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Covering Bin LadenGlobal Media and the World's Most Wanted Man$

Susan Jeffords and Fahed Al-Sumait

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038860

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038860.001.0001

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Without Osama

Without Osama

Tere Bin Laden and the Critique of the War on Terror

Chapter:
(p.143) 8 Without Osama
Source:
Covering Bin Laden
Author(s):

Purnima Bose

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252038860.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

Tere Bin Laden (2010), an Indian independent film in Hindi, written and directed by Abhishek Sharma, is a madcap comedy about an ambitious Pakistani journalist, Ali Hassan, who stages a fake video of Osama bin Laden as his golden ticket to immigrate to the United States. The film provides a trenchant critique of global media, the War on Terror, and the capitalist aspirations of lower-middle and middle-class Pakistanis. This chapter focuses on how Tere Bin Laden articulates a critique of the War on Terror. It first considers how the opening segments of the film set up its dual concerns with the nature of the U.S. national security state as a racial formation and with an idealized version of the American dream that constitutes the desire for upward mobility in the imagination of elite Pakistanis such as Ali. It then turns to the film's representation of the War on Terror and U.S. foreign policy to analyze how it draws on the speeches of the actual Osama bin Laden and spoofs the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan by literally rendering it into a cartoon. Evaluating the filmmaker's and lead actor's claims that the film provides a generalized South Asian perspective on the War on Terror, the chapter explores Tere Bin Laden's representation of Pakistani civil society as constituted by a range of classes and aspirations that can be persuaded to cooperate with one another only in limited ways and as existing in an uneasy equilibrium with the state.

Keywords:   Indian films, independent films, Osama bin Laden, Abhishek Sharma, global media, War on Terror, national security, U.S. foreign policy, American dream, Pakistanis

Released in July 2010, Tere Bin Laden is a madcap comedy about an ambitious Pakistani journalist, Ali Hassan, who stages a fake video of Osama bin Laden as his golden ticket to immigrate to the United States; the film provides a trenchant critique of global media, the War on Terror, and the capitalist aspirations of lower-middle and middle-class Pakistanis.1 An Indian independent film in Hindi, written and directed by Abhishek Sharma, it became an instant box office success in the key “metro cities” of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Bangalore and was thereafter distributed in international markets such as the UK, Middle East, Australia, South Africa, and Mauritius.2 Adding to the repertoire of popular culture representations of Osama bin Laden, Tere Bin Laden contributes a progressive critique of the War on Terror from South Asia, a part of the world often viewed as at risk for generating political violence and terrorism. The film explores the unholy trinity among the transnational bourgeoisie, media, and governments (U.S. and Pakistan) that conspire to produce different versions of Osama bin Laden for their separate purposes. The astuteness of the film’s analysis of the War on Terror and global media resides in its insertion of representatives from different segments of Pakistani civil society into a transnational economy of representation and images associated with bin Laden, in which these classes simultaneously critique U.S. foreign policy and become complicit with it. In its ability to manipulate global media and affect geopolitical outcomes, Pakistani civil society emerges (p.144) in the film as a full media subject in both senses of the term—the subject of media and subjects’ making media.

Tere Bin Laden literally means “Your bin Laden,” but also yields the pun “Without you, Laden” (Tere bina Laden), and the joke of the film centers on the absence of Osama bin Laden himself. The title’s double meaning implies that regardless of the actual bin Laden, he becomes whatever “you” (the transnational bourgeoisie, media, and governments) make him. In the mediated landscape of the twenty-first century, Osama bin Laden exists as a handy empty signifier that multiple agents can manipulate for different kinds of economic, professional, and geographic mobility.

In this chapter, I primarily focus on how Tere Bin Laden articulates a critique of the War on Terror. I first consider how the opening segments of the film set up its dual concerns with the nature of the U.S. national security state as a racial formation and with an idealized version of the American dream that constitutes the desire for upward mobility in the imagination of elite Pakistanis such as Ali. I then turn to the film’s representation of the War on Terror and U.S. foreign policy to analyze how it draws on the speeches of the actual Osama bin Laden and spoofs the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan by literally rendering it into a cartoon. Evaluating the filmmaker’s and lead actor’s claims that the film provides a generalized South Asian perspective on the War on Terror, I explore Tere Bin Laden’s representation of Pakistani civil society as constituted by a range of classes and aspirations that can be persuaded to cooperate with one another only in limited ways and as existing in an uneasy equilibrium with the state.

Throughout this chapter, my methodology derives from that materialist strain of postcolonial studies that understands cultural artifacts to be connected in some way to historical events and geopolitical relationships. Rather than gauge representation in terms of its aesthetic codes and internal logic alone, I situate readings of scenes in their larger referential contexts under the assumption that Tere Bin Laden has an analysis to make of actual political realities. This reading of the film is in line with the director’s intent: while acknowledging the satirical elements of his film, Sharma also argues for its mimetic accuracy in its representation of a conspiracy about fake bin Laden tapes, which is a strong cultural current in many parts of the world. As part of his research for the film, he watched both real and fake Osama bin Laden footage.3 If anything, the distinction between “the real” and representation itself concerning the War on Terror was initially blurred by Bush administration officials who falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship with Al Qaeda and was conspiring to launch terrorist attacks against the United States, and (p.145) who also exaggerated evidence about the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as a pretext for going to war against Iraq.4 Consistent with the permeable border between “the real” and the “representational,” historically speaking, my analysis uses close readings of the film to shuttle between the real Osama bin Laden’s explanations for geopolitical violence and justifications for terrorism, and the consequences for Afghans of the War on Terror.

“Amreeka”: The National Security State and the American Dream

Before an analysis of the opening scene, it may be helpful to briefly summarize the plot of Tere Bin Laden. Mistaken for a terrorist on a flight to the United States, Ali has been permanently denied a visa to emigrate to “Amreeka,” his destination of choice. In order to acquire a forged passport, he must give a large advance to a shadowy organization, Lashkar-E-Amreeka (a parody of Lashkare-Taiba).5 Unable to afford the advance, he hits on the idea of fooling Noora—a poultry-farmer, simpleton, and Osama bin Laden look-alike—into appearing in footage of the Al Qaeda leader, which he plans to sell for a lucrative amount. First aired on Live India and then News America, the fake footage acquires a life of its own, gaining global distribution and precipitating political alarm in the United States and financial markets worldwide. In response, the U.S. government initiates a massive bombing campaign of Afghanistan. Stricken by the unleashing of American power on Afghanistan as a consequence of his video, Ali convinces Noora to make a follow-up tape addressed to President Bush in which Osama bin Laden suggests a ceasefire between the two sides. Comedic plot twists conspire to make U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officers and government officials complicit in the production of Ali’s Osama video sequel.

