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Hollywood Film Brings Torture Back Into The Light

Memo Pad

Hollywood Film Brings Torture Back Into The Light


Scenes of prisoner abuses in Zero Dark Thirty, the Kathryn Bigelow film on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, have reawakened a debate over the United States’s use of torture that should have been fully and publicly vetted long ago.

Whether the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogations program, a.k.a. torture, “worked,” is the question being kicked around, as if that should matter in a nation committed to human rights.

Knowledgeable commentators have taken both sides. Jose Rodriguez Jr., who oversaw the agency’s counterterrorism operations at the time, says the harsh techniques elicited information that did contribute to locating bin Laden. Opposing that view are Michael Morell, acting CIA director, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who each blasted the movie as inaccurate and misleading.

Feinstein said a just-completed 6,000-page committee study highly critical of the CIA detention and interrogation program under President Bush demonstrates that information gained from mistreating prisoners did not play a significant role in finding bin Laden.

But since the report is classified, we can’t see for ourselves. You would think that once there is a blockbuster Hollywood movie depicting the CIA’s torture program, it’s no longer a secret. Releasing the report would be a valuable service by both clearing up these questions and as a “how could we go so wrong?” lesson.

The secrecy bespeaks a deep humiliation at how America reacted to the al Qaeda threat with CIA black-site prisons, extraordinary renditions and prisoner mistreatment. We don’t want to be reminded of what we did, whether it occasionally “worked” or not. In those dank cells, our once-proud principles of due process and the rule of law were reduced to rubble. Our self-image of the American character was indelibly stained.

Even the federal courts don’t want to go there. To keep innocent torture victims from suing, they have accepted fatuous claims asserted by both the Bush and Obama administrations that it would jeopardize national security.


  1. Dominick Vila January 1, 2013

    Sadly, Al Qaeda’s greatest triumph was their ability of a relatively small group of thugs to make a great nation abandon its values and embrace tactics not too dissimilar from those used by our nemesis. What happened in the wake of 9/11 was, in part, a desire for revenge and a demonstration of impotency in the face of an elusive enemy we had never faced before. Our country had spent trillions of dollars and decades building the most formidable apparatus to fight tyranny and foreign threats in the form of formal armies. We were caught with our pants down when a group of zealots armed with box cutters hijacked four passenger planes and killed almost three thousand Americans on American soil.
    Our overreaction was, indeed, embarrassing and contributed to the ability of Osama bin Laden to continue his nefarious activites for another decade it, on the other hand, taught us valuable lessons including the wisdom of taking our time to assess situations and react pragmatically, it gave us the opportunity to reflect on our actions and foreign policy, and it highlighted that the most likely foreign threat we are going to face in years to come will not involve huge armies but terrorists determined to sacrifice themselves in the pursuit of their goals.

    1. John Sehler January 1, 2013

      All with the help of the Bush administration.

    2. amazonfan January 1, 2013

      ” and embrace tactics not too dissimilar from those used by our nemesis.”

      Try exactly the same. There is no difference between the US’s use of torture and that of the enemy. Perhaps the only difference is that people aren’t outraged enough about the US’s use of torture.

    3. Blake Faulkner January 1, 2013

      Love your comments Dominick. I read “The Black Banners” by former FBI Agent Ali Soufan over a year ago and I highly recommend it to others. He was sent to Yemen to investigate the USS Cole suicide bombing by Al Qaeda…before 9/11. His interrogations of terrorist suspects as an FBI agent in the field did not include torture like the CIA ‘interrogations’ often did. His methods got much more useful and actionable information. His effectiveness embarrassed higher-ups in the CIA and they used their connections with the Bush admin. to force Soufan boss into ‘retirement’. That boss later became head of security for the World Trade Center…and died in the 9/11 attacks…along with 3000 others innocents. Soufan’s book was heavily ‘redacted’ when I read it. The CIA was still being pissy and blacked out stuff that was embarrassing to their agency…It was not top secret, classified information…or anything that would jeapardize their operations. it was just…the truth about their incompetence and counter-productive behavior…including torture…but not limited to that. Google ‘The Black Banners’ and read either Ali Soufan’s new-ish website by that name^^^ (.com). Or read a recent ‘The Daily KOS’ rave review about it…

    4. johninPCFL January 1, 2013

      Take a read of Brute Krulak’s biography. There is no doubt about his fighting bonafides, and he was the principal architect of what became derisively known as “hearts and minds”. The latest Vietnam war whitepaper finally declaims DePuy’s army approach (search and destroy) in favor of Krulak’s more forward-thinking strategy.

      Unfortunately, the army always fights the last war. In this case, that’s a failing Vietnam strategy of village-to-village destruction guaranteed to breed more resistance the longer we stay engaged. Maybe that’s why the Constitution defined the army for ‘a’ two-year term (Congress could not appropriate money for the army for longer than two years). There were no such strictures for the Navy.

