An administration willing to stir populist sentiment

While for Americans Osama bin Laden presented as the villain, the jihad forums exploded with a different theme. Banners, graphics and images presented the veneration reserved for the ‘Shaheed’

An administration willing to stir populist sentiment

What can be said of an administration wishing to stir populist sentiment for political gain, borne on shoulders of men who are considered American heroes? What can be said when filmmakers lacking even the lowest level of security clearance and without holding any rank are allowed access to some of the most sensitive documents of the decade, within a sensitive intelligence space? What do we call it when an administration is intimately involved with Hollywood to produce a time-sensitive film released to coincide with the home stretch of a highly political electoral cycle? What can be surmised from what now has the appearance of a hand-in-glove cinematic venture between the US government and well-intentioned filmmakers?

Hollywood films produced with available documentation from within the public corridor can be classified as an artistic expression. An artistic expression travelling through a government funnel loses the right to be considered fully as an independent artistic expression. Perhaps the most important question is the one that we hesitate to ask.

What can be said when such actions further harm an already tattered relationship with Pakistan? Sure, this film will be wildly popular on the domestic front. I cannot wait to line up for my own ticket. The Navy Seals are my team. They exemplify our code: Honour, Courage and Commitment. But I still feel quite uneasy reading about the level of interaction between the White House and the film industry to make this story available for the news-gorging public. It has the scent of political propaganda.

The tip of the sprouting plant is seen in this link:

The roots of the intent undoubtedly go very deep, down to the very bedrock of the US’s power. The story is a worthy one. The Navy Seals accomplished a successful mission with the raid on the bin Laden compound. The government quickly followed through with claims of a ‘respectful’ burial at sea to keep a terrorist from being enshrined as a greater enduring symbol. But such intimate and unprecedented actions and access to documents (most likely) requiring top secret clearance is hard to fathom. Citizens who are part of the ‘general public’ were given access to state secrets. This should raise tremendous concern and a sense of alarm. What else have we given away in a cavalier manner? Naturally, I have not had any access to such documentation. It is above my pay grade.

The Navy Seals raid was a courageous operation by committed and highly trained men. It showed how the long arm of justice could reach across the globe to fulfil a promise made to the US citizens in the aftermath of 9/11. Things got tricky though, after a nighttime raid on the hideout, which was within a walking distance from a military compound. A less-than-friendly relationship with Pakistan became immediately volatile.

And while for Americans Osama bin Laden presented as the villain, the jihad forums exploded with a different theme. Banners, graphics and images presented the veneration reserved for the ‘Shaheed’. It was quite amazing to consider the staying power of a man who attacked the great ‘American Satan’. It was difficult to grasp how all other acts of misery inflicted by al Qaeda on fellow Muslims could be so easily forgiven in the light of the wounding of the US.

The release date for the film is fortuitous for my Commander-in-Chief. He seeks a second term. But the timing is impeccably bad for our State Department and a Pentagon struggling to draw down the game within a theatre of operation, which we cannot claim to fully control. Perhaps the cinematic version of this story would be better told after 2014. The Americans would still flock to theatres. Legends always live on in the hearts of men.

Dr Shakeel Afridi received the news that he would spend the remaining years of his life in jail. The cell will undoubtedly be his sepulchre. He received a sentence of 33 years of incarceration for ‘high treason’. Err, ‘intense embarrassment’ sounds a bit more accurate. Yes, we stripped Pakistan bare and we did it in a public manner. And we did it more quickly than it took for your top military commanders to tumble out of bed, hurriedly put on their uniforms, and assemble their staff. Such is the stuff of the legend of the bin Laden raid. Such is all in a day’s work for the United States Navy Seals.

It seems best to end with a small vignette. I once called a female Navy Commander within my chain of command. She informed me that she was drinking a glass of wine. She had a policy never to drink alone. Since her husband was out of town, she had poured a bit of wine in the water bowl of her dog. He was drinking with her. I still laugh when I imagine a four-legged oenophile. But it does bring up a point.

There will be no opening night festivities in Pakistan to applaud the glory of our Navy Seals. I surely understand your continued discomfort. My guess is your government will ban the film from your theatres. Neither will there be a congratulatory reception hosted by the US ambassador for society’s elite on the projected October 12 release date. The ambassador will be seated in the dark alone, waiting for the telephone to ring. Bottle in hand. May I suggest a good red wine to pair with the doggie treat to be offered to the family pet?


The writer is a freelance columnist. She can be reached at