Tere Bin Laden’s opening scene sequence establishes its twin concerns with the United States as a national security state and the superficiality of segments of the Pakistani bourgeoisie, emphasizing the role played by global media in promoting the government’s security agenda and creating an idealized version of the United States among elite Pakistanis’ imaginations. The film opens several days after September 11, 2001, in the Karachi airport, where Ali, an intrepid reporter for a down-market local television channel, frantically waits to use the WC in time to make his flight to New York. A fellow traveler, who is wrestling to undo the knot on his kurta pajama, responds to Ali’s urgings to hurry by remarking that Ali must be going to New York to become a taxi driver, thereby suggesting that the United States offers limited economic opportunities for South Asian immigrants.

(p.146) Immediately following this scene, the camera presents a medium close-up shot of Ali on board the flight as he rehearses for an audition as a newscaster; he reads aloud sample headlines, practicing different inflections of an Americanized accent: “America Becomes Suspicious of Muslims,” “Bush Ready to Bomb Osama,” and “Al Qaeda behind Plane Hijacking.” Scared by his repetition of the words bomb and hijack, the skittish flight attendant screams, prompting a burly male passenger to restrain Ali, who is turned over to U.S. authorities. The film then breaks into a Bollywood song and dance sequence, “Ullu da Pattha,” which intersperses shots of Ali being interrogated and tortured by U.S. authorities, gyrating female immigration agents, a “Federal Bureau” panel apparently reviewing his case for deportation, a Karachi bazaar, multiple visits to the American embassy to secure a visa from a dour official, and Ali’s fantasy object: a skimpily-clad blond woman in front of a Craftsman style bungalow.

The song sequence explicitly constructs the United States as a national security state that differentially treats those within its borders based on their racial identities and geographical origins. In addition to the racial profiling of Ali as a “terrorist” on the Go America flight that opens the film, after Ali’s arrest a continuous series of stills flash across the screen, featuring mug shots of prisoners of different ethnicities. In the first still, a brown man holds a sign reading Mexican. He is followed by a mug shot of a black man holding an African sign. A white male with a sign lettered Peter is next, and Ali and his South Asian sign round out the mix. While the others are marked as foreign subjects (Mexican, African, and South Asian), the white male prisoner is the only one granted a unique identity through the use of his first name and the absence of any geographic identification labels. In not marking Peter’s geographic origins, the scene implies that the U.S. national security state collapses geographic and racial identity, naturalizing American citizenship as white.

The threat of violence against foreign/ethnic subjects is signified by a large blood splatter in the background of Ali’s mug shot. This threat is reinforced by visual references to interrogation that pepper the sequence; the blue shirts initially slap Ali while questioning him, and he is later strapped into a chair with electrodes protruding from his head. These images evoke the controversial U.S. record of using torture in military facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq to interrogate those designated terrorist suspects as their inclusion in the song sequence underscores the idea that terrorist suspects are inevitably racialized subjects in the eyes of the U.S. state. That the state is incapable of discerning the finer distinctions between different political categories that it defines as constituting threats to its national security becomes apparent in the Federal Bureau panelists’ responses to Ali. One official deems him an Al Qaeda member, another designates him Taliban, and a third reverts to the more comic label (p.147) Ullu da Pattha, a Punjabi phrase that literally translates into “son of an owl” (the equivalent of “son of a jackass”) and is an invective used to insult someone’s intelligence or judgment.

But if the song sequence aims to expose the United States as a racialized national security state, it also mocks middle-class Pakistanis who buy wholesale into the discourse of the American dream. The Pakistani man who taunts Ali in the men’s room with the prospect of becoming a cab driver in New York vocalizes an actual reality for many South Asian immigrants, particularly Pakistanis, who have found employment driving taxis in New York.6 This scene helps deflate the puffed-up rhetoric of the American dream that Ali has swallowed. His image—in the song sequence when he appears before the Federal Bureau board—features a background collage juxtaposing the Statue of Liberty, an eagle, the U.S. flag, and the words American Dream. Later in the sequence, we see him in the midst of a domestic fantasy complete with bungalow and blond babe—an object choice of desire overdetermined by the complex sexual dynamics of colonial history—handing him a glass of milk and a hamburger. The presence of a small, white boy in the frame constructs the American dream as inhering in the marriage between heteronormative reproduction and property ownership. The lyrics of the song emphasize his pursuit of this fiction insofar as the refrain includes the line, “He’s running behind the American dream,” which implies that he’s chasing after a dream that he will be unable to catch.

That Ali’s construction of Amreeka is simplistic and almost cartoonish is indicated in the flashbacks to his childhood that represent him as obsessed with the United States from a young age. The Superman bedspread adorning the adult Ali’s bed hints that his understanding of the United States has not matured with age. Even more significantly, the title of the song “Ullu da Pattha” is clearly a signifier for Ali himself. His aspirations to attain the American dream, the song’s title insinuates, are idiotic and foolish.

This opening song sequence also implicates the global media as being complicit in the promulgation of the War on Terror and with disseminating a hegemonic version of the American dream. In the first scene, Majeed, an executive and reporter for the Pakistani Danka television station, does a “news” spot on the first American flight to depart from Karachi to New York following September 11, apparently newsworthy for the presence of a single Pakistani passenger, Ali, on the flight. At one level, the scene starkly demonstrates the unequal power balance between the United States and Pakistan insofar as the presence of a single Pakistani passenger on the plane would not merit media coverage in the United States. Yet after his detention by U.S. authorities on suspicion of terrorism, the U.S. media pick up the story and run with it. A reporter from News America interviews the flight attendant, who gleefully claims that Ali “had (p.148) a look of vengeance in his eyes as if he wanted to kill me.” Shortly afterward an anchor for the same station solemnly announces that “reports are coming in of bin Laden trying to affect peace in America,” thereby implying that Ali is bin Laden’s agent. The hyperbole of the news segments both demonstrates media exaggeration of content related to the War on Terror and highlights the speculative nature of U.S. journalism in which all things related to terrorism lead back to Osama bin Laden even in the absence of any causal connections. According to Tere Bin Laden’s logic, the media—rather than functioning as the Fourth Estate (e.g., the watchdog of democratic processes)—instead acts like the fourth branch of government, promoting views in line with the executive and legislative branches, in effect operating along the lines of what Louis Althusser terms an “ideological state apparatus.”7

Similar to their U.S. counterparts, Pakistani media, as portrayed in the film and embodied in Danka TV, have a tendency to cover inane human interest stories geared toward entertainment. The song sequence intersperses footage of Ali, at work as a Danka correspondent, interviewing a proprietor of an umbrella shop about the optimum way to open an umbrella and a farmer about his sense of fulfillment from growing white, tubular radishes. Later in the film, Ali’s assignment to cover a cock-crowing competition introduces him to Noora, the naive Osama bin Laden look-alike, who will become the unwitting lead in Ali’s fake footage.

