Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Gov’t Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

10.17 Scott Pruitt, Who Loved to Sue EPA, Just Made It Harder for Green Groups to Sue EPA

10.16 The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

10.15 Rooftop Solar Provides a Record-Breaking 48% of South Australia’s Power

10.14 Geoengineering is not a quick fix for climate change, experts warn Trump

10.13 The Grain That Tastes Like Wheat, but Grows Like a Prairie Grass

10.13 Climate Change Is Making It Harder to Grow Rice [might there be a “perennial rice” with much deeper roots to survive droughts?]

10.13 'If the land isn't worked, it decays': Tunisia's battle to keep the desert at bay [beautiful business plan for LIFE]

10.13 Trump scraps Obamacare subsidies in surprise late-night announcement [videos; his Infantilism should cause his impeachment]

10.12 Oxford aims for world’s first zero emissions zone with petrol car ban

10.12 Draughty homes targeted in UK climate change masterplan

News Media Matters

10.17 Malta car bomb kills Panama Papers journalist

10.15 The Establishment Still Doesn't Recognize The Political Revolution That's Happening [the question is, CAN MAINSTREAM NEWS MEDIA – desperate for corporate advertising as revenue falls – ALLOW CHANGE TO HAPPEN?]

10.14 A Silenced Israeli Critic

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

10.17 How Anti-Trump Psychiatrists Are Mobilizing Behind the Twenty-Fifth Amendment

10.17 McCain blasts 'half-baked, spurious nationalism' in emotional speech [video]

10.16 Nevada to Big Pharma: ‘Show Us Your Books!’

10.16 The Danger of President Pence

10.16 TRUMP’S WOULD-BE WEATHER CZAR TRIED TO SHUT DOWN FREE FORECASTS [The looting and corrupton is refreshingly open]

10.16 Here's the Democrat Who Just Announced His Challenge to Hawkish Feinstein

10.16 Singer Marc Anthony to Trump: You will be held Accountable for needless American Deaths in Puerto Rico

10.16 The Texas town where all the energy is green [Alert! Ignoring party leadership, exceptional Republicans use reason to do good!]

10.15 “It’s going to hurt everybody”: Nevada’s GOP governor rips Trump over ACA sabotage [Alert! Republicans aren't all bad!]

10.15 20 of America's top political scientists gathered to discuss our democracy. They're scared.

10.15 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee taken off Mississippi school reading list [teaching real history makes future citizens better and avoids racist hatred repeating—that's why Germans have taught real history since WWII]

10.15 ‘Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law’ [America is still a model country for racism and hate]

10.15 Multi-State Suit Targets Trump's "Reckless Assault" on Healthcare as Anger Flows [does our President have these traits?]

Justice Matters

10.17 Trump could remake judiciary for ‘40 years’ — with controversial picks [America will become more like Malta; facilitating corporate/mafia criminality to the maximum]

High Crimes?
Economics, Crony Capitalism

10.17 Trump Revives Notorious GOP Dog Whistle in Call for 'Welfare Reform' [less money "wasted on welfare" would allow larger tax cuts for "the more deserving rich"]

10.17 For Abandoning Climate Accord, Pope Swipes Trump on World Food Day [Trump is attuned to serve billionaire friends and himself]

10.14 KOCH BROTHERS’ INTERNAL STRATEGY MEMO ON SELLING TAX CUTS: IGNORE THE DEFICIT

10.14 How to Wipe Out Puerto Rico’s Debt Without Hurting Bondholders

10.12 IMF: higher taxes for rich will cut inequality without hitting growth

10.12 Fossil fuels win billions in public money after Paris climate deal, angry campaigners claim [fossil fuel companies will declare bankruptcy when (not if) fossil fuels become worthless, so it will then be the public's money that is lost, without recourse]

10.11 Special Investigation: How America’s Biggest Bank Paid Its Fine for the 2008 Mortgage Crisis — With Phony Mortgages!

10.08 How Billionaires Become Billionaires

International & Futurism

10.17 For Abandoning Climate Accord, Pope Swipes Trump on World Food Day [Trump is attuned to serve billionaire cronies and himself]

10.17 The Movement of #MeToo

10.16 How Trump’s Foreign Policy Mood Swings made US a Rogue State

10.16 In Absence of US Leadership, War Breaks out between Kurds and Baghdad

10.15 AI WEIWEI EXPLORES THE “HUMAN FLOW” OF REFUGEES AND FINDS AN AMERICA THAT LOST ITS CONSCIENCE

10.15 Genes for Skin Color Rebut Dated Notions of Race, Researchers Say

10.15 Toyota’s Trucks That Only Emit Water Vapor Are Moving Goods in LA

10.15 Tony Blair: ‘We were wrong to boycott Hamas after its election win’ [guiding principle #1: do not cause harm to civilian populations]

10.15 Margaret Atwood: Rise of Trump Brings Echoes of 1930s Europe

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: