Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local News & Opinion

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education

10.22 Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

Letters
Open Letters:

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

10.25 New front in war on Alzheimer's and other protein-linked brain diseases

10.25 Surgeons transplant heart that had stopped beating

10.25 Blocked on the Keystone XL, the Oil-Sands Industry Looks East

10.24 EU reaches deal on CO2 emissions cut

10.24 University of Pittsburgh study correlates autism with air pollution

10.24 University of Pittsburgh study correlates autism with air pollution

10.23 Five graphs that explain the EU 2030 energy and climate deal

10.22 Doctors Without Borders Hits Ebola Breaking Point

10.22 Ebola virus: how it spreads and what it does to you – video

10.22 WHO aims for Ebola serum in weeks and vaccine tests in Africa by January

10.22 What If America Had Canada's Healthcare System? [7:25 video, charts]

News Media

Daily FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

Justice Matters

10.23 US jury convicts Blackwater guards in 2007 killing of Iraqi civilians

US Politics, Policy & Culture

10.25 Infographic: The Transfer Of Military Surplus To Domestic Police

10.25 Full Show: The Fight — and the Right — to Vote [25:23 video]

10.24 How Racial Equity Can Make Cities Richer [graphs]

10.24 Prenatal Air Pollution Linked to Impaired Lung Function

10.24 How Independents Could Seize Control of the Senate

10.23 The Era of Political Disruption

10.23 Rand Paul: The Most Interesting Conspiracy Theorist in Washington

10.23 Amid Shootings, Chicago Police Department Upholds Culture of Impunity

10.23 Chris Christie Pay-To-Play Probe Of Charlie Baker Takes Center Stage In Massachusetts Gubernatorial Debate

10.22 Yes, it's true: Police only shot four people (and nobody died) in all of England the past two years

10.22 The Best Investigative Reporting on Campaign Finance Since 2012

10.21 Warren Makes the Case

10.21 Texas Just Won the Right to Disenfranchise 600,000 People. It's Not the First Time. [A disgraceful history]

10.21 Yes, Mass Shootings Are Occurring More Often [graphs]

10.21 The Bottom 90 Percent: No Better Off Today Than in 1986

10.21 Can Homeless People Move Into Baltimore's Abandoned Houses?

10.21 Chart: Values of Homes Owned by African Americans Take Outsized Hit Compared to Those Owned by Whites

10.21 You might be a politician if ... you tried to defund Ebola research, only to campaign on Ebola fear

High Crimes?

10.22 White House Chief Of Staff Negotiating Redaction Of CIA Torture Report

10.22 Fred Branfman, exposer of America’s secret war in Laos, died on September 24th, aged 72

10.22 US ordered to explain withholding of Iraq and Afghanistan torture photos

Economics, Crony Capitalism

10.24 Compensation shrinks for all income groups – except the very highest

10.24 The Mortgage Industry Is Strangling the Housing Market and Blaming the Government

10.24 Elizabeth Warren Demands An Investigation Of Mortgage Companies

10.24 MyRA Accounts Fall Short for Savers

10.20 The Feds Just Approved a New GMO Corn. Here's Why I'm Not Rejoicing

10.20 EPA: Those Bee-Killing Pesticides? They're Actually Pretty Useless

International

10.25 Tunisia is showing the Arab world how to nurture democracy

10.24 Saudi Arabia's Women Problem

10.24 Boko Haram Abducts More Women, Despite Claims of Nigeria Cease-Fire

10.23 Thousands in Iran Protest Acid Attacks on Women

10.23 Death in the Sahara: An Ill-Fated Attempt to Reach Fortress Europe

10.23 Battle for Kobani: As the World Watches, Turkey Looks Away

10.23 Eve of Election: A Fractured Ukraine, United in Uncertainty

10.23 George Soros: Russia poses existential threat to Europe

10.23 Oil slump leaves Russia even weaker than decaying Soviet Union

10.22 World War III: It's Here And Energy Is Largely Behind It

10.22 Sweden bathes in echoes of cold war drama as submarine hunt continues

10.22 Daily Life in the Shadow of ISIS

10.21 Afghan opium poppy yield hits all-time high

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Alex Gibney's ''Taxi to the Dark Side''
Newspaper logo

FILM REVIEW:

Alex Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side"

Familiar yet essential information about American policy post-9/11

Reviewed by Chris Knipp

The widespread U.S. "interrogation methods" are not only cruel, harmful, dangerous, immoral, and illegal, but stupid and, in intelligence-gathering terms, worthless. Though they don't work in practical terms, they do have a political purpose.
FEB. 22, 2008—"Taxi to the Dark Side" doesn't contain anything wholly new; it just provides more complete detail and important clarifications, such that Guantanamo uses very much the same basic methods as Abu Ghraib, though the location is cleaner and of course wasn't formerly used by Saddam Hussein.

Dilawar, the Afghan taxi driver, was essentially beaten to death by American soldiers in the Bagram prison. He did not live long once his ill-trained though plainly-directed captors got hold of him—but his final hours were terrifying and horrible. They kicked his legs till they turned to pulp and would have had to be amputated, had he lived. A heart condition caused an embolism that went to his brain and was the cause of death, which on the official US papers given to Dilawar's family, in English so they did not know what they meant, was "homicide," but the officer in charge of the prison denied this when queried.

