August 7, 2011

Dowd Column Lauds Movie Reconstructing Bin Laden Operation — To Be Released Oct. 12, 2012

Barack_Obama_with_SupermanIn an otherwise typically dismal column about President Barack Obama which is one part pity party and another part an attempt at building him a he-man reputation (not kidding), New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd describes an upcoming movie featuring the exploits of Navy SEAL Team 6 in the operation which killed Osama Bin Laden on May 1.

Dowd celebrates the fact that the movie’s currently anticipated opening is October 12, 2012, describing it as “perfectly timed” and “just as Obamaland was hoping.” She expects that it will “give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher,” and “counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual.”

Here are the relevant paragraphs from Dowd’s column, including reference to a New Yorker column about the operation which has become the subject of considerable controversy (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

But while Obama takes the high road, his aides have made sure there are proxies to exuberantly brag on him.

The White House clearly blessed the dramatic reconstruction of the mission by Nicholas Schmidle in The New Yorker — so vividly descriptive of the Seals’ looks, quotes and thoughts that Schmidle had to clarify after the piece was published that he had not actually talked to any of them. [1]

“I’ll just say that the 23 Seals on the mission that evening were not the only ones who were listening to their radio communications,” Schmidle said, answering readers’ questions in a live chat, after taking flak for leaving some with the impression that he had interviewed the heroes when he wrote in his account that it was based on “some of their recollections.” [2]

The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made “The Hurt Locker” will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher. [3]

The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history [4] from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.

It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals. [5]

Just like W., Obama is going for that “Mission Accomplished” glow (without the suggestive harness). At least in this president’s case, though, something has been accomplished. [6]


  • [1] — I have read Schmidle’s account, and I believe that any reader would have thought that he actually spoke with the operation’s participants in reconstructing what happened. By the way, Schmidle conveniently did not mention, as the Associated Press reported on May 2, that the nom de guerre of Bin Laden’s courier had been identified through the use of enhanced interrogation techniques during the Bush administration.
  • [2] — As Mediaite reported Monday with a follow-up post on Thursday, the admission that he never actually spoke to any raid participants was dragged out of Schmidle during the related online chat. Schmidle certainly didn’t seem to mind it when NPR, which has since issued a correction, originally reported that he “had spoken with Navy SEALs who participated in the raid.”
  • [3] — Granting that the decision to approve the operation was a good one (though by some accounts Obama took his sweet time making it), the decision to have the movie made, in combination with its timing, betrays a crassness that seems as likely to turn off the general public as it is to build Obama up — especially if the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East are marginal at the time.
  • [4] and [5] — I don’t think I’m alone in questioning whether granting moviemakers access to classified information while we are still at war with the enemy in question is really wise. In fact, it seems very dangerous. What kind of security clearances were the people involved subject to? Who knows how our enemy might take advantage of information revealed in the film about technology, logistics, and tactics? Who can guarantee that the actual identifications (which filmmakers now know) of “the hero Seals” will remain confidential? Isn’t it possible that U.S. Muslim sympathizers might go after their families as well as the Seals themselves if their identities are accidentally revealed?
  • [6] — Yeah, Maureen, I guess giving the okay to an operation to kill one guy (to be clear, a monster who needed to be killed) pales in comparison to liberating over 30 million Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, probably the worst mass murderer of the past 20 years. To Dowd, what Bush did is a non-accomplishment. We should also not forget that Barack Obama opposed the war from the outset; opposed the surge that finally achieved victory in that country; has allowed the situation in the country to regress, possibly to a dangerous point, since he has been president; and seems determined to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq at a rate which may not be supported by conditions on the ground.

Beyond the security issues and the potential tastelessness of putting out an election-year commercial posing as a feature film, it is intensely ironic that an administration which has seemed to bend over backwards to avoid offending Muslim and Middle Eastern sensibilities at every turn has no problem whatsoever doing what will from all appearances be a cinematic end-zone dance in front of the entire world.

I wonder (actually, I don’t) how Dowd would have felt about a movie glorifying the liberation of Kuwait in mid-October 1992, or an October 1984 film dramatizing President Reagan’s 1983 invasion and liberation of Grenada?

None of the issues raised here seem to bother Ms. Dowd in the least; in fact, I don’t see any evidence that they even occurred to her. Will anyone else in the establishment press care?

Cross-posted at


1 Comment

  1. [...] Dowd Column Lauds Movie Reconstructing Bin Laden Operation — To Be Released Oct. 12, 2012 [...]

    Pingback by Obama, Bin Laden, Navy Seal Team 6 « WTF? — August 9, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

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