“As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn’t mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn’t ignore … Bin Laden wasn’t defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation,” – Kathryn Bigelow.
I wish I could say this clears things up. On the one hand, torture wasn’t “the key” to finding bin Laden. On the other, “ordinary Americans fought bravely andsometimes crossed moral lines”. I don’t think you can describe the main torturer in the movie as sometimes crossing moral lines. He was a brutal, sadistic torturer all the time. He never stopped until he was exhausted and broken by the human souls and bodies he broke. But Bigelow does repeat my own partial defense of the film. Artists do not have to produce clarity; their murkiness can be itself an invitation for more involvement in the subject, not less. It also removes any doubt from any rational viewer that the US tortured prisoners – in violation of the Geneva Conventions, domestic law and American values. President Bush lied directly about this and repeatedly. Then this:
As a lifelong pacifist, I support all protests against the use of torture, and, quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind. But I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen.
Does she think that someone like Jane Mayer hasn’t been doing that for years as well? