Sunday, May 23, 2010

"The Oath" at the Seattle International Film Fetsival....Abu Jandal and Al Qaida

Just got through seeing "The Oath", which is about former bodyguard to Osama bin Laden Abu Jandal and his brother Salim Hamdan, Hamdan's imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay and his trial, and former Al Qaida member Jandal's personal struggles with and reflections on his Islamic beliefs. Told as a split between interviews with Jandal and updates at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere about Hamdan's trial, the film gives an inside view of the ideology of radical Islam and the terrorist and organizational aspects of Al Qaida. Jandal was very deep in it and talks casually about training camps and getting guys acclimated to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's personal style, and other topics. What it does is to bring back to earth all of these discussions about Al Qaida as being some sort of metaphysical principle of evil beyond all comprehension. Yes, this guy knew all the 9/11 hijackers, yes, he guarded bin Laden for four years, yes, Al Qaida really is an organized terrorist organization, but there's something in his matter of factness about all of it that leads to a sort of relief, sort of like at last we know. This is a real thing, these are real people training, but they're not infinitely powerful. They're humans operating on the same principles that the U.S. military's counter-insurgency wings most likely operate on. Navy SEALS.....Al Qaida. Depends on how you look at it I suppose. I could suppose also that people with different worldviews would condemn the film as giving some sort of a propaganda boost to terrorists......who are never allowed to say what they actually think? Come on. Terrorists are convenient for the right when they're kept at arms length and out of camera angle.

The film was well made, it captured the complexity of the situation, and I would recommend it to anyone.

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