Taxi to the Dark Side

Taxi to the Dark Side

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            So, you’re a prison guard. If you arrest someone, put them in a call, tie them to a chair and beat them with a stick to get them to divulge their evil secrets, then that is considered torture. If you shock them, stab them, hit them, cut them… obviously, that is also all torture. If you force them to stay awake for days on end, or plunge them into cruel sensory deprivation, if you force them to stay standing for 10-40 hours or strip them naked and force them to do sexual things at gunpoint… well, certainly that’s torture too, right?


            Not according to the Bush administration.


            Alex Gibney, who made the wonderful 2005 documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” explores the U.S.’s open sanction – heck, it was a downright embracing – of torture when dealing with imprisoned terrorists. He goes into great detail, trying to explain and understand the reckless use of pain tactics by the U.S. Military. In his delving, he finds a complicated web of miscommunication, implied orders, hair-splitting definitions of “torture,” an outright rejection of Geneva conventions, a downright sinister law passage that pardoned the entire Bush administration for all blame (shifting culpability to the offending soldiers) and, at the center of it all, the tragic story of one Afghan taxi driver who was abducted in 2002, and was tortured to death in a U.S. terrorist prison.


            Not only does the film deal with an important subject – it is something all responsible Americans should know about, the seeming treachery of its leaders, and the tactics we as a Nation are using in a “war” we are ourselves fighting – but Gibney does a great job of collecting real experts (an ex CIA man, an expert in the history of torture, a released etainee), real documents, and real facts, proving to be thorough and honest. He is certainly outraged, and has important political points to make, but shies away from the fiery polemics that make some anti-war documentaries seem like raving. Indeed Gibney, I suspect a democrat, spends some time in his film interviewing republican Sen. John McCain, and his crusade to end torture tactics.


            Why has the Bush administration gotten away with these horrors? Well, by shifting the blame to the soldiers, for one. “Taxi” also points out that Americans’ general pro-war sentiment, inflamed by torture-heavy pop entertainment like “24,” puts people in a frothy, gory state of mind. Watching Jack Bauer do it makes one think that, well maybe torture should be allowed in extreme terrorist cases.


            Problem is, most of the prisoners we have in those prisons were turned over to the U.S. military by roving militias for large rewards. A good percentage (I believe it was around 93) of the people “captured” as terrorists are not guilty of anything. Torture doesn’t work as an information gathering tactic, anyway. Gibney seems to be pointing to an underlying sadism lurking in the shadows of the government. Perhaps it is cruelty, perhaps it is bad decision-making (in the light of the anti-war documentary from earlier in 2007 “No End in Sight,” it’s more likely just really, really bad decision-making), but it’s something that needs to stop.

             Inform yourself, and see this film.

Published in: on February 5, 2008 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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