Monday, September 27, 2010

The Oath Movie - Documentary of a Terrorist

Yesterday, I watched an astonishing film on POV, a PBS series of independent documentaries, called The Oath. It chronicles the rise of a “reformed” Al Qaeda operative Abu Jandal a.k.a. Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard. After leaving bin Laden's service, he was captured at the Pakistani border and became a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay facing war crimes charges. It's a little hard to follow, because it's not presented in exactly chronological order, but it ultimately leads to Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 attacks, and even the US Constitution.

Although the filmmaker was trying to show why American foreign policy creates hatred and uprisings in the middle east, and gain sympathy for them, she was much better at painting an accurate picture of why we need to take so-called “Islamic Extremists” seriously. She reveals what their thinking is, the lies they are told, and how they have no regard for anyone who doesn't think, live or believe as they do. There are also sections showing some of Al Qaeda's recruiting practices, and communications tactics.

What is most telling is the conversations Hamdan has with young militant Muslims. He acts like a mentor, or minor Imam, subtly giving them a philosophy of hatred for “infidels” and a mindset of action, all the while denying that he has ever asked them to kill Americans. What is most interesting is when he tells them to be careful, or cuts them off when they start asking questions that may be “too sensitive” and reveal these young men's connections, or aspirations, to terrorism.

While some who have seen the movie focus on the side of the story trying to humanize Salim Hamdan, and thus dismiss the film, they shouldn't. This is likely the most terrifying, and brutally truthful, look inside Al Qaeda I have ever seen. It reveals the actual war we are waging with them and other related militant groups. They see themselves as freedom fighters, as Holy Warriors. Make no mistake, there sole mission is to kill us. If the events portrayed, and the conversations recorded in this documentary doesn't wake you up to the real danger we are facing as a country, nothing will.

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