While we were recovering from the great book case move, I hauled out a movie I taped off the tube several years ago. It’s a made for TV flick I literally stumbled over just as it was starting. It’s called Under Siege and it is NOT the early nineties flick starring Steven Seagal. It’s a story about terrorist attacks inside the US at some unspecified date, presumably the mid eighties. Since it was produced in the mid-eighties they’re a mix of European radicals and Muslims. This film was apparently available on VHS at one time, it isn’t anymore and I’ve never seen it on the tube since. Especially not since 9/11.
And I don’t think it’s because it might give the current terrorists ideas. They’ve come up with all of the events that happen without any help from us. The two story lines involve the FBI’s by the book search for those responsible and the political side. There’s not proof Iran was involved but too many of the politicians involved see this as a chance to take out as much of Iran’s ability to train and equip the radicals as possible.
You’ve got an FBI director trying to uphold the law and conduct an investigation that will lead to who was really responsible even if it takes longer than is comfortable, a president in the hot seat, a newspaper editor fishing for a story, various hot heads looking for a chance to take out Iran whether it was involved or not, a mixed bag of left wing and Muslim terrorists, and explosions occurring with depressing regularity.
Under increasing pressure to “do something” the president agrees, in theory at least, with his chief aide’s advice that they can’t afford to bring whoever planned these attacks to trial. The argument is that his followers and sympathizers will use additional violence to secure his release or disrupt a trial. What they don’t know is that they were a very small group working on their own in the first place and at this point the planner of the acts of terror is the only member of the group left.
His motivation? He’s an Algerianleftist whose son was killed in a bombing in Paris just before the Iranian revolution. His disgust with the US, the Soviets, and the radicals who in his eyes have sold out to protect their own lives. The perpetrators? The Shah’s secret police attempting to take out dissidents supporting the Ayatollah. Oh, what a tangled web we’ve woven. I wasn’t able to verify the claim of Iran’s UN ambassador that the shah’s secret police killed nearly 150,000 of their own citizens during his reign. A government the US supported.
Faced with news stories based on leaked FBI intelligence linking the attacks to Iran their UN ambassador gives the planner’s name and location to one faction of the administration at almost the same time the bureau puts their puzzle pieces together. He’s taken into custody by the bureau while he’s praying. He neither attempts to escape or to deny what he set in motion. The man is assassinated while in custody by someone from a fictional (I hope) CIA task force that is supposed to be a successor to the all too real Operation Phoenix from the Viet Nam era. Collateral damage from the shooting? An FBI agent who got in the way. A new father whose son’s christening is juxtaposed with the last two radicals moving down a street of shops, throwing grenades through the doors. Scenes of hope contrasted with scenes of despair. And as number of burning shops multiplied mom made the remark “and this is what’s happening over there.” These days this is not a good movie to watch just before bedtime.
When it becomes all too obvious that the evidence found at the shooting was planted the director of the bureau takes it to another member of the administration, that’s when he learns of the possible CIA involvement. The problem now? The CIA can’t operate within the US without permission from the president. What did the president know and did he give the order? I wish I could reproduce the escalating confrontation between the beleaguered president and the increasingly furious FBI director. The director argues that when we adopt the methods terrorists we become terrorists ourselves, that we have no right to deprive ourselves and our children of our hard won protections under the law and most importantly his first duty is not to defend the administration but to defend the law. In the end, he falls silent with an expression of eloquent despair.
In the end the camera follows him into the newsroom of the editor/friend who has been dogging his heels for a story. He throws a manila envelope on his desk with the statement “you wanted a story, here it is” and walks out. That is where the story ends and you are left to wonder at the final outcome. What did the president know and when did he know it? Is the CIA representative left to hang out to dry since he trusted the word of the president’s aide or did he actually receive written permission to task a CIA operation within our borders? Does the aide fall on his sword to protect the president? Does the director decide the hell with it and resign?
I finally realized that the bureau director and terrorist leader had as least one thing in common. Both are willing to sacrifice for what they believe. One to destroy, the other to protect.
As for we have now? This bunch wouldn’t know a dishonorable action if it came up and bit them on ass, or somewhere more sensitive.