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17 January 2013


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William R. Cumming

And how will history deal with the OBL raid?

Charles I

Hi Alan. Watched it this weekend. Agree. Its a moo-vie, a bit wooden and bloodless, especially after all the hype. I wondered about the green slowdown too - fastrope, crash, and start blowing doors at my neighbours I'm gonna be over there a lot sooner.

Hermetic fatras. . . gonna be googling that one now, thanks.



Alan Farrell walked recon in Laos in MACVSOG long ago so I think he has the creds needed to critique the commando business in this pot-boiler. I seem to remember wearing a uniform once myself. The trailers for this film really turn me off. The supposed SEALs look like a bunch of bums. Scruffy, unnecessarily bearded, wearing a variety of rags, I do not believe that the men of SEAL Team 6 look like that. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) live and work with the local population. They often start wearing local garb in order to blend into the group. SEALs do not work with the local population other than to kill some of them in commando operations. I presume that the killees deserve it. pl


I won't bother to see it because it contains the meme that torture produces good results.



I don't want to be hypocritical about this. Torture is a generally evil and unproductiveinterrogation method. seduction is a much better idea when talking to people under any circumstance. Nevertheless, it must be said that if you wateroard someone a hundred times and check what he says after each experience looking for a name, a phone number, an address, then eventually you will probably learn something. Should we have done that? No. It rots the soul. pl

Medicine Man

Welcome back, Mr. Farrell.

I will probably not watch this movie for the reason that walrus cites. I am heartened to read Col. Lang's explicit denouement of the relative utility and cost of torture.

I liked Bigelow's film Near Dark though. I think that's the only one of her films I've seen.

Alba Etie

Col Lang
Pro Publica is reporting that detainees at abu Gharib were awarded a big settlement. I still hope that someday someone goes to jail for what happened there. The Tagube report was painful to read ,
And regarding comments made about investigative reporters up thread under Syrian Gas -Pro Publica actually does a fair amount of non partisan reporting . Its basic premise is to be 'pro public " - and is non profit .


Sir, in my view torture is not about intelligence collection, it is about domination. That is why police states torture and why you mention that it "rots the soul". In other words, it's not "tell me what you know", but "tell me what I want to hear".

A "hard-hearted empath" is something quite different from a torturer. It is what makes a good intelligence interrogator and separates them from a sadist.

I will not waste my time or money on this film.

Paul Escobar

To all,

If you read Mr. Farrell's post carefully, you will note that he appreciates the film on a different level ("Movie about analysis. Images for ideas. That's called poetry").

He is "not sure the public is ready for that". I am sure they are not.

Unlike the enlightened souls here, the rabble will view this film as the orgasm resulting from the media's long strokes of their racist funny bone.

It is good that mother is wagging her finger over this movie. It ensures that idiots will not have toooo good a time at what is essentially: "a flockin' movie!".


paul Escobar

I would comment on your comment but I do not consider the movie worth watching. pl

Paul Escobar

Mr. Lang,

I just watched "Zen" based on your recommendation. "Watched", as I am part of the younger generation who watch first/read second.

Glad I watched it. The gorgeous scenery & stylish dress kept me warm as the series exposed more & more the cold and confusing labyrinth that our elites have constructed.

The second episode, where Zen juggles the competing interests of (who are later revealed to be) the brothers...I suspect those in your profession must experience such dilemma (or as Mr. Farrell says: "should").

Anyways, thanks for highlighting it.

 Larry Kart

Having seen the film last night and making two assumptions as I went along -- 1) that Bigelow is an artful enough filmmaker, and 2) that my reaction to what I saw was what she was hoping to elicit, I left the theater feeling that the "message" of the film was that the quest to kill Bin Laden was (by the time of his death, if not well before that) essentially and finally close to meaningless, a matter of ashes in the mouth -- something like, if it had been done, killing Sitting Bull for Little Big Horn.

Charles I

Have a look at a BBC series, or maybe its Sky4B, anyway there's a little four part miniseries out there called Secret State, watches like a 4 part run of Spooks/MI5. Gabriel Byrne plays odd-man-out Brit PM fighting a creeping coup.


Larry Kart

I have no problem at all with the death of UBL, but I would agree that it was meaningless revenge, something that betrays the ultimate childishness of the american public. pl


I guess I am not meant to take the gun debate in this country as comedy but I find that I do. Dead children are not funny, but people hiding behind kids to score political points and GETTING AWAY WITH IT, is sort of funny.

I guess I am not meant to find this movie funny either. But you couldnt have a less subtle attempt to validate the use of enhanced interogation techniques combined with a logically spurious outcome (if the US didnt torture, then you would never have found him).

