Sunday, November 11, 2012

Osama bin Laden still a Factor in U.S. Elections

Almost exactly eight years ago, America went to polls to elect a president. What was expected to be a tight race, ended in a relatively comfortable victory to the incumbent George W. Bush. America’s most wanted man and the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, had an impact on the election through a video tape that was released days before. Apprehensive of their security, some voters swayed to the Bush camp, giving him an advantage in the eleventh hour.

Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, Wikimedia Commons

It is eighteen months since the demise of Osama bin Laden. His once feared Al-Qaeda has suffered defeat after defeat. However, the once feared bin Laden is still a man who still has an influence over American politics. If it was not the case, the National Geographic Channel would not have premiered “Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden” just two days before America chose a new president.

Directed by John Stockwell, the movie has been produced by Weinstein Company of Harvey Weinstein and Voltage Pictures. As one of the writers and executive producers of the movie, Weinstein plays a key part in the movie. As National Geographic Channel (NGC) President Howard Owens stated “[T]he success of this premiere would not have been possible without Harvey's driving force and support for this film and our network.” The fact that Weinstein was an ardent supporter and a key fundraiser of president Obama’s reelection campaign was a reason for the Republicans to complain. Adding salt to their injury, the film used several archive footages of Obama himself.

However, the NGC, which premiered the film, is primarily owned by one of the most conservative media tycoons, Rupert Murdoch. The concern for the Channel was to attract the maximum possible number of viewers, which the film achieved, despite millions of homes still not having electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. With 2.7 million people watching the show, it was by far the best rated NGC show in 2012 and the sixth highest rated show in the entire 15 year history of the channel. David Lyle, CEO of the channel was very pleased. “We are overwhelmed that the viewers across the country responded en masse to this socially relevant, factually based and entertaining film.” It is clear that if the film was featured after the election, it would not have generated this magnitude of interest.

While some critics have praised the film, others have strongly criticized it. Writing to the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley argued that “[A]s a movie it’s not nearly as gripping as it could be, given how harrowing and suspenseful the actual events were on the night of May 2, 2011.”

However, the film has been made to impress the viewers, generating a sense of pride in the American public. It could not have come at a better moment when the Eastern United States is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

In the movie, the culmination of “Operation Neptune Spear”, the death of bin Laden, is followed by total silence, after which the time 1.20 a.m. is shown on the screen, which made me recall the popular TV series 24. Thereafter, the voice of the Commanding Officer of the operation is heard as he informs the White House and the Intelligence team involved in the operation that, “[F]or God and Country, Geronimo is KIA.” The film aptly ended with the other most famous phrase to come out of “Operation Neptune Spear.” President Barak Obama declares that “justice has been done.”

Following the operation, Obama also claimed that bin Laden raid is the “most important single day of my presidency.” Just before the election, opinion polls showed that the majority of the possible voters believed that Obama will be a better Supreme Commander than Romney. While economy was a key concern, security concerns may have also played a part in the reelection of Obama. Even in his death, Osama bin Laden has played his part in American politics through “Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden.”

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