CNHI News Service

Opinion

February 19, 2013

Torture is best left to the movies

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
that intelligence?

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
character driven.

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. 

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