Having watched this movie I find myself cheering for Tomas de Torquemada, in his desperate attempts to save Spain from the threat of appostacy and witchcraft. Today Spain is a Catholic country and free of witches thanks entirely to his willingness to torture. And I think thats worth cheering about.

Its childish and it can only cost the United States. But Im sure it serves someones purpose.

Paul Escobar

Charles I,

Thanks for the tip Charles.

After watching the childish mess that was "Borgen", I became more hesitant about committing to these government-based series (and the recommendations of British critics).

But the plot in your suggested title does seem bizarre enough to pique interest.


Nit well-picked. Also one of the bad guys in The Guard. Agree hes good and kinda wasted here. Always astound me how easily Brits do Gringo accent, yet does not seem to work other direction. Best, AFF


Childish, alas, what we do best. And why world love our Levis and Twinkies (or used to) and hate us. Zautres les Amerlos, zetes infiniment aimables mais casse-tout et cons comme bonjour, as they told me when I was a kid in France: Youre loveablebut
butterfingered and dumb as dirt. Okay by me for epitaph. AFF

Charles I

The Imax Hobbit is well worth the wait. enjoy


I was utterly enthralled by "Hitchcock" - Anthony Perkins and Helen Mirren. Brilliant.


Zero Dark Thirty is writing our collective history for us – engraving it on the American psyche. The graphic images of who we are and the deeds we have done are intended to inspire confidence and to soothe qualms forevermore. We are a Resourceful people. We are a Righteous people. We are a Strong people who not shrink from the necessary however hard it may be. We are a Moral people who bravely enter the shadowy precincts where Idealism collides with Realism. We are a Noble people.

In truth we are an Immature people – an immature people who demand the nourishment of myth and legend that exalt us. Actual reality intimidates and unsettles us; virtual reality is the comforting substitute. Zero Dark Thirty is fiction – 90% of it anyway. Yet critics and commentators have taken as given the story line, the highlight events, and the main character portraits as if the film were a documentary. The one big debate is on the question of whether torture works. The film’s paramount message is that it does, that it did lead inexorably to the killing of Osama bin-Laden, and that anyone who gives precedence to ethical considerations had better be prepared to accept the potentially awful consequences. The heroine and heroes make the right judgment after struggling with their consciences.

That seems a dubious conclusion. Moreover, the question itself is wrongly framed. For the intelligence supposedly gleaned was of no value in finding bin-Laden ten years later. Even members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have testified to that. Simple logic should lead any thoughtful person to the same conclusion. After all, if so valuable, how is it possible that it took a full decade for the information to lead anywhere - the indefatigable fictional lady notwithstanding (the lady who does not exist in the real world)? The tale as told assumes a static world in which places, persons and politics don’t change. But they do. In ways that the film narrative cannot and does not take account of.

It all comes down to the fabled courier. Without him, the narrative collapses completely. We didn’t have a clue where OBL was between Tora Bora and Abbottabad five years later. His odyssey from one safe house to another in the Tribal Areas, and Northwest Frontier Province (Swat and Baujur) escaped the CIA with all its ultra sophisticated high-tech gadgetry. We had next to no human intelligence assets anywhere in the region and did not until the very end. And at the end, it was the Pakistanis who provided us with the critical leads – as acknowledged by President Obama in his announcement of OBL’s killing. That was just a week or so before the White House and the CIA approached Hollywood with promises of cooperation if a film were made that properly hallowed those who brought OBL to "justice" and satisfied the national thirst for vengeance. Both sides kept their side of the bargain.

What of the courier al-Kuwaiti? The official cum Hollywood line if full of inconsistencies, anomalies and logical flaws. A systematic scrutiny of the evidence presented makes that abundantly clear to the unbiased mind. That task has been undertaken by the retired Pakistani Brigadier Shaukat Qadir. His account, and interpreted analysis, draws as well on extensive interviews with intelligence and military officials in Islamabad – and with principals in both Northwest Pakistan and across the Durand Line in Afghanistan. This was an independent investigation by a man with an established reputation for integrity. His appraisal and conclusions have been featured in front page stories in The New York Times, Le Monde and the Guardian yet never widely circulated - or refuted. Here is a brief summary of a few key points regarding the official story’s self- contradictory elements.

• According to the CIA, Hassan Gul, was a (reportedly, “low level”) courier for senior Al-Qaida operatives including OBL and Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. Gul revealed to the CIA on interrogation the name Al-Kuwaiti, the fact that Al-Kuwaiti was still alive, that he was OBL’s most trusted courier. CIA further stated that it was Gul’s statement that provided detailed insight into his working routines which led (four years later) in 2009 to the feeling that al-Kuwaiti lived in Abbottabad! Assuming all this to be true, it seems a little surprising that it should take them almost two years to move.”

