AMESBURY, Mass. —
The film “Zero Dark Thirty” has certainly stirred up plenty of
criticism. Early scenes depict torture performed by the CIA to get
information as to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Did torture produce
Better filmmakers than Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal would explore the
philosophical and legal implications of torture. “Zero Dark Thirty” is
just Call of Duty, the video game, on steroids -- a single-line pursuit of
bin Laden. Bigelow’s previous films have always sacrificed nuance and
rumination for extreme violence with the exception, ironically, of the
war movie “The Hurt Locker,” her best picture Oscar winner, which was more
Critics have taken “Zero Dark Thirty” to task for insinuating that torture led to bin Laden. Of course, to say this is to say torture works, which means the U.S. was justified in waterboarding and black-site renditions.
Former CIA director Leon Panetta said recently that there is “no question
that some of the intelligence gathered was a result of some of these
methods” before admitting that bin Laden probably would’ve been found
without enhanced interrogation.
But this is problematic if we are to believe what the Bush administration told us. The official line was that only three people were waterboarded, the last one being in 2003. There were certainly other kinds of torture used, which can be seen in the infamous photos from Abu Ghraib.
President Obama put an end to torture when he took office in 2009. So
we’re to believe that intelligence gathered in 2003 via waterboarding
finally resulted in bin Laden’s demise eight years later? That seems
ridiculous. It’s a safe bet that bin Laden was taken down through
old-fashioned detective work and not waterboarding.
For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume “Zero Dark Thirty” and Panetta are correct in saying torture led to bin Laden. Maybe it did. It would be hard for the purveyors of torture in the Bush administration to admit that torture did no good. The chief architect of using torture was John Yoo, assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel under Bush.
Yoo rationalized an extralegal process for Bush to skirt the law on torture by calling captured Muslims enemy combatants, as if they were a human subset outside the law. Yoo, shockingly, is still on the law faculty at the University of California teaching, presumably, not the law but how to break it.
If torture did work in finding bin Laden, the information received took
a, pardon the pun, torturous path. and even to those in the know, such as
Panetta, aren’t sure if torture really worked. But to save face for all
the torture advocates, he’ll play it safe and say it might.
The question becomes that if torture does indeed work, should it be employed? The answer is no, never, not even if there is 100 percent certainty that the information produced will be correct and will save lives. This comes not only from a moral standpoint of not doing harm to someone, but longstanding law in the U.S. and the Geneva Conventions.
There is a third factor. Torture is not necessary and pales alongside
good detective work, which should’ve been employed instead of cowboy military
invasions. Torture was always a way for the criminal element in the Bush
administration to act like it was doing something when
it didn’t know what to do.
Torture is a great dramatic device for “Zero Dark Thirty,” but those who employed it in real life knew it was just a cover up for their own impotence in bringing bin Laden to justice.
Stephen Dick is an editor at The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind. Contact him at email@example.com.