind of thing.

Unfortunately I can't watch the complete 90-min version online (which includes additional interviews) because I am on dialup and video just doesn't stream so good on it. But in any case it's not so much the informational aspect of it that matters but powerful story-telling. Frontline really made a case here - and it's merciless towards FBI and its anti-intelligent police culture.

Far more so than a 9/11 commission could ever afford to be.

Btw, there are interviews with Richard Clarke who is made to appear as an early high-level supporter of O'Neil - but powerless against FBI bureaucracy. It remains unclear however what his role really was in all of this.

***

The next Frontline feature, called Son of Al-Qaeda, will deal with the no-less dramatic case of a Canadian-Pakistani family who were all Al-Qaeda people and tried to raise their oldest son to be a suicide-bomber. However the young man rebelled against this whole ideology and became a CIA-informant instead.

This is a recent story that was broadcast on Canadian tv not long ago. The ongoing paradox is that the father of that family was recently killed on the Taliban side near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and another 16-year old son has been wounded in the spine in the same battle and has just arrived back in Canada in a very televised way - paralized and in a wheel chair.

Now a lot of people in Canada want this family deported - because the women in the family still support Al-Qaeda views and were glad to see WTC explode. Nevertheless the eldest son, who is now the head of the family, is in stark opposition to these view and says that if he can't change his mother's and sister's opinions it doesn't really matter - it's just opinions.

Imagine what it must be like in UK right now - where Arab community is just huge and many are Islamic radicals :-0





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