Howard Kurtz Spreads 9/11 Lie

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Howard Kurtz this morning on Reliable Source had an interview with William Cohen, in which they discussed the decision to not attempt to get Bin Laden in 1998.

Cohen said: "The recommendation was not to go, and it came from the CIA, not from Sandy Berger." Kurtz replied, "And that's what the 9/11 Commission says as well."

This is, of course, not true. The 9/11 Commission draws no conclusion about who made the decision, and says quite clearly that at least one of the people involved thinks the decision came from Berger. Maybe Kurtz has not actually read the 9/11 Report and is just regurgitating what others have told him?

Cohen goes on to say that we should not have the "real people who are involved in making decisions, and then have them saying or doing something that is completely contradicted by the record." Of course, portraying Berger making this decision is not contradicted by the record, since the record says maybe he did.

It's just boggling how many people get this wrong. It is a lie to say that the record says Berger did not make the decision. The claim that the record says Berger didn't do it is simply, totally, untrue.

Cohen also said what I've been claiming, which some on the left have said is nonsense: that however you slice it, the Clinton Administration tried, and failed, to get Bin Laden. They failed. He said, "We tried to get Bin Laden. We failed." Duh. That's the point.

At worst, this scene highlights the substance of that failure: either the plan was bad, or the decision-making was bad, or the opportunities were bad -- or all of the above -- but it was still a failure of the Clinton administration.

David Gergen said later in the show, "This is the very reason that this ABC miniseries is so objectionable. ... It gives [doubters of the 9/11 report] more ammunition to say, 'You see? They had a chance to grab him, and they didn't.'" Except that's true: they did have a chance to grab him, and they didn't.

Maybe it wasn't a good chance; frankly, what would be far more objectionable to me than the possibly true portrayal of Berger making the decision to kill it is inaccurately portraying why the decision was made, and I don't know how they portray that. If it was killed because there were serious doubts about the plan's viability (trustworthiness of the tribals who would execute the plan, Bin Laden's security measures, and so on) and the possibility of collateral damage, then that's fine. If it is for some other reason not mentioned in the 9/11 Report, that's not fine.

Kurtz also asked Cohen a remarkably stupid question, whether it was fair for ABC to ask Tom Kean to consult on the film, but not ask Cohen or any of his colleagues. Cohen properly answered that though Kean is balanced and fair, it might have made sense to ask Lee Hamilton as well, but that they had no obligation to ask any of the figures actually portrayed in the film.

And the same goes, by the way, for review copies. Giving prior review to subjects themselves is normally just not done. Many critics on the left don't understand that there's a big difference between commentators and historians (e.g., Limbaugh and Ben-Veniste), and the subjects themselves (e.g., Cohen and Berger). Apparently, Kurtz has a similar problem. Or maybe he just slipped up.

One more thing about all this: every movie ever made about historical events has had fictionalized scenes. Period. I've heard so many people complain about fictionalized scenes, you'd think that this was a reasonable criticism. It is, I suppose, if you attach this crticism to every single movie ever made about historical events. How is that interesting?

Some pundit this morning said, "CBS should have a stronger disclaimer." Stronger than "this movie contains fictionalized scenes and composite characters," or whatever similar statement that have already said they would have? If you're stupid enough to think this movie would possible be entirely true, even without a disclaimer, then a disclaimer isn't going to help you.

Max Blumenthal writes, "On Tuesday, ABC was forced to concede that 'The Path to 9/11' is 'a dramatization, not a documentary.'" "Forced to concede" something that was obvious to everyone, something they've said since the beginning of the project? What moron could possibly think this is a documentary? "What, you mean Harvey Keitel isn't a real FBI agent? And funny, that doesn't LOOK like Condi Rice ..."

It's one thing to criticize some things in the movie, say they are wrong. But to turn that into grand statements about how dramatic movies should never do something that dramatic movies always do in every single case ever, is just retarded.

The stupidest thing about this is that everything I've heard about this film so far, in the worst possible case, still makes it far more accurate than something that actually WAS a documentary, about the same subject: Michael Moore's mostly fictional "Fahrenheit 9/11." Yet most Democrats didn't seem to care that Moore fictionalized his documentary, and indeed, many of them praised it. And now they complain about tiny and mostly irrelevant fictionalized elements in a dramatic miniseries, which is supposed to be fictionalized.

So got that? According to these people, it is wrong for a fictionalized miniseries to be fictionalized, but perfectly fine for a supposedly accurate documentary to be fictionalized.

It boggles the mind.

I am not in favor of having Berger make the decision in the film; while the 9/11 Report does not say he didn't, and indeed says he may have, the strongest evidence is that it was Tenet. I am not in favor of having incorrect elements in the film in general, where they are avoidable. And I might even think the changes are inexcusable.

But let's keep some perspective: to most people it doesn't matter -- and shouldn't, because it is not important to their lives or perspective about the world around them -- whether it was Berger or Tenet who called off the meeting. These crimes of historytelling are not big deals, and certainly not as significant as Moore's many crimes, which the left excused categorically.

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