There’s something unsettling about reviews like this:




Part of the power of Zero Dark Thirty is that it looks with disturbing clarity at the ”enhanced interrogation techniques” that were used after 9/11, and it says, in no uncertain terms: They worked. This is a bin Laden thriller that Dick Cheney and Barack Obama could love.




That doesn’t really jive with what a certain American torture victim said about the information that was gleaned:




In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.




And it sort of recalls what Army Captain Ian Fishback wrote to Senator McCain in 2005:




Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda’s, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.




Glenn Greenwald sums up the problem with the widespread praise the film is receiving:




Over the last decade, nothing has produced more positive feelings among Americans about themselves than the killing of bin Laden. That’s why it was a centerpiece of Obama’s re-election campaign and multiple chanting sessions at the Democrats’ convention.
When it comes to “the hunt for bin Laden”, few people want their nationalistic pride to be diluted by criticisms of the agencies responsible or reminders of the war crimes their country committed (or the fake child vaccine programs on which it relied). Any film that powerfully and adeptly leads Americans to view their government and its intelligence and military actors as noble heroes is one that is going to produce gratitude and glee no matter what else it does.
Those who ordered and implemented torture were never prosecuted. They were actively shielded from all forms of legal accountability by the current president. They thus went on to write books, get even richer, and live the lives of honored American statesmen. Torture was thus transformed from what it had been - a universally recognized war crime - into just another pedestrian, partisan political debate that Americans have.
That’s the critical context in which a film can simultaneously be said to glorify torture using outright fabrications and be praised as the year’s greatest film. The normalization of torture - and of all crimes committed by the US government in the name of war - is both a cause and effect of this film’s success. That normalization is what enables a film like this to be so widely admired, and it will be bolstered even further as the film gathers more accolades and box office riches.

There’s something unsettling about reviews like this:

Part of the power of Zero Dark Thirty is that it looks with disturbing clarity at the ”enhanced interrogation techniques” that were used after 9/11, and it says, in no uncertain terms: They worked. This is a bin Laden thriller that Dick Cheney and Barack Obama could love.

That doesn’t really jive with what a certain American torture victim said about the information that was gleaned:

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

And it sort of recalls what Army Captain Ian Fishback wrote to Senator McCain in 2005:

Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda’s, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Glenn Greenwald sums up the problem with the widespread praise the film is receiving:

Over the last decade, nothing has produced more positive feelings among Americans about themselves than the killing of bin Laden. That’s why it was a centerpiece of Obama’s re-election campaign and multiple chanting sessions at the Democrats’ convention.

When it comes to “the hunt for bin Laden”, few people want their nationalistic pride to be diluted by criticisms of the agencies responsible or reminders of the war crimes their country committed (or the fake child vaccine programs on which it relied). Any film that powerfully and adeptly leads Americans to view their government and its intelligence and military actors as noble heroes is one that is going to produce gratitude and glee no matter what else it does.

Those who ordered and implemented torture were never prosecuted. They were actively shielded from all forms of legal accountability by the current president. They thus went on to write books, get even richer, and live the lives of honored American statesmen. Torture was thus transformed from what it had been - a universally recognized war crime - into just another pedestrian, partisan political debate that Americans have.

That’s the critical context in which a film can simultaneously be said to glorify torture using outright fabrications and be praised as the year’s greatest film. The normalization of torture - and of all crimes committed by the US government in the name of war - is both a cause and effect of this film’s success. That normalization is what enables a film like this to be so widely admired, and it will be bolstered even further as the film gathers more accolades and box office riches.

Notes

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  6. imathers said: Damn. I was excited about Zero Dark Thirty, but hadn’t heard about this.
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    YES.
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