Two consecutive frames reinforce the sense that the media have played a formative role in Ali’s internalization of the American dream. In one, Ali is posed against a background of a wall covered with television screens, all featuring the image of the statue of liberty, with the soundtrack blaring, “He’s running blind behind the American dream.” The next frame substitutes different stills of Ali’s detention and interrogation for the images of the Statue of Liberty on the television monitors. In combination with the other scenes featuring News America and Danka television, these frames point to the power of media and media’s capacity to shape individual subjectivity such as Ali’s, as well as to exist in a closed loop with the state, beaming propaganda and justifications for the War on Terror on the airwaves and inciting the state to enact more exaggerated forms of coercion against those deemed terrorist suspects.

The Critique of the War on Terror

Tere Bin Laden begins with a standard disclaimer: “The characters and incidents portrayed in the film herein are fictitious and any similarity/resemblance to the name, character, and history of any person living or dead, is entirely coincidental (p.149) and unintentional. The film is a satire on the difficult times we are living in.” This disclaimer is clearly a joke given that the title of the film contains a reference to Osama bin Laden, yet he only appears in the film as his simulacra, his look-alike—the poultry farmer Noora—whom the film crafts as a vehicle to represent the film’s critique of the War on Terror. U.S. foreign policy is satirized in several ways: through comic references to George W. Bush, through Noora’s speeches in the fake bin Laden videos, and through the cartoonish representation of U.S. military action in Afghanistan. Ali and his cameraman Gul are dispatched to cover a rooster-crowing contest for Danka television, where with a great deal of fanfare the announcer introduces one contestant, “And now straight from the land of Bushes: the mighty Dubya Pardesi [foreigner], last year’s champion.” An obese rooster struts across the stage, only to issue a puny crow. The rooster’s incongruous bodily bulk in conjunction with the feebleness of his voice suggests a parallel with his namesake: in the War on Terror, when push comes to shove, a puffed-up and crowing president is unable to deliver on such basic goods as bin Laden’s capture.

Apart from this comic reference to President George W. Bush, the weightiest critique of U.S. foreign policy in the film emerges from the speeches of Osama bin Laden in the fake videos staged by Ali and his gang and in the cartoonish representation of U.S. intelligence officials, who are portrayed as utterly cynical. Tricking Noora into believing that he is making a tape about poultry farming for Saudi television, Latif—an Arab colleague of Ali and Gul’s—provides an Arabic script for him to memorize. Unbeknownst to Noora, the crew switches the background images of stacked egg cartons and the accoutrements of poultry farming for visuals of a cave, the setting for many of the actual Osama bin Laden’s videotapes. Indeed, the text of Noora’s speech echoes the theme of reciprocal violence that is a leitmotif in the actual bin Laden’s speeches and interviews. With his arm raised in a gesture characteristic of the real deal, Noora declares: “America will have to pay heavily for its continued atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Middle East. Its hands are red with the blood of innocent Muslim children. America cannot wash away this blood without bleeding itself in return. The sacrifice of our Iraqi brothers and sisters will not go in vain.”

As Bruce Lawrence notes, the real bin Laden frequently justifies the use of violence against Western civilians as a form of “reactive terror—a response to what he perceives as the much greater terror exercised by the West over an incomparably longer period of time.”8 Pointing to the lack of equivalence between the violence visited by the United States on other territories—Iraq, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Palestine, among others—and that perpetrated (p.150) by Muslims on the West, bin Laden repeatedly calls for, in his words, a “recalculation” of the human tally of political violence and a “settling of accounts” with the United States, insisting on a moral calculus that recognizes non-Western casualties.9 He frequently invokes the image of blood alongside references to violence perpetrated against Muslim children. For instance, in an October 20, 2001, interview with Tayser Alluni, then head of the Al Jazeera bureau in Kabul, bin Laden responds to the journalist’s question regarding the ethics of “killing innocent civilians” with this rationale:

It is very strange for Americans and other educated people to talk about the killing of innocent civilians. I mean, who said that our children and civilians are not innocents, and that the shedding of their blood is permissible? Whenever we kill their civilians, the whole world yells at us from east to west, and America starts putting pressure on its allies and puppets. Who said that our blood isn’t blood and that their blood is blood? What about the people that have been killed in our lands for decades? More than 1,000,000 children died in Iraq, and they are still dying, so why do we not hear people that cry or protest, or anyone who reassures or anyone who sends condolences?10

Particularly abhorrent to bin Laden has been the brutal effects of the U.S.-led UN sanctions against Iraq, which magnified the human misery caused by the earlier destruction of its infrastructure—highways, sanitation and water treatment facilities, and power plants—during the 1991 military campaign headed by the United States. The loss of Iraq’s infrastructure, combined with the UN sanctions, resulted in a large number of preventable deaths, especially of children, from malnutrition and water-borne illnesses. The mounting death toll of Muslims as a result of U.S. foreign policy, for bin Laden, requires defensive measures against the United States, which he terms a “defensive jihad to protect our land and people.”11 “That’s why I have said that if we don’t have security,” he warns, “neither will the Americans.”12 The themes of U.S. violence against Arabs and Afghans, the deaths of Muslim children, and the threat of retaliatory violence against Americans articulated in Noora’s first fake bin Laden tape all have their historical antecedents in Osama bin Laden’s actual speeches and interviews.

