Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Historical Legacy -- "Zero Dark Thirty": A Review

I saw Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's docudrama "Zero Dark Thirty" about the US operation which found and killed Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbatbad, Pakistan.  I was mesmerized by the action of this film and sat jaw and white knuckled fists clenched.  2/1/2 hours, the film’s length, seemed to go by in minutes.  One cannot appreciate the expertise involved, the courage, and the fierce dedication required to find and kill bin Laden until one sees it or at least an accurate depiction of it.
I gave the docudrama film a 9 out of 10 star review on IDMB. I did not give it 10 stars because there have been critiques of most especially the torture scenes shown in the beginning of the film that I think need to be resolved but, perhaps, never will be.  The filmmakers aver that all information they used for the film was based on the truth as they discovered and documented it.  They take nothing back. 
To use torture or not to use it – that is the profound question.  Some say torture led to the revelation of Bin Laden’s courier which led to the finding and killing of bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Glenn Greenwald on the left thinks the depiction of torture was utterly disgusting and the film, he argued, portrayed the false notion that torture leads to the revelation of pertinent terrorist information and further betrays our country’s allegiance to its fundamental civil libertarian principles.  Those on the right have argued that classified material was breached, that the US did not torture but that torture is, indeed, an effective tool for attaining information on those who would do us grave harm which otherwise would go unknown without it.  Many who are much more knowledgeable than I about the details of the operation know the truth but according to Wiki with respect to the all important name of the courier who led them to bin Laden the CIA “will not disclose the name nor how they learned it.”

Are the details of the film absolutely accurate with respect to torture? Did the US use torture which included water-boarding and SO much more to extract the name of bin Laden’s courier leading directly to where Bin Laden was hiding?  The Bush administration we know, by admission, that so called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were permissible. Did the information gleaned from torture in fact lead to the name of bin Laden's courier which led directly to bin Laden's capture and killing in Abbottabad, Pakistan?  I do not know.

No matter what the veracity is concerning these questions, however, the technological expertise of this film is a thing to behold.  I am amazed that the filmmaker took such pains, I believe, to get the details correct AND I am awestruck by the nerves of steel those who were involved in the planning of the historic operation possessed. I am awestruck at the US military personnel who had the courage and the meticulous expertise to conduct it. Ultimately, though, it needed the order from the president to proceed. He gave it. Although the film showed nothing of the president one knows, in the final analysis, if the mission failed the president would have been media pummeled and, perhaps, would have even lost re-election. 
But there are other due process questions the film evokes.  How could a president who was a constitutional scholar heavily invested in Fourth Amendment due process allow those who practiced torture previously a pass from prosecution and further how could he use the newly-signed-by-him defense re-authorization act which expands executive power dramatically. It allows the president to conduct, without warrant, without presentation of evidence or trial, drone killings of suspected terrorists given to him on a daily list including the killing of one American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.  Why would the president change so dramatically on these issues? Is he simply securing power?  Does he think the legacy he is leaving is one of seeming bipartisanship? Does he do this to still try beyond the limits of credulity to reach out to the other side which slaps him back continuously? Is he simply duplicitous or does he know he must appease the military industrial complex corporatists or else?
I do not know the answer to these questions.  BUT I often think the easiest explanation is the correct one.  I believe the ball must be played where it lies disregarding previous policy decisions, horrible as they may have been, that led up to 9/11. What is at risk on the ground in the Middle East NOW? The Middle East and Al Qaeda which is strewn throughout it are no panacea of civil libertarian ideological purity.
What would YOU do?  Do you want this nation with all of its flaws nonetheless to survive? Do you want your posterity to live? There is a point, I suspect, of no return. We must act on what is. I think and I surely hope the president, a civil libertarian scholar to be sure, WILL be faithful to his oath and protect the nation from all enemies foreign and domestic above anything else. I hope history will record it as such.  I leave it to others much more qualified than I to judge. 
In the final analysis, I do NOT know what the president truly thinks but the questions surrounding prosecution for torture, extra judicial killing, warrantless wiretapping are pivotal to our nation’s historical legacy and I fear their abridgment may haunt it for generations to come. 

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