- 1/11, Marjorie Cohn, Huffington Post, Zero Dark Thirty: Torturing the Facts
- 1/11, Editor, The Economist, Obama picks his soldiers
- 1/11, Matt Duss, ThinkProgress, Denying The Existence Of Islamophobia
- 1/11, Vince Warren, CNN, Obama, keep your vow to close Gitmo
- 1/10, Natasha Lennard, Salon, Europe sees “grave risks” from US spy law
- 1/9, Jonathan Schanzer, Wall Street Journal, A Nasty Neologism
Archive for January 11th, 2013
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty opens with a title that declares “The following motion picture is based on first hand accounts of actual events.” With this title and relentless publicity Biegwlow has suggested “What we were attempting is almost a journalistic approach to film.’’ However at the same time, Boal has attempted to shirk being held to a journalistic approach to facts, declaring “It’s a movie, not a documentary.” It’s clear from Senators with knowledge of the classified intelligence and Leon Panetta that in fact torture did not produce the information that identified Osama Bin Laden’s courier and led to his capture. However, the information will not become public until the Senate Intelligence Committee declassifies its extensive investigation into the United State’s use of torture after September 11th. You can demand the release of the report through BORDC’s petition.
Reacting to the swelling controversy set off by the film’s depiction of torture prompting a key disclosure leading to the capture of Bin Laden, Bigelow has attempted to set up a straw man. At the New York Film Critics Awards she said:
I’m standing in a room with people who understand that depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could portray inhumane practices. No author could write about them. And no filmmaker could ever delve into the knotty subjects of our time.
However, Zero Dark Thirty not only misrepresents the facts surrounding the role of torture in Osama Bin Laden’s capture, it also uses film technique to align the audience with the torturers. The film opens with harrowing audio of the 911 calls of those trapped in world trade center, and then immediately cuts to the brutal interrogation of a prisoner at a CIA black site. This juxtaposition positions the torture program as a reaction the attacks of September 11th. The films’ heroine, Maya a CIA analyst, is present at the interrogation and watches as the prisoner is waterboarded by another CIA interrogator.
During the scene Bigelow employs objective shots (those which don’t come from the point of the view of any of the characters) to show the CIA interrogator threatening assaulting and then water boarding the prisoner. Notably however, the audience is never left alone with the prisoner, the camera comes and goes with Maya’s visits. Bigelow aligns us with Maya but cutting to a reaction shot showing her face in distress as the prisoner is water boarded. The audience is meant to identify with her unease with the brutal tactics being employed. However, this changes.
In the following scenes, Maya is present in almost every one, the consistent point of contact for the audience. She questions the same prisoner and another, obtaining information based on the prisoner’s fear that they will be again subjected to torture. She then reviews videotaped interrogations of other prisoners (many of whom are being tortured) and instead of now cringing at the torture, she simply nods her head as the information she wants is given. Finally in another interrogation, Maya directs a military officer to assault and then waterboard the prisoner she is interrogating. Initially disturbed at the presence of torture, Maya and the audience begin to see its benefits.
All the while, none of the characters object to torture, though we know that in reality many did so. The only voice in the film declaring opposition to torture, is President Obama’s. A few seconds of an interview where he declares that America doesn’t torture play on TV in a meeting of CIA analysts, but one simply shakes her head and then then they go back to operational planning.
Today, January 11, 2013 is the 11-year anniversary of Guantanamo Bay detention center’s opening and also the day that a vast coalition of groups will unite to uphold human rights and to protest President Obama’s inaction.
President Obama ordered that Guantanamo prison should be closed within one year. That order was nearly four years ago, yet Guantanamo remains open with one hundred sixty six detainees. Although many detainees have been cleared for transfer from the center by the Obama administration, they continue to be denied justice. As President Obama enters his second term, he has not only ignored his promise, but has made it harder for detainees to be transferred by signing the National Defense Authorization Act’s provisions about Guantanamo.
Amnesty International is holding an event in Washington D.C. where one hundred sixty six individuals dressed in orange jumpsuits will meet at Noon to march from the Supreme Court to the White House. There is also the option to stream the demonstration live on Amnesty International’s website. Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace is holding a silent vigil at 10am and rally at 10:45am at Downtown Los Angeles Federal building. These demonstrations are just some of many that will be taking place throughout the United States.
Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, explains why the closing of Guantanamo is a concern for every American:
January 11 offers a sad reminder of our country’s flagrant disregard for justice — not only for Guantanamo detainees, but also for 300 million Americans subjected to separate systems of law here within the US. Our country loudly claims to be the land of the free, yet conducts pervasive domestic surveillance and imprisons more people than any other country on the planet. Meanwhile, torturers have escaped even mere investigation, and even draw lifetime paychecks on the federal bench! Justice, national security (which suffered due to torture), and the law all require prosecuting US human rights abuses to make sure they never happen again. With the NDAA offering our military the power to detain anyone without proof of crime, every American has a personal stake in this struggle.
These demonstrations demand that Guantanamo be closed, indefinite detention should be removed from the National Defense Authorization Act, and all detained individuals should be prosecuted fairly or released. The only way to gain accountability from the government and to stop torture and other abuses is to demand it.