• What is even more improbable is that, despite being such a wealth of information for the CIA, Hassan Gul was released as early as 2006 by the CIA into ISI custody. If Gul had provided all the information on Kuwaiti to the CIA and the CIA did not wish to share this information with the ISI, how can their releasing him to ISI custody make any kind of sense[1]?
• It is incredible that it took the CIA so long from 2005 to discover Al-Kuwaiti’s identity since Al-Libi was captured by the ISI and handed over to CIA in 2005! Yet, Al-Libi was not questioned regarding Al-Kuwaiti’s real identity---despite Gul’s revelations. Hassan Gul, despite “enhanced interrogation” techniques? Why did it take the CIA from 2004 till 2011 to find “actionable intelligence” to locate and execute OBL?

• Let’s also not forget Khalid Sheikh Muhammed (KSM), captured by the ISI in March 2003, handed over to CIA soon thereafter. KSM, if you recall, not only knew Al-Kuwaiti by his real name, Ibrahim, according to OBL’s wife, Amal, he had also visited Arshad’s house outside Kohat when OBL was housed there in 2002. Yet, he too was not questioned as to Kuwaiti’s identity.
"There seem to be two significant flaws in the official CIA (and Hollywood) account:
a) the CIA seems to have been really unaware of the intimate relations between Al-Libi and Al-Kuwaiti despite all those Al-Qaida leaders in their custody who knew exactly who and where Al-Kuwaiti was (most of whom were arrested by ISI) and, therefore, the CIA actually was unaware of the latter’s identity until early 2011; b) still, they insist that the ISI did not provide the lead that ultimately led them to OBL’s hideout is equally untrue.”

Therefore, the CIA in all probability began tracking OBL only in 2010/11, after the lead provided by ISI.
Let us recall President Obama’s words when he announced that OBL had been killed. Even as he stated that the US acted unilaterally on actionable intelligence, he added, “It is important here to note that our counter terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound he was hiding in.”

Against that backdrop, it was logical for the US and Pakistan to launch a joint operation in Abbottabad. Indeed, that was the plan. 9I am told this in a conversation with a Pakistani officer at GHQ who was involved in the planning). Washington decided to jump the gun and to pre-empt it. Why? Not because we feared a “leak” which made absolutely no sense. But rather because we wanted to make sure that OBL was killed and denied a legal forum. We also wanted the glory and flourish of a drama with Americans in all the starring roles – we wanted a Hollywood blockbuster. John Brennan gave the game away the next day in providing a vivid description of the assault featuring a shootout between the Seals and a pistol wielding Osama bin-Laden who held his wife as a shield while firing his revolver. Made for Hollywood indeed.
After a decade of impulsive vengeance, of brutality, of killing, of deceit, of stupidity and incompetence – we have an encapsulated myth that expiates all that in a drama worthy of our greatness. We have Closure. The American pageant moves forward.

Whether or not one accepts all points in this non-official interpretation, or its conclusion, it undercuts the claim that the official US version provides an honest, forthright accounting. It does not. The version offered by Zero Dark Thirty substitutes creative fiction of the mythological kind for truth. It satisfies a gnawing appetite, it meets a powerfully felt need . It allows us to avoid coming to terms with how America went off the rails after 9/11. It fosters the child in us.

Operation Geronimo: the Betrayal and Execution of Osama bin Laden and its Aftermath by Shaukat Qadir (May 1, 2012) - Kindle eBook


I just think that United States policy is often subject to conspiracies which subvert the public good for private good. My suspicion is that if you dont understand how a policy is in the interests of the essentially "good" (arguable but I can live with it) US, then its probably cos someone somewhere in the country is making money from it.

Which in the case of war for profit is in bad taste if nothing else. Brave American soldier kids should not be sent to their deaths to make a buck for some chickenhawks in NYC or the Beltway.


Dunno as I disagree with. Was one of those kids (once, though maybe not so brave), kinda had my suspicions. Onliest consolation was the good company I was in. All us young imbeciles wanted so badly to believe. Anyhow. Best for New Year, maybe the one
we wake up. AFF


I remember Chris Pratt from "Moneyball" - he played Scott Hatteberg. Apparently he's also been on several teevee shows unseen by me.

Not a big fan of vampire flicks, but Bigelow made a good one, "Near Dark." Many of her pictures are hampered by bad scripts, unfortunately.

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