If the first fake bin Laden tape highlights Muslim grievances against the United States, the second one alludes to the political economy of its foreign policy, expressing a widely held view among South Asians and North American progressives that U.S. foreign policy is largely driven by the desire to exert control over gas and oil energy sources. Rehearsing the script for a second bin Laden tape proposing a ceasefire, Ali addresses the U.S. president as “My beloved (p.151) [habibi], George Bush,” and asks, “How long can you use me as an excuse to go oil hunting?” “Stop these atrocities,” he orders. Together, the interrogative and imperative sentences assert that Osama bin Laden largely functions as an alibi for the United States to identify new territory and sources of oil to exploit. A third fake bin Laden tape elaborates on the theme of President Bush’s desire for oil. Disguised as Osama bin Laden, Noora chides the American leader: “You used to dream of having oil fountains in your backyard. … Your sly ways took you straight to oil wells and now you bathe in Iraqi petrol and Afghani [sic] diesel every day.”

As Eqbal Ahmad, among others, has argued, oil and gas production and distribution have been a consideration of U.S. foreign policy, going back to the early 1970s, as one way for the United States to gain leverage over its allies in Japan and Europe, which needed energy sources to fuel the industrialization of their economies.13 Moreover, the status of the United States as one of the largest consumers of petroleum (having ceded first place to China in 2010) means that it imports about half its energy requirements. The Middle East, with its vast oil reserves, was the initial focus of U.S. foreign policy, but chronic instability in the region since 1979—including the Iranian Revolution, ongoing tensions over the Israeli Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and the rise of Islamist movements in the Arab world, in part, a response to authoritarian states—has prompted the United States to diversify its energy sources.14 The Central Asian Republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are believed to have considerable oil and gas reserves; given that these countries are landlocked, Afghanistan and Pakistan have emerged as a strategically important potential transit route for oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea.15 Such a route would enable the United States to marginalize Russia and sidestep Iran, which is perceived as generally hostile to U.S. interests. Indeed, the jockeying over strategic partnerships with the Central Asian countries between the United States, UK, and NATO countries, on the one hand, and Russia and the People’s Republic of China, on the other hand, has popularized the term the New Great Game to capture the new politics of oil, resurrecting the nineteenth-century term used to describe the political rivalry between Britain and Russia in the region.16

The third fake Osama bin Laden tape in Tere Bin Laden has Noora offering a truce to President Bush and inviting him to share fried foods. References to fried foods bookend Noora’s charges that Bush washes in Iraqi and Afghan fuel. He initially remarks, “My beloved Bushie: you’ve liked your meat deep-fried and oily since you were little,” and cautions, “But don’t be too greedy or you might end up an oily McBush burger.” “Take my advice, drop this war,” Noora (p.152) qua bin Laden advises. “Come to my cave. We’ll gorge on fried food [pakoras] together.” Although clearly ridiculous, the references to fried foods literalize President Bush’s—and by extension, America’s—insatiable appetite for oil and gas even as Noora’s invitation to consume pakoras, a savory South Asian fried snack, together alludes to the legendary codes of hospitality in the region.

The War on Terror as Cartoonish

Tere Bin Laden spoofs the War on Terror by using animation stills to signify its cartoonish elements. After the first fake bin Laden tape surfaces, Washington sends Ted Wood, the head of U.S. intelligence, to Pakistan to formulate an appropriate response. Briefing CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials, Wood announces plans to launch “Operation Kickass:” a campaign to target Afghanistan hourly with cruise missiles and B52 bombers. As he speaks, Wood illustrates his military strategy with visuals that consist of cartoon images of menacing-looking armed Afghans posed against a mountain background. The scene literally renders the War on Terror as a cartoonish enterprise and simultaneously evokes Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 3, 2003, testimony to the UN in which he claimed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Toggling between actual photographs of Iraqi weapons that no longer existed and line drawings of such weapons and mobile biological weapons labs, Powell made a sober case in support of the Bush administration’s plan to go to war with Iraq, a case that he acknowledged was “not solid” a little over a year later.17

“Operation Kickass,” the name given to this venture, also recalls the absurdity of the designation given to the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, “Operation Enduring Freedom” and its ambiguous meaning. Does freedom itself endure, or is freedom that which must be endured?18 Additionally, the name invokes the U.S. military doctrine of shock and awe and the use of overwhelming force, formulated in 1996 by staff at the National Defense University.19 In keeping with the farcical nature of the film, Tere Bin Laden restricts the lethal effects of Operation Kickass to the deaths of domesticated animals. Live India’s coverage of the breaking news of the operation reveals “heavy bombing in Afghanistan has caused severe casualties to livestock. America says this onslaught will continue till Osama is captured.” In actuality, however, Operation Enduring Freedom has resulted in the deaths of numerous Afghans, though exact figures are impossible to determine given that official tallies of Afghan casualties were not kept until 2007.

The United Nations estimates that the casualty figure for Afghan civilians between 2007 and 2011 is 11,864.20 Afghan civilian casualties from the start of (p.153) the war in 2001 to 2007 are probably much higher given the use of aerial power to prosecute the war. A U.S. military pilot remembers that in the initial phases of the war, military aircraft were instructed to return for landings with far fewer bombs than in their initial payload.21 Lieutenant Commander Morgan recounts, “When this [Operation Enduring Freedom] kicked off, they were launching aircraft with unrecoverable loads. Basically, you had to drop.”22 Military officials now claim that better coordination between ground forces and navy pilots via satellite technology has reduced the number of civilian casualties from aerial bombardment.23 Since 2009, however, the U.S. military has ramped up its drone program in Afghanistan, both for the purposes of surveillance and for firing missiles and dropping bombs; the surveillance drones are targeted at identifying individuals planting roadside bombs, which are the largest cause of U.S. military casualties.24 As P. W. Singer, an analyst with the Brookings Institution, has observed, the increased use of drones has the potential to increase civilian casualties. “Not everyone digging by the side of the road is automatically an insurgent,” he notes.25

Tere Bin Laden’s displacement of the violent consequences of the U.S. bombing campaign from Afghan civilians to livestock enables the film to maintain its comedic element and is consistent with its improbable plot, which also exposes U.S. intelligence officials as being callous to the lethal effects of their campaigns. When ISI agent Usman realizes that the Osama tape features a map with Urdu lettering in the background, he concludes that bin Laden is in Pakistan rather than Afghanistan. In response to his question about why the United States is conducting a bombing campaign of Afghanistan when they know bin Laden is in Pakistan, Wood says: “We have a budget of 100 billion dollars for hunting down Osama. I can’t spend all of that on sipping coffee.” The political economy of foreign intervention, Wood insinuates, becomes geared to its own reproduction regardless of whether its strategic objectives have been met.

