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Review & Deconstruction: Hijacking Catastrophe

Film Review and Deconstruction: Hijacking Catastrophe

By Sonia Nettnin

''Hijacking Catastrophe 09/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire,'' analyzes U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and U.S. media coverage of it.

Through interviews of subject matter experts and the critique of documents from the National Security Strategy of the United States of America; director Jeremy Earp and producer Sut Jhally – co-founders of The Media Education Foundation - focused on the U.S. application of strategies explained in the report “Rebuilding America’s Defenses Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New American Century.”

The film - narrated by Julian Bond - contains interviews of numerous activists, doctors, former members of the U.S. armed forces, journalists, ministers, physicists, scholars, scientists, and writers. They include Tariq Ali; Benjamin Barber; Medea Benjamin; Noam Chomsky; Kevin Danaher; Mark Danner; Shadia Drury; Michael Eric Dyson; Daniel Ellsberg; Stan Goff; William Hartung; Robert Jensen; Chalmers Johnson; Jackson Katz; Michael Klare; Lt, Col. Karen Kwiatkowski (Air Force, ret.); Norman Mailer; Zia Mian; Mark Crispin Miller; Scott Ritter; Vandana Shiva; Norman Solomon; Greg Speeter; Immanual Wallerstein; Jody Williams; and Max Fraad Wolff. The film captures the spectrum of U.S. global policy applied over time.

Key Dichotomy

At the beginning of the film, Earp and Jhally show a clip of President George W. Bush speaking about Saddam Hussein to the American public. Bush states Hussein is addicted to weapons of mass destruction. Toward the end of the film, they show graphic footage of Iraqi children with drapes of bloody skin and fragments of bones that were once their arms and legs.

These images of the U.S. war in Iraq are not present in U.S. mainstream media. The American public sees the missile launches and the warfare fire: theater war marketed as the “shock and awe” campaign. However, Americans do not see what happens to the people who receive the bombs. The film unravels this denouement (conclusion); but it dissects and disseminates the psychological/sociological manipulation of the masses. Fore example, Bush used the phrase, “axis of evil.” It became the primary conduit for “good and evil.” This dichotomy determined the value of human life and the U.S. media communicated the perception. Through fear, anything can happen.

As a result of this polarization, the Bush administration laid the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq. However, it was not 09/11 that spurred the war. It began with the first Bush administration, when the neoconservatives decided the shape of the geopolitical landscape for the 21st century. The tragedy of 09/11 was the catalyst they needed so they could spearhead U.S. strategy into action.

U.S. Strategy

The participants of the Project for the New American Century stated in their report that “…we saw the project as building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Dept. in the waning days of the Bush Administration. The Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) drafted in the early months of 1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”

In the report, military-strategic-transformation is the theme. They decided the process would take a long time, unless there was a “…catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” Earp and Jhally reference this condition and they explore it in the section of the film called “Blueprint for Empire Building Fear.”

“This is always been about getting Saddam Hussein,” Ritter said. He added that the Bush Administration used the WMD vehicle to change Iraq’s regime.

Several interviewees talked about “chickenhawks,” who are “war lovers with no experience.” Moreover they describe them as “abstract enthusiasts for war.” Interviewees pointed out that most members of the Bush Administration deferred their service.

Kwiatkowski explained that the attack on Hussein was based on a selective reading of the evidence, along with creative packaging to suggest preemptive evidence.

Marketing the War in Iraq to the American Public

Words in speeches, along with delivery, initiate fear. However, the adage is people need to “see it to believe it.” The “shock and awe” presentation in U.S. media depicted the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a U.S. 4th of July, freedom-firecracker-video (minus the music and dancers).

In a public speech, Vice-President Dick Cheney blundered: “we came as conquerors.” Yet, U.S. media and journalists who accompanied U.S. forces in Iraq continued with the U.S.-as-liberator theme. As a result, interpretation and reporting was not objective, and it became the mechanism for publicizing the war in a positive light. The video graphics on news stations adds layers of dehumanization to the people who suffer from the war. War video games extended the American childhood sentiment of pushing buttons in a home atmosphere. The war could be touched from the safety of the living room. In fact, the report critiqued in the film makes several references to theater war. In the peoples’ minds, the U.S. would be exercising great, tactile care whenever they dropped a bomb.

One interviewee stated that the “shock and awe” campaign included a line of golf clubs, actions figures and condoms. The rebirth of the American male as pure testosterone is another dimension of the Bush Administration’s public relations. The last, four years show Bush with a chainsaw or an ax in the forest. When Bush landed on the U.S. Naval aircraft carrier, the media showed his physical display of manhood.

During a speech about attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Bush said: “bring it on.” According to Miller, the soldiers gasped at Bush’s statement. The version of reality portrayed to the American public is far from the daily life of warfare and conflict -- especially when decision makers do not have to pick up the pieces of their son or daughter.

According to the film, the U.S. spends $100 billion on defense annually, compared to $60 billion in Russia and $50 billion in China. The U.S. National Debt is $7 trillion and one-third of it is foreign interest debt.


U.S. Citizenship requires that every person take onus. People should make time to become informed about the government and about the world’s citizens. World peace requires people making decisions together.

* ### *

More information about the film is at


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age. ]

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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