9/11 Five Years Later: DVD Roundup of 9/11 Attack on America

For those who want to gain knowledge, build a home library and understand the September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attack—at present the worst in American history—a few DVDs stand out as relatively consistent. Each contains graphic images, appropriate to the barbaric act of war, key photography of every target in the attack and acknowledgement of the enemy's philosophy.

The Al Qaeda Files: Frontline

Seven hours of various Frontline programs that aired on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) are generally factual and informative, though they use predominantly liberal sources to interpret events and lack a fully objective examination of the enemy. The Al Qaeda Files: Frontline is instructive if incomplete.

The two-disc set begins in chronological order with "Hunting Bin Laden," a pre-attack program about the 17th son of 52 Saudi Arabian children that aired in 2000. "Islam is Coming," a banner reads, one of countless ignored warnings, and there's no downplaying hostile intent here. It covers the Soviet war in Afghanistan, in which America, beginning with President Reagan, armed the jihadist fighters.

The program demonstrates how, as one dictatorship was ending in 1989—the year that the communists' Berlin Wall crumbled and the Soviets withdrew troops from Afghanistan—a far more dangerous power, radical Islam, was allowed to proliferate—and it wasn't merely a faraway band of guerillas in rags; it was rising from within the United States. When a group of ordinary Moslems in Texas is asked about their views, they all support the anti-American fundamentalists.

The Qaeda camp declares war on America in explicit terms in the early summer of 1996, prior to bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa, followed by President Clinton's pathetic excuse for a military response—and this should put to rest any doubt that the Clinton administration bears responsibility for negligence in eradicating the Islamic terrorist threat.

In each of the Frontline programs, government bureaucrats make endless excuses for their staggering incompetence and denial, stammer in explaining half-measures, or, chillingly, they relate to the radical Moslems. As the State Dept.'s Richard Armitage, defending Islam, asserts in one interview: "we're all people of the book." (So much for separation of church and state.) It is sickening. Government's primary purpose is national defense and these officials—in both parties—not only fail, they fail with a chip on their shoulders.

Few emerge as heroes. One of them is John P. O'Neill, a fiery maverick in the FBI who merits a single program, "The Man Who Knew." He repeatedly tried to sound the alarm about religious radicals and stop their acts of war. What O'Neill knew stemmed from his experience in religious extremism: he had been assigned to Christian terrorist bombings of abortion clinics. O'Neill, derided by Bureau climbers as "too intense," caught the 1993 World Trade Center attack planner in Pakistan. He was bright and devoted—and he was hunting the murderers.

O'Neill did what others did not: he immersed himself in his work, studying jihad videos and making extensive notes. For this he was drummed out of the Bureau and the FBI official who talked to Frontline about O'Neill's demise, Robert Bryant, doesn't try to repress the profound sadness. Declining to name the high-ranking official responsible for ending O'Neill's career—and with it a shot at stopping 9/11—he seethes with sorrow and rage. O'Neill took a job as security chief of the World Trade Center, where he was killed in the 9/11 attack. The official, pegged here as former acting FBI director Tom Pickard—he had been in charge of the dubious investigation into the suspicious July 1996 TWA flight 800 disaster—retired after 9/11.

Remember Tora Bora, where bin Laden escaped the U.S. military again? The Lackawanna sleeper cell near Buffalo, New York? Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray, which briefly pre-dated the Bush administration's politically correct distribution of Korans to enemy prisoners? Such chapters in the five years since 9/11 are included here. Others involve a man who claims to have left Al Qaeda and the rise of Islam in western Europe.

The Al Qaeda Files: Frontline overemphasizes Osama bin Laden and neglects to explain how philosophy, i.e., the role of faith and religion, led to mass murder. Similarly, states—principally, Iran—that sponsor terrorism are conspicuously left unexamined.

But these programs offer clear evidence of the spread of Islamic terrorism, which has been allowed by the West to fester. If one can filter PBS' typical deterministic insinuations that poverty causes terrorism, one sees the links among theocracy Iran, Saudi Arabia's religious dictatorship, and bin Laden stating in a pre-9/11 interview that Al Qaeda does not differentiate between military and civilian targets—and the grim reality that we still do.

National Geographic: Inside 9/11

In excruciating details that confirm the Clinton administration's deliberate refusal to exterminate a known terrorist with hostile intent, which also indict the Bush administration, National Geographic: Inside 9/11 is a briskly paced chronology on two-discs, "War on America" and "Zero Hour." They're packed with crucial—and relatively unknown—facts.

When former CNN reporter and terrorism analyst Steven Emerson attended a gathering of Moslem radicals in Oklahoma City before the 9/11 attack, he called the FBI from a public telephone in the hall to tip them off to the threat of attack. That he was promptly ignored is not surprising—and no less frustrating—since the government did not want to know about, let alone stop, the war on America. Says one Moslem radical organizing jihad: "Blood must flow. There must be widows. There must be orphans."

Today, there are tens of thousands of both and National Geographic: Inside 9/11 unequivocally documents how that happened with the complicity—by default of their moral responsibility to defend the nation—of the U.S. government. The case against past administrations is, if anything, understated. Asserting that the 1990 assassination of radical Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York was the first major terrorist incident on U.S. soil, Inside 9/11 neglects to mention the 1979 siege at the U.S. embassy—officially, American soil—in Iran, the 1980 assassination of an anti-ayatollah diplomat at his Bethesda, Maryland home or the 1989 bombing of a Navy captain's minivan near San Diego.