From September 11, 2001, until March 2011, Operation Enduring Freedom has cost $444 billion for Afghanistan alone.26 As a number of analysts have commented, Al Qaeda no longer has a substantial presence in Afghanistan, where instead the Taliban has reinvented itself as a form of Pushtun nationalism in opposition to the U.S. occupation of the country.27 Just as the ISI agent Usman recognizes that Osama bin Laden’s absence from Afghanistan should logically exempt the country from being targeted by the U.S. military, we might ask whether the dwindling numbers of Al Qaeda insurgents there necessitates an ongoing U.S. military presence in that country.

Wood’s collaboration with Ali to produce the final fake bin Laden tape amplifies the cynicism of Wood’s position on Operation Kickass and the film’s (p.154) representation of the continued military campaign against Afghanistan when intelligence officials know of bin Laden’s absence there. After discovering that the Osama bin Laden taken into custody by intelligence officials is Noora, a poultry farmer and not arch enemy number one of the United States, Wood screams at Ali, “What will I say to the world?… That we bombed Afghanistan for nothing?” Partly as a face-saving measure for Wood, and partly out of a desire to end the War on Terror and its attendant terror unleashed on Afghans, Ali proposes the ISI, CIA, and his motley crew collaborate to make a final Osama bin Laden tape offering a ceasefire to President Bush. The resulting video has Osama bin Laden proffering an invitation to the president to share fried foods together, which results in negotiations and a cessation to the War on Terror.

That the CIA actively participates in the production of the final fake bin Laden tape in Tere Bin Laden will not seem wholly improbable from a plot perspective insofar as numerous actual internet sites, many created by Americans, purport to unmask the agency’s role in making the video released by the Bush administration in October 2001 as proof of bin Laden’s complicity in the 9/11 attacks. For instance, the website “The Real Proof the Government Released a Fake Video of Osama bin Laden!” walks viewers through points in the tape that do not tally with known aspects of bin Laden’s person and character: the Osama in the tape, the narrator claims, is heavier, has a shorter nose, is wearing a ring and wristwatch (ornamentation unlikely in serious believers), and is right-handed (bin Laden was left-handed). This analysis appears on other websites as well, including one featuring an interview with bin Laden’s fourth son, Omar, who claims that the man in the tape is not his father.28 Perhaps because of the popularity of such sites, the BBC even acknowledged, in December 2001, the widespread skepticism toward the authenticity of this tape, particularly in the Arab world.29

Five years later, the BBC went on to make a three-part documentary, The Power of Nightmares, that historicizes the dialectical relationship between the rise of American neoconservatives and radical Islamists and charts how U.S. foreign policy has shifted from evidence-based decision making to speculative fantasy reliant on the creation of manufactured threats. The final segment, “The Shadows in the Cave” (a joint reference to Plato’s parable of the cave in the Republic and the setting for many of bin Laden’s speeches), presents the view that in pursuing Al Qaeda Western powers are largely chasing a “phantom enemy,” whose actual menace is an “illusion” that serves the interests of groups such as politicians in an “age of cynicism” after the end of history and, apparently, of ideology as well.30 In other words, if Osama bin Laden did not exist, he would have to be invented as a dark fantasy to provide the conditions of possibility (p.155) for Western heroics.31 The invention of imagined threats, of course, also resonates with the actual fabrication of evidence by Bush administration officials to justify going to war with Iraq.

“The South Asian Perspective” and Pakistani Civil Society

Ali Zafar—the Pakistani pop idol who plays Ali Hassan’s character in the film—insists that Tere Bin Laden provides a much-needed Pakistani view of the War on Terror, and that this element of the film attracted him to the script. Appearing in an interview on Dawn, he claims that the film does not have any content that is ideological or offensive.32 The Indian writer and director of Tere Bin Laden, Abhishek Sharma, voices similar sentiments in an interview that aired on the segment “Is There Room for Humour in the War against Terror?” on the Riz Khan show, September 6, 2010, on Al-Jazeera. The fictional character of Ali, according to Sharma, represents a generalized “South Asian perspective” on both the War on Terror and the American Dream. Given the historic rivalry between Pakistan and India since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, the collaboration between an Indian director and Pakistani actor itself is remarkable.

The claim, however, that the film represents a generalized South Asian perspective on the War on Terror seems disingenuous given the range of opinions on the U.S. military campaign in India and Pakistan among diverse communities (religious, ethnic, and territorial, for example), which are positioned differentially vis-à-vis their respective nation-states and have specific histories of suffering and entitlement that inform their views of U.S. foreign policy. If anything, Tere Bin Laden demonstrates the complexities of civil society as an assemblage of voluntary associations, consisting of, among others, faith-based groups, entrepreneurial units, and ethnic, cultural, and professional organizations that interact in complicated ways with one another and with the state. To achieve stability, the state must secure a significant degree of popular consent and exercise hegemony not only through instruments of coercion but also through the mechanisms and institutions of civil society.33

The film portrays the complex interactions between representatives of different elements of Pakistani civil society, who sometimes undermine one another and at other times cooperate in limited ways. Mutual suspicion initially characterizes the interactions between media operators (Ali and Gul), aspiring businesswomen and established entrepreneurs (Zoya and Noor), emergent intellectuals (Latif), and those engaged in oppositional politics (Querishi). Once they become persuaded that their interests coincide, they become a bloc (p.156) that alternates between accommodation and antagonism toward the Pakistani and U.S. governments in much the same way that political theorists such as Antonio Gramsci have posited the relationship between the state and civil society as a moving equilibrium.34 Tere Bin Laden’s contribution to discourses about Osama bin Laden and the War on Terror is to insert the Pakistani lower-middle and middle classes, as representatives of civil society, into the nexus of global media by emphasizing their role in producing and disseminating footage pertinent to the War on Terror and, thus, exerting geopolitical agency.

The film concludes with the success of the final fake bin Laden tape. The War on Terror has come to an end. Ted Wood has been promoted to secretary of defense. The Pakistani characters have used the profit from the clandestine sale of their first fake bin Laden tape to realize their dreams for various forms of mobility. Ali becomes a journalist celebrity and goes to the United States accompanied by Gul, his cameraman sidekick; Zoya, the makeup artist who transformed Noora into bin Laden for the tapes, opens a beauty salon; Latif, who masqueraded as a Saudi television executive to fool Noora into making the tape, becomes the best-selling translator of the volume Osama on Peace; and Querishi, the leftist who did bin Laden’s voice-overs in the fake tapes, founds the Communist Party of Pakistan. Across the ideological spectrum—from the lower-middle class to the professional managerial class to the leftist intellectual class—members of Pakistani civil society act to advance their self-interests even when those are based on complete falsehoods or require the hoodwinking of naive rural subjects. The film represents Pakistanis as opportunistic and concentrated on their own aspirations, whether focused on emigration (Ali and Gul), entrepreneurship (Zoya and Latif), or the amassing of local political power (Querishi); the individual characters, in effect, behave in the same self-serving manner as states.

Noora’s identity as a village bumpkin and his appearance (wearing the traditional kurta pajama and pagari (turban) and sporting a beard) mark him as a certain kind of Muslim, the manipulated, simple Forrest Gump–like character through whom we see the depravity of the world. His character presents a stark contrast to the constant scheming of Ali, whose clothing and lifestyle identify him as a global cosmopolitan. Yet which subject position is mocked in the film remains unclear, particularly given the opening song sequence, which spoofs Ali and his infatuation with the American Dream, and the ending credits in which Noora’s hip haircut, shaving of his beard, and donning of stylish jeans, along with his transformation from rural poultry farmer to urban beauty salon owner, signify his conversion to Western modernity.

By using the vehicle of a simple poultry farmer to be bin Laden’s look-alike, the film makes bin Laden into both a figure of ridicule and a spokesperson of (p.157) a broadly felt negative attitude toward U.S. military power as a cynical cover to monopolize natural resources such as oil and as disproportionate in its realization. Stuart Hall advocates getting inside the image itself as a means of disrupting stereotypical representations of specific communities; new meanings can arise from the gap between the media image and our expectations of how a particular group should be represented, he explains.35 In associating Osama bin Laden, the paradigmatic face of Islamic terror, with Noora, a simple and affable man, within the generic conventions of a Bollywood comedy, Tere Bin Laden presents a counterhegemonic analysis of the War on Terror that unsettles rather than reinforces the dominant narrative of this military intervention. The film, ironically, capitalizes on the figure of Osama bin Laden and the War on Terror even as it stages its critique and, thereby, demonstrates the subversive potential of media. In a final twist of irony, Tere Bin Laden anticipates the historical narrative: bin Laden had apparently been in hiding in Pakistan for nearly a decade before the CIA assassinated him there in 2011.

Notes

(1.) I am grateful to Srimati Basu, Lessie Jo Frazier, Sara Friedman, Susan Jeffords, Jeffrey T. Kenney, Radhika Parameswaran, and Fahed Yahya Al-Sumait for their helpful comments on drafts of this article. All errors are my own.

(2.) Pooja Shetty Deora and Aarti Shetty (producers), Abhishek Sharma (director), Tere Bin Laden (India: Walkwater Media, 2010). While the Pakistani government banned the film—claiming that it would provoke terrorist attacks—pirated copies are readily available in the country.

(3.) Riz Khan’s show “Is There Room for Humour in the War against Terror?,” AlJazeera,. aired September 10, 2010, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rizkhan/2010/09/2010968455534861.html.

(4.) For an account of discussions within the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 about linking the attacks to Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and the security assessments that disputed such ties, see The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, particularly section 10.3, “‘Phase Two’ and the Question of Iraq” (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011). Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack details differences among Bush’s cabinet members regarding the plausibility of Iraq possessing WMD; he provides an analysis of the exaggerations and contradictions in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack: The Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004).

(5.) Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan, is the military arm of the Islamist organization Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad, which seeks to liberate Jammu and Kashmir from India and to establish an Islamic state across South Asia. It has been linked to a number of deadly terrorist acts in India, including the 2001 assault on Parliament and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The (p.158) Indian government and security experts allege that the organization has ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, though the Pakistani government denies such ties.

(6.) For more on South Asian taxi drivers and their organizing attempts, see Manisha Das Gupta, Unruly Immigrants: Rights, Activism, and Transnational South Asian Politics in the United States (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).

(7.) Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation),” Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972).

(8.) Bruce Lawrence, ed., introduction to Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (London: Verso, 2005), xviii.

(9.) See, in particular, bin Laden’s interviews “The Saudi Regime” and “Terror for Terror” and his open letter “To the Allies of America” in Lawrence, Messages to the World.

(10.) Bin Laden, “Terror for Terror,” 117.

(11.) Bin Laden, “The Example of Vietnam,” in Lawrence, Messages to the World, 141.

(12.) Ibid.

(13.) Eqbal Ahmad, Confronting Empire, the transcripts of David Barsamian’s interviews with Eqbal Ahmad, has references to the political economy of U.S. foreign policy throughout its pages (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000). For additional critiques of U.S. foreign policy in terms of the scramble to control resources, see Noam Chomsky, On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (Boston: South End Press, 1987), and Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present (New York: HarperCollins, 1980). On the topic of the U.S. attempting to gain leverage over the growing economies of Asia and Europe by controlling access to energy resources, see David Harvey, The New Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). It is worth noting, however, that considerations over petroleum reserves have a much longer history in geopolitics, dating back to the early twentieth century. Consider, for example, conflicts between the Mexican government and foreign companies such as Mexican Eagle Company (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell Company) and Jersey Standard and Standard Oil Company of California (now Chevron) over petroleum in the 1920s, the role of corporations such as Standard Oil, Anglo-Persian Oil Company (active in what is today called “Iran” and southern Russia, and the antecedent to British Petroleum Company), and Royal Dutch Shell (a major player in Indonesia and southeast Asia) and their collusion with various imperial powers.

(14.) For a cogent account of the rise of Islamic movements as a form of “counter nationalism” to authoritarian states in the last several decades, see Jeffrey T. Kenney, “Millennialism and Radical Islamist Movements,” in The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism, ed. Catherine Wessinger (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(15.) Ahmad, Eqbal Ahmad, Confronting Empire, 48–49. See also Sitaram Yechury, “America, Oil, and Afghanistan,” Hindu Online, October 13, 2001, http://www.hindu.com/2001/10/13/stories/05132524.htm.

(16.) The literature on the New Great Game is voluminous: Mohammed E. Ahrari and James Beal, The New Great Game in Muslim Central Asia (Washington, DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1996); Shareen Brysac and Karl Meyer, Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, (p.159) 1999); Lutz Kleveman, The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia (New York: Grove Press, 2004); Rein Mullerson, Central Asia: A Chessboard and Player in the New Great Game (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007); Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia (London: I.B. Tauris, 2000).

