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Film Advances the Debate on Torture
'Taxi to the Dark Side' depicts the cruel realities of the 'war on terror'
Benjamin Terrall (bterrall)     Print Article 
Published 2008-02-25 04:50 (KST)   
©2008 THINKFilm
"Taxi to the Dark Side" is a chilling documentary that shows the ugly truth behind President Bush's statement that "one by one the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice."

The film begins by describing the hardscrabble life of a young Afghani named Dilawar. Hailing from a family of peanut farmers, Dilawar began driving a taxi as a way to earn extra income. Unfortunately for him, the US military believe a warlord who claims that three of Dilawar's passengers were responsible for rocketing US troops (later it turned out that the warlord himself was the guilty party).

Picked up along with his customers, Dilawar is taken to Bagram Detention Center on Dec. 5, 2002. There he is beaten to death by US soldiers. Chained to the roof of his cell, his legs were pummeled so severely that they would have had to be amputated if he had lived.

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Filmmaker Alex Gibney (who also made the excellent Enron expose "The Smartest Guys in the Room") managed to interview a number of the personnel responsible for interrogating Dilawar and shows that the tragic ending to the Afghani's case was a consequence of the culture of severe retribution pushed by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Gen. Richard Myers is shown saying, "It was only the night shift. There's always a few bad apples." But Damien Corsetti, a soldier who specialized in intimidation, says otherwise.

In the film, Corsetti states, "The brass knew. They saw them shackled and hooded, and they said, 'Right on! Y'all are doing a great job.'"

(Another interrogator at Bagram later recalled, "People were aware of what we were doing because we were open with lots of higher-ups and officials coming through. But the common response we got was, 'Aren't you kind of babying them?'")

Corsetti learned interrogation techniques from watching those he replaced, and was told, "Soldiers are dying, get the information."

Another soldier states in the film that he was told to "do anything you can to get the information We were also told 'they're nothing but dogs.'"

Meanwhile, back in the US Cheney told a gung-ho Tim Russert: "We have to work the dark side, if you will. We're going to spend time in the shadows." Consequently, the Bush administration's legal lackey John Yoo dutifully drafted language that gave Bush "executive privilege" that overrode those pesky Geneva Conventions.

As retired US Navy Rear Adm. John Hutson tells Gibney: "What starts at the top of the chain of command drops like a rock down the chain of command."

The film moves from Afghanistan to Iraq (after Dilawar's death, Capt. Carolyn Wood, who oversaw interrogations at Bagram, was transferred to do the same at Abu Ghraib), and paints a grim picture of incarceration at Guantanamo Bay.

Alfred McCoy, author of the authoritative history "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror," explains that the infamous orange suits, complete with gloves and hoods, worn by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are in line with long-standing CIA use of sensory deprivation techniques to break prisoners.

McCoy argues that the normalization of torture in mass entertainment like the Fox TV show "24" has helped pave the way for widespread acceptance of the practice.

In another on-camera interview, a lawyer for the Guantanamo detainees points out that in hundreds of years there has never been a documented case where the "ticking time bomb" justification for torture, replayed on virtually every episode of "24," saved even one life.

Further, an FBI agent who prior to the 9/11 attacks had collected valuable information on al-Qaida without resorting to torture argues that anyone who was part of a terror operation that involved a bombing would probably be ready to die and take any secret information with him or her rather than give it to a torturer.

"Taxi to the Dark Side" is now playing in theatres across the United States.

It was disturbing news indeed when, after purchasing broadcast rights for this excellent film, The Discovery Channel decided it would be too "controversial" for their television network. Thus it is a welcome turn of events that HBO purchased the rights from Discovery and will broadcast it in September.

Anyone voting in the coming US presidential election certainly needs to see this movie before doing so.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Benjamin Terrall

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