In other words, the war between radical Islam and the West has been going on for decades, and Inside 9/11 gets it mostly right, revealing that Bin Laden donated $20,000 to the Kahane assassin's legal defense, which was handled by New Left lawyer William Kuntsler. More perspective—key to understanding this war—is the fact that the 1993 World Trade Center attack planner is the nephew of the 2001 World Trade Center attack planner. The nephew flew first class to and from Pakistan without notice. Between trips, he watched the 1993 attack from Brooklyn.

This is not merely a case of U.S. intelligence officers being asleep at the switch. National Geographic's special provides unmistakable evidence that the U.S. sacrificed the interests of the American people to appease Islamic terrorists.

According to this report, on February 12, 1999, the day that the U.S. Senate voted to acquit President Clinton on charges related to the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, a military operation to attack Osama bin Laden was nixed because the terrorist was in the company of an Arabian prince whom the Clinton administration wished not to harm. This after the Clintonistas had asked which bin Laden camp tents were used as mosques, so as not to hurt terrorists in prayer. Bin Laden began planning the 9/11 attack shortly after the aborted mini-strike.

After watching this, one is left with the distinct impression that the war is likely to be lost because, while the enemy is determined to destroy that which is sacred to Americans—our people, our economic and military nerve centers, our cities and skyscrapers—our government will not even use our military to destroy a makeshift mosque.

President Bush, in philosophical terms, is identical to Clinton. In one of his first decisions as president, according to the program, our supposedly strong commander-in-chief refused to respond militarily when Iranian-linked terrorists bombed the U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 American sailors. The enemy noticed; before 9/11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received 52 specific warnings about bin Laden or Al Qaeda; five cited hijacking, two included references to a suicide attack.

The Bush administration was not alone in having a heads up about the September 11 attack. National Geographic includes the underreported fact that, on Sept. 6, 2001, a Brooklyn high school student looked out the window, pointed to the Twin Towers and told the teacher they would not be there next week.

Inside 9/11's disc two program, "Zero Hour," takes it from there. With several quality recordings from telephone calls and radio communications to and from the hijacked passenger jets, details emerge. In the approximately 15 minutes between the time American Airlines flight 11 hit the north tower and United Air Lines flight 175 pierced the south tower, United 175 passenger Peter Hansen called his father and said he believed the attackers "intend to fly into a building." Inside 9/11 also makes use of New York radio broadcasts.

Two of United flight 93's widows appear, Lyz Glick and Deena Burnett, whose husbands Jeremy and Tom led the resistance aboard that doomed flight. Todd Beamer's matter-of-fact "Let's Roll," which evokes the American cowboy spirit that we know fueled the passenger counterstrike, is noticeably absent. Inside 9/11's 20-minute bonus program about a public school near the Twin Towers is non-historical and practically useless. As usual, there is not one mention of Iran, the world's foremost jihad state, and, like the PBS series, bin Laden's importance is overstated.

In Memoriam: New York City 9/11/01

Capturing the sights, sounds and memories of the attack's most defining strike points, In Memoriam: New York City 9/11/01 is basically former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's personal tribute to America's beloved city, the Twin Towers and to those who were brutally murdered. Whatever his political philosophy, the reflective Giuliani is deeply respectful of the greatest city on earth.

So is this 60-minute production from Home Box Office (HBO). With Giuliani praising the Twin Towers as symbolic of America's economic freedom, the program's chronological approach to the attack returns at certain intervals to the pre-attack World Trade Center, two grand skyscrapers that deserve to be mourned. In one lingering shot, the blindingly sunrise-smacked towers look like two white gold bars reaching into the morning sky—beacons guiding the city's prime movers in action.

The photography is adoring and amazing and agonizing. One shot features a rare, long-lasting, wide-angle look at the lower end of the Manhattan island, with the Twin Towers in trouble. The postscript to that solemn picture is the program's historic footage of the three firemen hoisting the American flag over the wreckage of what were once the tallest buildings in the world.

We also see the bodies falling and, unforgettably, streams of amateur video that play like prayers from loving tourists and New Yorkers. During one piece, a companion to a camera operator named Mi-Kyung Heller can be heard telephoning his grandfather shortly after the first strike. The speaker is not sure if a bomb, a missile, or an airplane has hit one of the buildings, but, he says plainly, "this could be World War Three."

It was—it is—though, five years later, neither Congress nor the President has declared war or retaliated against the major state sponsors of Islamic terrorism. In Memoriam: New York City 9/11/01 reminds Americans that what we lived through on 9/11—especially our spirited New Yorkers—is not finished; the next attack is likely to be much worse.

During one memorial service, Mayor Giuliani says: "each time you cry, you have to remember that we're right and they're wrong…and America will prevail." It is not easy to say whether Giuliani will prove right, though he taps American optimism. He speaks in worshipful tones of the New York City skyline—that is, until he hears a screaming sound and looks up to see fighter jets as they race across the sky, too late to stop the attack.

This 2006 article was published at Box Office Mojo.

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