  2. nobsartist January 1, 2013

    Add torture to the list of GOP failures just like our health care system, education system and election process.

    When are we going to hold these losers accountable? When are we going to stop patching republiCON principles together like our failed health care system and admit that they cannot work?

    Just like these “bush tax cuts”. Why are we trying to make a deal on something that should not have been allowed to pass to begin with. We all know that passing those tax cuts while invading countries based on lies is what has ruined our country so why are we trying to “patch” together a deal on something that was wrong and didnt work to begin with?

    I thought leaders were supposed to lead.

    1. Blake Faulkner January 1, 2013

      I agree with you nobsartist. The problem is way too many American’s have been deluded by billionare financed fear-mongering on radio and TV that never even thinks about sticking with the facts or reality. Only the right-wing agenda matters. The blame for deficits and massive debt in the Glenn Beck-Teabilly-Alternate Reality Complex has been shifted to the underclass & ‘entitlement’… takers. It’s kinda like the old ‘kick-the-dog-for-what-your-boss-did-to-you’ frustration and impotence mentality…but much more perverse and destructive to our national well-being as self-governing Americans.

    2. Dominick Vila January 1, 2013

      Some of the “leaders” expected to do the “patching” are complicit in what happened when George W. Bush was in office.
      The Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 wiped out the budget surplus he inherited, and engaging in two crusades using borrowed money to pay for them is a major factor for the mess we are in. Add the deregulation that allowed ENRON, AIG, several major banks, and crooks like Bernie Madoff to engage in fraudulent business and/our outright thievery and we don’t have to be experienced economists to understand the root causes of the problems we are still trying to overcome.
      Unfortunately, almost half of our population continues to support traditional Republican policies, such as trickle down economics, believe regulation is an obstacle to progress, and are determined to achieve fiscal integrity by dismantling the social programs that benefit millions of seniors, the disabled, the poor and students so that the elite, that already owns 2/3 of all the financial wealth in the United States, can add a little more to their coffers.
      There are either an awful lot of multi-millionaires in the USA, or a large segment of our population is so blinded by ideological indoctrination that they are willing to sacrifice their well being – and our privileged position in the world – to achieve their twisted goals.

  3. amazonfan January 1, 2013

    “To keep innocent torture victims from suing”

    All victims are innocent. Torture can NEVER be justified, for any reason and in any circumstances. Anybody who attempts to defend it are morally bankrupt criminals. The torturers belong in prison, and that they haven’t even been tried, is why the world will never take the US seriously when it comes to human rights!

  4. Linda Nordlund January 1, 2013

    There should be a movie about Bradley Manning

  5. nobsartist January 1, 2013

    This is the result of a moronic, AWOL coke head listening to a couple of racist jerk-offs like cheney and rumsfield, 2 more that should have been found guilty of war crimes and executed but instead are free to reap the profits of NO-BID corrupt contracts awarded to corporations that pay no tax on profits like Boeing and Ford Motor.

  6. latebloomingrandma January 1, 2013

    Everyone should read the well researched book “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer. It will gnaw at your gut. I guess this movie is a similar story. Dick Cheney is a war criminal.

  7. TEN-OF-WANDS January 1, 2013

    What you cannot talk about will be the author of your epitaph. Pragmatism always ends in desperation, the wilderness of the irrational.

  8. onedonewong January 1, 2013

    Enhanced interrogation is hardly torture. Besides they worked and saved American lives that’s all that matters.
    The fact that Baraks rules of engagement has resulted in more US casualties in 4 years than all of W’s 6 now that is real torture

    1. johninPCFL January 1, 2013

      Wow, so we murdered all those Japanese soldiers for nothing?

      You’re an idiot. Every single person who has ever been waterboarded has decried it as torture, including Navy seals.

      1. onedonewong January 1, 2013

        No they haven’t its standard training for our pilots

        1. johninPCFL January 1, 2013

          No it is not, and every individual who has been waterboarded says it is torture.

  9. 13observer January 2, 2013

    ONLY IN AMERICA do people who pay no taxes at all and get so-called “earned income tax credits” make a plea for the wealthy (who pay 86% of all taxes) to pay their fair share.

  10. Harkjoon January 5, 2013

    I’m finally reading The Dark Side by Jane Mayer, which explains what went on in the White House under the aegis of such humanitarians as Cheney, Addison, and Tenet.

    My main question is why are these people still running around loose–as opposed to sharing what I call the Memorial Slobodan Milsoevic cell at the Hague. War crimes is war crimes, folks, and these characters–and many others–need to be brought up on charges. National security, my fanny!


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