(17.) For a detailed analysis of Powell’s UN testimony, see Hugh Gusterson, “The Auditors: Bad Intelligence and the Loss of Public Trust,” Boston Review, November/December 2005, http://www.bostonreview.net/hugh-gusterson-the-auditors-public-trust. See also Jonathan Schwarz, “The U.N. Deception: What Exactly Colin Powell Knew Five Years Ago and What He Told the World,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2008, http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2008/02/un-deception-what-exactly-colin-powell-knew-five-years-ago-and-what-he-told-world. For more on Powell’s retraction of his testimony, see “Powell: Some Iraq Testimony Not ‘Solid,’” CNN.com, April 3, 2004, http://articles.cnn.com/2004-04-03/us/powell.iraq_1_official-iraqi-organization-biological-weapons-labs-state-colin-powell?_s=PM:US. In a September 2012 address to the UN, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a cartoonish drawing of a bomb to dramatize Iran’s impending nuclear capability. See Rick Gladstone and David E. Sanger, “Nod to Obama by Netanyahu in Warning to Iran on Bomb,” New York Times, September 27, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/28/world/middleeast/netanyahu-warns-that-iran-bombmaking-ability-is-nearer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

(18.) I am grateful to Barbara Harlow for remarking on the ambiguity of the name “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Since September 11, 2001, the United States has initiated three operations: Operation Enduring Freedom (primarily focused on Afghanistan, but also targeting smaller operations in areas ranging from the Philippines to Djibouti); Operation Noble Eagle (aimed at enhancing security at U.S. military bases); and Operation Iraqi Freedom (to be renamed Operation New Dawn once the United States transforms its role to an advisory function).

(19.) See Harlan K. Ullman and James Wade Jr., Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance prepared by Defense Group Inc. for the National Defense University, http://www.dodccrp.org/files/Ullman_Shock.pdf.

(20.) United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Afghanistan: Annual Report 2011: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, February 2012, http://unama.unmissions.org/Portals/UNAMA/Documents/UNAMA%20POC%202011%20Report_Final_Feb%202012.pdf; Susan G. Chesser, “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians.” Congressional Research Service, 7–5700, R41084, December 6, 2012, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41084.pdf.

(21.) C. J. Chivers, “Afghan Air War May Be Cut Off as U.S. Pulls Out,” New York Times, July 7, 2012.

(22.) Morgan, qtd. in ibid.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) Unlike in Pakistan, where the drone program is run by the CIA, the military is in charge of the program in Afghanistan. Christopher Drew, “Drones Are Playing a Growing Role in Afghanistan,” New York Times, February 19, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/20/world/asia/20drones.html.

(p.160) (25.) Singer, qtd. in ibid.

(26.) For more on the costs of U.S. military operations in the War on Terror, see Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations since 9/11,” Congressional Research Service, 7–5700, RL33110, March 29, 2011, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf.

(27.) Robert Greenwald (producer and director) and Jason Zaro (producer), Rethink Afghanistan (Culver City, CA: Brave New Foundation, 2009).

(28.) See, for example, “Real Proof he Government Released a Fake Video of Osama bin Laden!,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W6QLfXE3wA; Max Keiser, “CIA Admit Faking Binladen [sic] Video: Interview with Alex Jones,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4a14_LVFtc; “Tim Osman aka Bin Laden,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBIthwLN0iI (removed); “Former CIA Officials Admit to Faking bin Laden Video,” May 25, 2010, http://www.prisonplanet.com. “Bin Laden’s Son Says Videos Are Faked,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jXzK5LD3kE&feature=related.

(29.) “Could the Bin Laden Video Be a Fake?,” BBC News, December 14, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1711288.stm.

(30.) For an analysis of the significance of caves in Islam, along with Osama bin Laden’s manipulation of the media, see Faisal Devji, Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, and Modernity (London: Hurst, 2005).

(31.) “The Power of Nightmares: The Shadows in the Cave,” BBC News, January 14, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/3970901.stm.

(32.) “Ali Zafar Interview: Part 1,” Dawn, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tms2HlBV0mE&feature=related.

(33.) Antonio Gramsci, “State and Civil Society,” Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International, [1971]1997).

(34.) Ibid.

(35.) Stuart Hall in Sut Jhally (producer and director), Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 1997).

Notes:

(1.) I am grateful to Srimati Basu, Lessie Jo Frazier, Sara Friedman, Susan Jeffords, Jeffrey T. Kenney, Radhika Parameswaran, and Fahed Yahya Al-Sumait for their helpful comments on drafts of this article. All errors are my own.

(2.) Pooja Shetty Deora and Aarti Shetty (producers), Abhishek Sharma (director), Tere Bin Laden (India: Walkwater Media, 2010). While the Pakistani government banned the film—claiming that it would provoke terrorist attacks—pirated copies are readily available in the country.

(3.) Riz Khan’s show “Is There Room for Humour in the War against Terror?,” AlJazeera,. aired September 10, 2010, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rizkhan/2010/09/2010968455534861.html.

(4.) For an account of discussions within the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 about linking the attacks to Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and the security assessments that disputed such ties, see The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, particularly section 10.3, “‘Phase Two’ and the Question of Iraq” (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011). Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack details differences among Bush’s cabinet members regarding the plausibility of Iraq possessing WMD; he provides an analysis of the exaggerations and contradictions in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack: The Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004).

(5.) Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan, is the military arm of the Islamist organization Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad, which seeks to liberate Jammu and Kashmir from India and to establish an Islamic state across South Asia. It has been linked to a number of deadly terrorist acts in India, including the 2001 assault on Parliament and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The (p.158) Indian government and security experts allege that the organization has ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, though the Pakistani government denies such ties.

(6.) For more on South Asian taxi drivers and their organizing attempts, see Manisha Das Gupta, Unruly Immigrants: Rights, Activism, and Transnational South Asian Politics in the United States (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).

(7.) Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation),” Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972).

(8.) Bruce Lawrence, ed., introduction to Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (London: Verso, 2005), xviii.

(9.) See, in particular, bin Laden’s interviews “The Saudi Regime” and “Terror for Terror” and his open letter “To the Allies of America” in Lawrence, Messages to the World.

(10.) Bin Laden, “Terror for Terror,” 117.

