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The Power of Nightmares Part II by Curtis, Adam

This is part II of the award winning BBC series, which has been screened in a feature documentary version at Cannes 2005. It questions whether we should be worried about the threat from organised terrorism or is it simply a phantom menace being used to stop society from falling apart? In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares. The most frightening of these is the threat of an international terror network. But just as the dreams were not true, neither are these nightmares. In the series, the Power of Nightmares explores how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion. It is a myth that has spread unquestioned through politics, the security services and the international media.

The Series

  • PartI: Baby It's Cold Outside
  • PartII: The Phantom Victory
  • PartIII: The Shadows in the Cave

'Baby it's cold outside' explores the origins in the 1940s and 50s of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East, and Neoconservatism in America. It parallels between these movements, and their effect on the world today.

'The Phantom Victory' looks at how two groups, radical Islamists and neo-conservatives with seemingly opposing ideologies came together to defeat a common enemy in Afghanistan(Communism). It shows how the Afghan Jihad, the CIA, Osama Bin Laden, the Collapse of the Soviet Empire, Gulf War I, the Algerian Civil War and the Lewinsky Affaire interrelate.

The concluding part, 'The Shadows in the Cave' looks at how the shock and panic caused by the 9-11 attacks have led to the world today. It balances the idea that there is a dangerous and highly organized group of fanatical individuals around the world that has been inspired by extreme Islamist ideas, and that will use the techniques of mass terror.

Timecode partII

  • 2:36 How the U.S got involved in Afghanistan 1982
  • 2:54 Speech Ronald Reagan
  • 5:47 Interview Richard Perle
  • 7:20 How the Afghan war set the stage for a worldwide Jihad against western influence in the Arab world
  • 8:30 Interview Abdullah Anas
  • 9:12 Azzam, Al Zawahari & Bin Laden
  • 12:30 Arab regimes send prisoners
  • 16:35 Collapse Soviet Empire 1988
  • 21:55 The murder of Azzam and the onset of worldwide Jihad
  • 25:00 The democratic dilemma and how it polarized the Middle East
  • 29:45 Clinton's 90s: How Gulf War I divided the Republican party.
  • 32:35 The effect Gulf War I 1991
  • 33:19 Interview Brent Scowcroft
  • 40:46 The Algerian Civil war 1992
  • 42:01 Interview Abdullah Anas (FIS)
  • 47:08 The Lewinsky Affaire
  • 54:49 Osama Bin Laden's failure 1997

Afghanistan 1982
The Reagan administration set a new policy toward the Soviet Union with the goal of winning the Cold War. The policy outlined Reagan's plan to confront the USSR on three fronts: economic - depress the value of Soviet commodities on the world market; military - increase American defense expenditures to strengthen the U.S. negotiating position and force the Soviets to devote more of their economic resources to defense; and clandestine - support anti-Soviet factions around the world from Afghani insurgents to Poland's Solidarity movement.

Speech Ronald Reagan
In 1982, Ronald Reagan dedicated the Space Shuttle Columbia to the resistance fighters in Afghanistan. After the Soviet invasion (December 25, 1979) these mujahedeen were significantly financed, armed, and trained by the United States (under the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and China. Reagan referred to these mujahedeen as "freedom fighters defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability."

Richard Perle
Richard Perle, is a Jewish-American political advisor who served the Reagan administration as an assistant Secretary of Defense and served on the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee from 1987 to 2004. He was Chairman of the Board from 2001 to 2003 under the Bush Administration. Nicknamed "the Prince of Darkness", Perle is a strong supporter of Israel and a strong advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On more than one occasion Perle has behaved in an allegedly unethical manner to his own financial, causing his resignation in 2003.See Wikipedia

The Afghan Jihad
The Afghan war was a utterly vicious war, attracting mercenaries and adventurers from all over the world (see conflict Afghanistan). Everyone was involved: The CIA, Pakistan, The United Kingdom, China, Saudi Arabia and others. Meanwhile, a group began to arrive in Afghanistan to fight alongside the mujaheddin. They were Arabs from across the Middle East, who had been told by their religious leaders that their duty was to go and free Muslim lands from the Soviet invader. Shaik (Abdullah) Azzam, a follower of Qutb's idea's, organized the recruitment of these Arab volunteers.

Abdullah Anas
One of the first to answer Azzam's call for Jihad was Abdullah Anas. During the war Anas became a top aide to Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, whose troops controlled northern Afghanistan. Later, he would participate in the Algerian Civil War as a FIS leader (See Algeria Conflict). Now Abdullah Anas is living in London. To Jihadi's like Anas, Azzam was more than just a recuiter. He was the embodiment of the holy warrior, which, in the Muslim world, is as popular a heroic stereotype as the samurai in Japan or the Hollywood cowboy in America. Anas's account

Azzam, Zawahiri, and Bin Laden
Peshawar, a Pakistani city near the border with Afghanistan formed the staging ground for the Afghan jihad. It was a rough city teeming with corruption, arms dealers, mercenaries and Intelligence Agencies from various countries. Here, Azzam had set up the Service Bureau. It became the headquarters of an international brigade of Arab fighters, joined later by Osama Bin Laden who provided financial support and handled military affairs.Anas's account of these events

Muslim Dissidents
In 1985, many governments in the Middle East began to send their prisoners off to the jihad with the very fondest hope that they would get killed. One of the most powerful of these newcomers was Ayman Zawahiri who had been in prison because he was implicated in the murder of Sadat. Zawahiri envisioned a worldwide Jihad of elite fighters. Influenced by Zawahiri's ideas, Osama began to charter a seperate coarse from Azzam. He established his own training camp for Arabs, a group of about 50 who lived in tents set apart from the other Afghan fighters.

Collapse of the Soviet Empire
The war in Afghanistan had a strong impact on domestic politics in the Soviet Union. It was one of the key factors in the discontent of Communist Party rule. The war stirred religious, nationalist, and ethnic striving among the predominately Islamic populace of the central Soviet republics near Afghanistan. The army was demoralized as a result of repeatedly being accused of being invaders. The interpretation of the Soviet Army fighting against Islam in Afghanistan contributed to a rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Central Asian republics and possibly to the strengthening of the independence movement in Chechnya.

Worldwide Jihad
In the late 80s Osama broke with Azzam. The final break came after the war in a dispute over the scope of jihad. Bin Laden envisioned an all-Arab legion, which eventually could be used to wage jihad in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Azzam strongly opposed making war against fellow-Muslims. On Nov. 24, 1989, Azzam and two sons were killed by a car bomb in Peshawar as they drove to friday prayers. The murders were never solved.

Democratic dilemma
In the early 90s Islamic parties around The Middle East gathered mass support. Especially the governments in both Egypt and Algeria faced a terrible dilemma. At the heart of the Islamist vision was the idea that the Koran should be used as the political framework for the society. An absolute set of laws, beyond debate, that all politicians had to follow. The implication of this was that Islamic parties would be using democracy to destroy it. One man, one vote, but only once!

Clinton's 90s
In the 80s, Saddam had been America's close ally. But in 1990, he invaded Kuwait (see Causes)Consequently, A coalition force of approximately 30 nations mandated by the United Nations and led by the United States invaded Iraq, using Saudi Arabia as a staging ground. Although the U.S. won the war, it divided the Republican party, which caused Bill Clinton to win the elections in 1992. During Clinton's first term the Neoconservatives went underground, trying to regroup the Republican party. Clinton's second term, however, offered the neoconservatives a great opportunity to get back: The Lewinsky affaire.

Gulf War I
The Gulf war I was won swiftly, but no efforts were made to capture Bagdad and remove Saddam from power. Persian Gulf War casualty numbers are controversial. Coalition military deaths have been reported to be around 378. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Iraqi casualty estimates ranged as high as 100,000 Iraqi troops killed and 300,000 wounded. But independent analysts generally agree the Iraqi death toll was well below initial post-war estimates (22.000 -25.000 killed).

Brent Scowcroft
There was some criticism of the Bush administration for its decision to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power, rather than pushing on to capture Baghdad and overthrowing his government. Brent Scowcroft was the United States National Security Advisor under Bush sr. In their co-written 1998 book, A World Transformed, Bush and Brent Scowcroft argued that such a course would have fractured the alliance and would have had many unnecessary political and human costs associated with it.

The Algerian Civil War
The Algerian Civil War was an armed conflict between the Algerian government and various Islamist rebel groups(see conflict Algeria). The conflict began in December 1991, when the government cancelled elections after the first round results had shown that the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party would win, citing fears that the FIS would end democracy. After the FIS was banned and thousands of its members arrested, Islamist guerrillas - including Jihad veterans - rapidly emerged and began an armed campaign against the government.

Abdullah Anas
During the Afghan War Anas had been a top aide to commander Ahmed Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance. After the war he returned to his homeland Algeria and became a member of the Political Counsil of the FIS in 1993. In an interview he recalls how the Islamists lost support in the Civil War and therefore stepped up the bloodshed. Their logic was brutal: it was not just those who were involved with politics who should be killed, but the ordinary people who supported it Anas's account.

The Lewinsky Affaire
The Monica Lewinsky scandal (informally Monicagate) was a political sex scandal emerging from a short-term sexual relationship between United States President Bill Clinton and a then 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The scandel was fully exploited by the Neoconservatives to put their ideas back on the political agenda. In 1998, Washington was dominated by one issue: the moral character of President Bill Clinton. (see Wikipedia)

Osama's failure
By 1997 all attempts to topple regimes in the Arab world were failing; the masses were not rising up and following. Osama and Zawahiri faced failure and diverted their attention to the United States. In 1998 their group, Al-Qaeda, bombed the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. In late 2000, Al-Qaeda struck again with the USS Cole bombing. These were omens of what was to follow on 11 september 2001 (see part III of the Power of Nightmares).

Curtis, Adam
Copyright Holder
59 min.
Year of release

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