Foreign Policy Blogs

The Oath (2010)

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, a new chapter is beginning for al Qaeda.
Two former members of the group, Abu Jandal and Salim Hamdam, are the focus of this documentary.
Jandal, a self-professed jihadist, is a taxi driver in Sana’a, Yemen. He was one of bin Laden’s bodyguards in the late 1990s.
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To say Jandal is conflicted is an understatement.
He still tries to recruit young men to be jihadists but understands the movement needs young professionals, not just suicide bombers.
Jandal gave up his brother-in-law Hamdam while being interrogated. Hamdan, who had been bin Laden’s driver for a time, faces a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In fact, according to the filmmaker, the U.S. and allied forces put the invasion of Afghanistan on hold because of the wealth of actionable intelligence provided by Jandal.

The Oath (2010)

Jandal laments his brother-in-law’s situation and seems to be looking for some kind of redemption, a pardon for singing like a canary when interrogated.
Director Laura Poitras does an excellent job exposing Jandal in layers – there is Jandal the father, the mentor, the jihadist, and the taxi driver. Her depiction of Jandal is one the audience should appreciate because he is quintessentially human, a complicated mix of strengths and weaknesses.
While many in the West would like to demonize people like Jandal and Hamdam, Poitras makes the watcher squirm a bit because she puts a human face on the war on terror.
The Oath, which won the excellence in cinematography award: U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]



Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;