copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Americans each have taxied to the dark side in recent years. Vice President Cheney, with the blessings of George W. Bush, was our guide. We were the followers. Citizens of the United States claim to care. Yet, collectively, we allow an Administration to torture detainees in Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib prison. Our fellow countrymen once honored the Rules of the Geneva Convention. This standards are now thought quaint. Americans no longer subscribe to the theory that intentional physical and psychological torment is a abhorrent. Violations of human dignity are accepted, even endorsed.
Post-September 11, 2001, after the Twin Towers fell, so too did our moral compass. Americans do not believe that Human Rights must be honored. That is unless, the person in question is a United States citizen.
On the afternoon of 9/11 Americans embraced any policy they thought would keep them safe. Congress signed the Patriot Act into law. From then on, people who disagreed with the Bush Administration were watched. Those that had no quarrel with White House policies were jailed. A dark skinned person with an accent unlike the one commonly accepted as native, was thought to be a terrorist. Telephone and wiretaps were considered necessary. Individuals willingly removed their shoes and permitted them selves to be the subject of body searches. Fear flourished and remains intact. For Americans, some shadowy authority will take control and keep us safe. Hope does not remain eternal. It no longer exists.
Citizens in this country cannot see the light. They have slipped into the deepest crevices of cruelty. Even when Americans know they are about to commit a crime against humanity, they do not stop themselves. When in dire straits people perform as directed.
Filmmaker Alex Gibney, whose father, Frank Gibney, an interrogator of Japanese prisoners in World War II helped his son to feel the pain of a person ordered to torture another living being. As the Director's dying-Dad, who asked to be unhooked from his oxygen machine so that he might speak out against the Bush Administration's policies said so forcefully, "It's got to stop!"
The words of an adamant father barely able to breathe, helped to inspire his son's endeavor. As film reviewer, Kenneth Turan, of the Los Angeles Times writes, "[This] significant film shows why he [Alex Gibney] cares so passionately and why we should as well."
I invite you, dear reader to reflect on the situation and read this dynamic review of the movie . . .
'Taxi to the Dark Side'
The new documentary looks at torture's effects on victims and perpetrators.
By Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
January 18, 2008
GIVEN its subject matter, and its title, you'd expect Alex Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side" to be profoundly disturbing and shocking, and it is. But not always in the ways you'd expect.
A meticulous examination of the Bush administration's embracing of torture as a weapon of choice in the war against terrorism by the director of "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," "Taxi" is impressive enough to have taken the best documentary prize at the Tribeca Film Festival and to be a likely finalist for the documentary Oscar when the contenders are announced next week.
Because torture is its raison d'être, it's a given that "Taxi" is difficult to take at times. There are pictures from Abu Ghraib too appalling for family newspapers, upsetting videos, and unblinking photographs of men who died in U.S. custody.
Yet, what is most distressing about "Taxi" is not physical acts but psychological ones. What is really appalling is how readily torture was embraced by officials as an absolute necessity and how easy it was for soldiers to, in the words of one, "lose your moral bearings" and become a party to atrocity.
For though the official line out of Washington is still "we do not torture," it's impossible to watch this film -- and hear testimony not just from soldiers but also veteran FBI men and former Bush administration officials -- without coming to understand that torture is exactly what we are engaged in.
"Taxi to the Dark Side's" title has concrete origins. Writer-director Gibney has loosely structured his film around the suspicious death of an Afghani taxi driver named Dilawar. This young man took three passengers on a trip on Dec. 1, 2002, and never returned.
Dilawar ended up at Bagram, a former Soviet air base turned interrogation site for suspected Taliban. Five days after he arrived, he was dead. The press release said it was due to natural causes, but a pair of New York Times reporters, Tim Golden and Carlotta Gall, decided to investigate. What they found out is that the official U.S. death certificate, delivered to Dilawar's parents along with the body, listed the cause of death as "homicide" traceable to beatings he received while in captivity.
Filmmaker Gibney not only talked to the two reporters and Dilawar's family, he also interviewed five clearly haunted soldiers who were put on trial in military court for the man's death. We hear firsthand exactly what they did as well as the circumstances that put unprepared men in interrogation situations with the pressure to produce results but without the written guidelines as to permissible behavior they desperately requested.
Gibney's film is at pains to show where the impetus for this kind of savage behavior began.
Please also ponder a Public Broadcasting Services, Frontline program, The Dark Side. Draw your own conclusions. Consider how humans respond when under stress. Also, contemplate the idea of power, and how, when bestowed upon one titled President or Vice can destroy absolutely.
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