Alex Gibney, who is responsible previously for the documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," presents interviews with some of the American soldiers responsible for Dilawar's death. They were, of course, only following orders. Other talking heads clarify the fact that the "gloves are off" policy by U.S. authorities following 9/11/01 goes back to Dick Cheney, approved by George W. Bush, carried out with gusto by Donald Rumsfeld, and sent directly down the line to the low-ranking and inexperienced people whose behavior after the Abu Ghraib scandal emerged was claimed by authorities to be that of people on the "night shift" or "a few bad apples." This film thoroughly disproves that claim.

We know that Alberto Gonzales, Bush's smirking rubber stamp Attorney General (one chokes on the thought that such a man held such a title in this country), would not condemn the use of torture, nor would his successor agree that waterboarding was torture. The authorities made clear, inevitably, that the Geneva Conventions were not going to apply to the "war on terror." Behind all this is the fact that the U.S. administration was willing to blatantly disregard the rule of law, domestic as well as international, to fight their "war on terror" in ways that involved extreme cruelty and murder. In their doing this, they had the assistance of various corrupt or immoral or, if you prefer, simply very misguided, men of the law and the judiciary.

The practices have been illegal. They may also have been variously unwise. The photos of Americans mistreating Muslim prisoners at Abu Ghraib are good recruiting material for anti-U.S. terrorists. But torture also simply doesn't work, accomplishes nothing useful. Much time is given to Alfred McCoy, author of a book called The Question of Torture and a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. McCoy recounts that the CIA has been working on methods of coercion for all the decades of its existence, but their experiments have yielded nothing--but lawsuits from victimized guinea pigs. Another authority, a former CIA operative, asserts that the best method to obtain information is to gain the confidence of the prisoner and convince him you can help him.

But post 9/11 "high value" prisoners were clearly tortured with anything their captors could think of--and then confessed to anything they could think of. The film clarifies that psychological experiments by Donald Hobb at McGill University in the Seventies proved sensory deprivation and sleep deprivation are the most effective means of torture; at least according to Hobb they can induce psychosis within 48 hours. The film shows that basically all "terrorism" suspects here and abroad have been subjected to sensory deprivation. That is what covering the ears, head, and hands does; and it was and is standard treatment to continue this for hours and days. This is more effective than pain. But effective at doing what? Breaking down the prisoner, not obtaining reliable information—or any information, for that matter.

Hence the widespread U.S. policies are not only cruel, harmful, dangerous, immoral, and illegal, but stupid and, in intelligence-gathering terms, worthless.

These policies—the "extraordinary rendition," the waterboarding, the sensory deprivation, etc.—don't work in practical terms. But they have a political purpose. They convince people that the U.S. is "getting tough" on its enemies. Except that another thing this film shows is that the wholesale captures and imprisonments are not of actual enemies, by and large, but of people fingered for money or to distract from the actual wrongdoers, or to satisfy a desire for revenge.

No system has been consistently followed. If it had been, the useless prisoners or wrongly captured persons would have been filtered out, as Dilawar ought to have been. He was innocent.

And now the U.S. authorities are in a bad position. They cannot acquit even those few Guantanamo prisoners they are putting up for show trials, because to do so would reveal that they had been held for six years for no reason. That would look bad. Varieties of Orwellian terminology have been devised to describe these prisoners. The film also shows "tours" of Guantanamo and deflates the claims of guides.

One reason for all this is who's been in charge: a group of draft dodgers who never served in a war. Senator John McCain is shown in the film as a man who opposes torture for good reason: because he experienced it during his years in a North Vietnam prison.

America has developed a culture of guilty-as-charged, of hysterical attacks on imagined enemies.
Another issue: America has developed a culture of guilty-as-charged, of hysterical attacks on imagined enemies. An example: the popular jingoistic TV program "24," starring Kiefer Sutherland as a CIA agent who "saves" millions by torturing mad terrorists with ticking bombs in Times Square. A "Dark Side" talking head asserts no such a person has been captured, but if he were he'd have the commitment to die rather than reveal information about his plot. But a survey showed after the Abu Ghraib scandal that the American public still considered torture a desirable method.

I do not know if torture never gets you useful information, though the assertion that insinuation into the confidence of a prisoner is more effective makes sense. What is clear enough from Gibney's powerful and disturbing film (which contains many images not for the squeamish) is that the torture and wrongful imprisonment and lawlessness of the U.S. as a nation post-9/11 indicate a country that has become very cruel and very stupid under Bush II.

For anyone unfamiliar with the details of the legal cases, the prisons, the deaths in prison, and the interrogations, this film sums it all up vividly. Interested persons should then go to other sources, such as the informational play "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Preserve Freedom," the memoir of the unusually articulate freed Guantanamo prisoner and U.K. citizen Moazzam Begg; Michael Winerbottom's The Road to Guantanamo and the many other related sources.

Andrew O'Hehir of Salon.com recounts that at a post-screening Q&A, when Gibney was asked what he hoped his film would accomplish, he said "I hope it provokes some rage."

"Well," says O'Hehir, "it worked on me."

May it work on everyone who sees it.


©Chris Knipp 2008

For more information and writings of the author, visit chrisknipp.com.

The title of the film comes from Dick Cheney's remark to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" on September 16, 2001, saying that, to fight the war on terrorism, "We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will."

The film was first shown at Tribeca in April 2007. It is in limited U.S. release since January 18, 2008.



Copyright © 2008 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on February 23, 2008.

 


Public Service Ads: