Kathryn Bigelow’s Torture Movie #1 At Box Office

Zero Dark Thirty

It’s the height of irony that after the CIA illegally destroyed nearly 100 video recordings of torture sessions to avoid being held accountable, the number one movie in American theaters this weekend devotes most of its first hour to a Hollywood re-creation. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty” [Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the film and don’t intend to] turns torture into entertainment:

Those scenes …show terrified, disoriented and bloodied detainees kept awake for days on end by having their arms painfully suspended from the ceilings of secret jails; stuffed into tiny wooden boxes when they don’t cooperate with their inquisitors; and waterboarded on soiled mattresses while interrogators bark questions.

Bigelow ignores both the illegality and immorality of using torture. As if that’s not bad enough, “Zero Dark Thirty” delivers the message that it was CIA torture that led to finding Osama bin Laden’s hiding place in Pakistan. This is factually wrong. The statement “based on first-hand accounts of actual events” is deceptive because it causes the viewer to think the story is accurate, when what it really means is “based on CIA propaganda.”

In reality:

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program concluded that the CIA did not first learn about the existence of the bin Laden courier from CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and that the CIA detainee who provided the most accurate information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.

Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin have requested information and documents related to the CIA’s cooperation in the making of this film, which lies to the American people about one of the most critical issues of the Bush administration: the criminal use of torture by the CIA, for which no one has ever been prosecuted. We know that on many occasions, detainees were tortured to death in secret CIA prisons.

Sony Chairman Amy Pascal tried to refute criticism of “Zero Dark Thirty” by a member of the Oscar voting academy on Friday, saying her studio’s movie “does not advocate torture.” No one has claimed that it does – only that it lies about torture.

UPDATE: Kevin Gosztola on FDL:

[I]t is impossible not to conclude that this film is the kind of production that greatly pleases the national security state especially because it does not question what they do.

…This is the hunt for Bin Laden told with information from officials in government, who have no objection to America’s increased reliance on secret war or covert operations. Bigelow and Boal wanted the information necessary to tell the version of the story that they believed to be true in a way that would garner them high praise. The CIA gave them that while at the same time manipulating them into presenting torture tactics used to create learned helplessness in prisoners as part of the timeline of events that eventually led to Bin Laden. They showed the NSA intercepting communications and the dolly shot past hardware with wires and cords popping out is made completely innocuous and acceptable. A scene shows a video screen with imagery from a drone striking a target and Maya looks on coldly, completely numbed by the lethal use of force.

The filmmakers played their part. They were given access and what Americans are flocking to this weekend is nothing that would alienate the officials they collaborated with and nothing less than a conventional story of revenge on an American enemy.

  1. #1 by brewski on January 13, 2013 - 9:45 pm

    You do understand that it is a movie.

    Do you think that elephants can fly just because you saw it in Dumbo?

    Do you believe fish can talk just like in “Nemo”?

    Do you believe there is some mad scientist who lives inside a volcano who wants to blow up the earth just because it was in a 007 movie?

    Is your post some childish joke?

  2. #2 by Richard Warnick on January 13, 2013 - 10:12 pm

    The movie-makers claim that their film is an accurate representation of events. It is not.

  3. #3 by brewski on January 13, 2013 - 11:13 pm

    Apparently you haven’t seen the film.

    The film shows that the guy was waterboarded, he doesn’t say anything and there’s an attack. It shows that the same detainee gives them some information, which was new to them, over a civilized lunch. And then it shows the [Jessica Chastain] character go back to the research room, and all this information is already there — from a number of detainees who are not being coerced. That is what’s in the film, if you actually look at it as a movie.

  4. #4 by brewski on January 13, 2013 - 11:14 pm

    They did not say it was an actual representation of events. You are making that up.

  5. #5 by Nathan Erkkila on January 14, 2013 - 2:02 am

    How far are people willing to go for revenge? Confucius wasn’t lying when he said to dig two graves for it.

  6. #6 by cav on January 14, 2013 - 7:50 am

    Add the many-threaded ‘blow-back’ tornado, and vengeance is a certainty,

    In 2003, KBR, a contractor with Dick Cheney as a fairy godfather, was in charge of the water treatment center where this chemical had been stored. Cheney had been CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, before becoming vice president. KBR is the government contractor subsidiary of Halliburton.

    Because our military isn’t trained to get oil fields back into production, we hired KBR to do it. Active duty and National Guard members from Indiana, West Virginia, South Carolina and Oregon guarded a facility at Qarmat Ali and contractors working there.

    They were told the chemical was a mild irritant and not to fret.

    In November, a jury found KBR guilty of negligence in the poisoning U.S. soldiers. Twelve members of the Oregon National Guard had brought the suit. Two months ago, PR Newswire reported, ”The soldiers testified they have health problems, including respiratory, skin, gastrointestinal, and lung issues because of the toxic exposure. The trial included videotape testimony of Indiana National Guard Lt. Col. James Gentry, who died in 2009 of lung cancer linked by the Veterans Administration to the sodium dichromate exposure at Qarmat Ali.”

    The evidence showed KBR knew how toxic the chemical was and looked away. A fine of $85 million in damages was levied. More lawsuits are pending.

    Our soldiers endured painful deaths because of the negligence of a company the government hired.

    Can you imagine if “the terrorists” were using chemical weapons on our military? They didn’t have to, KBR beat them to it.

    Here’s the perverse part. KBR wants American taxpayers to pay the $85 million award as well as the $15 million cost of their failed legal defense. As offensive as multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contracts have been to many, we now know just how cronied up the situation is.

    An indemnity agreement protecting KBR from legal liability was included in the 2003 contract to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Its precise terms are secret because it’s considered “classified.” We don’t know what liabilities KBR may yet be able to flip to the American taxpayer.

    Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2013/01/11/2749972/shannyn-moore-war-profiteers-kill.html?fb_action_ids=10151206209848021&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=246965925417366#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

  7. #7 by Richard Warnick on January 14, 2013 - 9:04 am

    There’s no way I’m going to see “Zero Dark Thirty.” Torture is not entertainment for me, it’s why I stopped watching “24” (aka the Fox Festival of Torture). I’m appalled that it’s gotten so much praise and they are selling so many tickets.

    David Edelstein has seen the film, and he writes:

    The torture in Zero Dark Thirty does not take place in a vacuum. For the umpteenth time, it is only through waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc. (as well as a bit of trickery made possible by torture), that the CIA operatives learn of Bin Laden’s courier’s existence — the first mention of the name underscored with portentous low strings to suggest the stirrings of something big. There are still two hours to go in Zero Dark Thirty, but it all leads from that moment.

    I’ve read that the CIA knew about the courier before that particular interrogation even took place. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But in terms of the movie’s narrative, there’s no ambiguity here, folks. None whatsoever. “Enhanced interrogation” got results.

    The uncritical depiction of the CIA in the film is due to the fact they got their information from CIA propagandists. Bigelow claimed “journalistic” accuracy for the movie, even though she is peddling a myth favorable to the government and the CIA torturers who belong in a federal penitentiary.

  8. #8 by cav on January 14, 2013 - 9:14 am

    I find it interesting that these events are put forth as the reason we can now vacate Afghanistan, ending our war there. Nothing at all is ever mentioned about the criminality, lying, imperial ambition, moral and economic mis-judgement that led us there in the first place.

    It’s all Heroes, Mission accomplished bullshit. Never about owning our malicious, immoral and costly fuck-up.

    IOW: Hollywood.

  9. #9 by brewski on January 14, 2013 - 9:33 am

    I’ve seen Schindler’s List. That doesn’t mean I am entertained by genocide.

  10. #10 by Richard Warnick on January 14, 2013 - 9:47 am

    I won’t watch “Schindler’s List” either.

    However, I wish federal prosecutors had been able to watch 100 CIA torture videos that were illegally destroyed.

  11. #11 by cav on January 14, 2013 - 9:53 am

    Among the myriad things I did not know: Napoleon Dynamite featured a character named Uncle Rico.

    I miss U. R

    Serious ‘data-base-erroring’ on my end!
    .

  12. #12 by brewski on January 14, 2013 - 11:42 am

    I watched Long Walk to Freedom. That doesn’t mean I am entertained by apartheid.

  13. #13 by Larry Bergan on January 14, 2013 - 5:30 pm

    brewski seems absolutely giddy about the stupid movie. I don’t plan on seeing it either. You can get all the propaganda you don’t want without paying for it.

    I’ve always been weary of films which try to portray history anyway. The people who make them always admit they had to embellish them to make them more entertaining.

  14. #14 by Larry Bergan on January 14, 2013 - 5:48 pm

    So I get to pay for Cheney’s transgression in poisoning our soldiers.

    How do I get to fight that; sign an internet petition. Those always work SO well. :(

    Loved ” Napoleon Dynamite” and also miss Rico.

  15. #15 by brewski on January 14, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    I don’t detect any giddiness.

  16. #16 by cav on January 14, 2013 - 8:08 pm

    Between KBR’s pre-nup, and ex-AGI’s disaffection, well, they’re just ‘too big to fail’. We’re expected to fail in their stead.
    Another challenge, I hope you’re not growing weary.

  17. #17 by Larry Bergan on January 26, 2013 - 5:50 pm

    Will have to see this movie after all.

    Michael Moore loves it and explains why.

  18. #18 by cav on January 26, 2013 - 6:44 pm

    The First Prison Sentence Related To Gitmo Torture Goes To Someone Who Spoke Out Against It

    http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/01/25/1497571/kiriakou-gitmo-torture/

  19. #19 by Larry Bergan on January 26, 2013 - 7:03 pm

    Blow the whistle and you’ll never work in THIS town again!

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