(11.) Bin Laden, “The Example of Vietnam,” in Lawrence, Messages to the World, 141.

(13.) Eqbal Ahmad, Confronting Empire, the transcripts of David Barsamian’s interviews with Eqbal Ahmad, has references to the political economy of U.S. foreign policy throughout its pages (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000). For additional critiques of U.S. foreign policy in terms of the scramble to control resources, see Noam Chomsky, On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (Boston: South End Press, 1987), and Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present (New York: HarperCollins, 1980). On the topic of the U.S. attempting to gain leverage over the growing economies of Asia and Europe by controlling access to energy resources, see David Harvey, The New Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). It is worth noting, however, that considerations over petroleum reserves have a much longer history in geopolitics, dating back to the early twentieth century. Consider, for example, conflicts between the Mexican government and foreign companies such as Mexican Eagle Company (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell Company) and Jersey Standard and Standard Oil Company of California (now Chevron) over petroleum in the 1920s, the role of corporations such as Standard Oil, Anglo-Persian Oil Company (active in what is today called “Iran” and southern Russia, and the antecedent to British Petroleum Company), and Royal Dutch Shell (a major player in Indonesia and southeast Asia) and their collusion with various imperial powers.

(14.) For a cogent account of the rise of Islamic movements as a form of “counter nationalism” to authoritarian states in the last several decades, see Jeffrey T. Kenney, “Millennialism and Radical Islamist Movements,” in The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism, ed. Catherine Wessinger (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(15.) Ahmad, Eqbal Ahmad, Confronting Empire, 48–49. See also Sitaram Yechury, “America, Oil, and Afghanistan,” Hindu Online, October 13, 2001, http://www.hindu.com/2001/10/13/stories/05132524.htm.

(16.) The literature on the New Great Game is voluminous: Mohammed E. Ahrari and James Beal, The New Great Game in Muslim Central Asia (Washington, DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1996); Shareen Brysac and Karl Meyer, Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, (p.159) 1999); Lutz Kleveman, The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia (New York: Grove Press, 2004); Rein Mullerson, Central Asia: A Chessboard and Player in the New Great Game (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007); Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia (London: I.B. Tauris, 2000).

(17.) For a detailed analysis of Powell’s UN testimony, see Hugh Gusterson, “The Auditors: Bad Intelligence and the Loss of Public Trust,” Boston Review, November/December 2005, http://www.bostonreview.net/hugh-gusterson-the-auditors-public-trust. See also Jonathan Schwarz, “The U.N. Deception: What Exactly Colin Powell Knew Five Years Ago and What He Told the World,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2008, http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2008/02/un-deception-what-exactly-colin-powell-knew-five-years-ago-and-what-he-told-world. For more on Powell’s retraction of his testimony, see “Powell: Some Iraq Testimony Not ‘Solid,’” CNN.com, April 3, 2004, http://articles.cnn.com/2004-04-03/us/powell.iraq_1_official-iraqi-organization-biological-weapons-labs-state-colin-powell?_s=PM:US. In a September 2012 address to the UN, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a cartoonish drawing of a bomb to dramatize Iran’s impending nuclear capability. See Rick Gladstone and David E. Sanger, “Nod to Obama by Netanyahu in Warning to Iran on Bomb,” New York Times, September 27, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/28/world/middleeast/netanyahu-warns-that-iran-bombmaking-ability-is-nearer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

(18.) I am grateful to Barbara Harlow for remarking on the ambiguity of the name “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Since September 11, 2001, the United States has initiated three operations: Operation Enduring Freedom (primarily focused on Afghanistan, but also targeting smaller operations in areas ranging from the Philippines to Djibouti); Operation Noble Eagle (aimed at enhancing security at U.S. military bases); and Operation Iraqi Freedom (to be renamed Operation New Dawn once the United States transforms its role to an advisory function).

(19.) See Harlan K. Ullman and James Wade Jr., Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance prepared by Defense Group Inc. for the National Defense University, http://www.dodccrp.org/files/Ullman_Shock.pdf.

(20.) United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Afghanistan: Annual Report 2011: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, February 2012, http://unama.unmissions.org/Portals/UNAMA/Documents/UNAMA%20POC%202011%20Report_Final_Feb%202012.pdf; Susan G. Chesser, “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians.” Congressional Research Service, 7–5700, R41084, December 6, 2012, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41084.pdf.

(21.) C. J. Chivers, “Afghan Air War May Be Cut Off as U.S. Pulls Out,” New York Times, July 7, 2012.

(22.) Morgan, qtd. in ibid.

(24.) Unlike in Pakistan, where the drone program is run by the CIA, the military is in charge of the program in Afghanistan. Christopher Drew, “Drones Are Playing a Growing Role in Afghanistan,” New York Times, February 19, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/20/world/asia/20drones.html.

(p.160) (25.) Singer, qtd. in ibid.

(26.) For more on the costs of U.S. military operations in the War on Terror, see Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations since 9/11,” Congressional Research Service, 7–5700, RL33110, March 29, 2011, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf.

(27.) Robert Greenwald (producer and director) and Jason Zaro (producer), Rethink Afghanistan (Culver City, CA: Brave New Foundation, 2009).

(28.) See, for example, “Real Proof he Government Released a Fake Video of Osama bin Laden!,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W6QLfXE3wA; Max Keiser, “CIA Admit Faking Binladen [sic] Video: Interview with Alex Jones,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4a14_LVFtc; “Tim Osman aka Bin Laden,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBIthwLN0iI (removed); “Former CIA Officials Admit to Faking bin Laden Video,” May 25, 2010, http://www.prisonplanet.com. “Bin Laden’s Son Says Videos Are Faked,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jXzK5LD3kE&feature=related.

(29.) “Could the Bin Laden Video Be a Fake?,” BBC News, December 14, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1711288.stm.

(30.) For an analysis of the significance of caves in Islam, along with Osama bin Laden’s manipulation of the media, see Faisal Devji, Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, and Modernity (London: Hurst, 2005).

(31.) “The Power of Nightmares: The Shadows in the Cave,” BBC News, January 14, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/3970901.stm.

(32.) “Ali Zafar Interview: Part 1,” Dawn, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tms2HlBV0mE&feature=related.

(33.) Antonio Gramsci, “State and Civil Society,” Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International, [1971]1997).

(35.) Stuart Hall in Sut Jhally (producer and director), Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 1997).