While many of us remember the horror of the September 11 attacks, the story of why it happened and America's reaction is a fascinating history lesson. Digital editor Dan Jensen talks about why this new Netflix series is one of the more important ones this year.
TURNING POINT: 9/11 AND THE WAR ON TERROR is a five-part documentary series that goes deep into the events leading up to and following the September 11 attacks and shows why America is its own worst enemy.
Split into five episodes, each running for around an hour, Turning Point is equal parts confronting and fascinating. This series doesn’t hold back in its criticism of America’s involvement in Afghanistan over the decades, with the concluding chapter focusing on events taking place right now. Any good documentary requires bias to be left at the door and there is none present here.
The series begins with a harrowing look at the events that took place on the day of the terrorist attacks and it doesn’t hold back. It manages to use imagery and voice recordings of those about to die to stir the emotions effectively. While it's not easy to watch these things, it’s necessary for the context of the story it’s telling. It knows we’ve covered this ground for the past 20 years, so it doesn’t take long before it asks the questions as to why it happened.
Turning Point gives us interviews with White House officials, military leaders, journalists and even former Taliban leaders to go deep into the history of how America essentially created its own worst enemy. Not only that, we’re shown how the U.S. Government already had intelligence as to something going on but failed to act. Hearing former government officials giving their perspectives on events leading up to 9/11 is deeply interesting.
Of course, following the terrorist attacks, President Bush seized the opportunity to expand the U.S. military’s power and the War on Terror began. Turning Point doesn’t refrain from emphasising what went wrong during this time and just how much the U.S. Government failed. There is some clever editing on display here, especially when we see a montage of news clips of Bush and other officials adamant that they’ve found weapons of mass destruction only to have all of that debunked by people with actual intelligence.
At this point, we follow the U.S. military into Afghanistan and are given a front-row seat to the absolute horror show they were put through. Some of the camera work here is impressive, putting the viewer right in the middle of firefights in high definition, even witnessing the death of a soldier during a skirmish. The more sensitive viewer may well ask why we need to see something like that, but the violence shown is never glorified – it’s purely to make us realise just how much of a nightmare the situation was.
Turning Point also explains why Guantanamo Bay turned out to be a pointless exercise in hostility and some of the facts revealed are astonishing. The cruelty and gung-ho attitude of the American war machine are never sugar-coated in this series. It also shows first-hand how a lot of the trillions of dollars spent on the Afghanistan War were completely wasted through poor decisions and sheer stupidity.
In the end, Turning Point doesn’t provide any answers as to how the Afghanistan situation could have been handled better. Indeed, some of the positives from America’s meddling are discussed – another example of the series’ lack of bias.
But through interviews with people who actually shaped the course of history from both sides of the conflict, footage that never holds back on telling the truth and some truly great editing, Turning Point is a fascinating series and well worth your time.
Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror is now streaming on Netflix.
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