Kathryn Bigelow is once again drawing attention; this time for the follow-up to her award-winning movie The Hurt Locker. The focus of her new movie is on the role torture has played in American foreign policy in a post-9/11 world. Namely, the hunting of Osama bin Laden and his subsequent death.
America’s torture doctrine is now enshrined, as courts at all levels have concluded that it is best for the military to decide American morality. The latest insult comes via Jose Padilla’s family who have had to appeal to an international human rights tribunal for basic protections that their son should have been afforded within the U.S. legal system as a natural-born American citizen.
The sweeping net of counterterrorism has subjected innocent people to medieval cruelties … and these people have had their unjust suffering fall on deaf ears. Who would extol such barbarous acts as justified? Hollywood, of course.
Now to the big screen comes a faint echo of what has been crafted in depth across cable TV series’ like 24 and Homeland: there are real bad guys out there who have their finger on the button of imminent nuclear Armageddon and the U.S. Cavalry must by any means necessary ride in to save the day at the very last minute.
It is intriguing, sort of like comic books can be — heroes and villains battling behind the scenes to destroy or save common and unaware humanity — but, like comic books, the narrative is often black and white, having been created by minds who have a very sound ability to tell stories, and a very limited ability to go beyond the confines of narrative fantasy.
Zero Dark Thirty is set for studio release on December 19th, but is already generating controversy for its opening thirty-minute depiction of torture.
According to the official description:
For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty reunites the Oscar(R) winning team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) for the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.
If we can put the melodrama aside for a moment, we’ll clearly see that some very substantiated facts point to an entire myth still being created around the character of Osama bin Laden – the perfect bogeyman to initiate the endless global war on terror. And, according to Zero Dark Thirty apparently, the myth is extended to torture having been implemented as a last resort to catch (then execute) this prince of darkness.
Nothing could be further from the truth, since, as Keith Johnson detailed in May, 2011, there is much evidence that shows Osama bin Laden — a CIA creation from the beginning — very well might have died in Tora Bora back in 2001. As Johnson writes:
But don’t just take my word for it. Top terror experts, intelligence analysts, academics, government officials, and even major political figures around the globe tend to agree that, “All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama Bin Laden.”
Zero Dark Thirty clearly goes beyond poetic license into the realm of political license to offer up support for torturing real people in order to find ghosts.
Regarding the portrayal of torture itself, Andrew Sullivan offers the following screed in his criticism of the movie’s stated plot, and his assertion that Kathryn Bigelow has outed herself as a torture apologist and propagandist:
If Bigelow is calling torture ‘harsh tactics’ she is complicit in its defense. And lies do have an agenda, whatever Bigelow says. They pretend that the law allows torture, they violate the historical record, and they make war crimes more likely in the future. Yes, it makes for a more thrilling ride if we start with a torture scene in a movie drama. But actual torture, authorized illegally by war criminals, is not fiction and is far too grave a matter to be exploited as a plot device. It is illegal because it is evil and because it provides unreliable and often false leads, not real ones. Bigelow cannot argue that her movie has no agenda, or duck behind the excuse that this is a ‘movie’ and not a ‘documentary’. If it lies to promote the efficacy of torture, it has a very real agenda. And that is a defense of barbarism as entertainment, and as the law of the land. (Source)
With Osama bin Laden’s choreographed death, the Islamic world supposedly has been given a martyr, justifying the expansion of Al-Qaeda in particular. This would seem to justify continuing the war on terror and, yes, the torture. And the narrative will be helped along with this movie; propaganda that the establishment will likely reward with another Oscar nomination for Bigelow.
The new mainstream American value of torture is steeped in self-deception, legal rewrites, and propaganda embraced and emboldened by Hollywood. We idolize torturers in our favorite TV programs, and are happy to see our enemies (real and imagined) vicariously taken apart in order to protect our beacon of freedom. It is an Orwellian undertaking.
Only a massive propaganda effort and a healthy dose of self-delusion can maintain torture’s legitimacy when it has been proven to be completely unreliable in true intelligence gathering — not even when working against a ticking bomb, or “the world’s most dangerous man.”
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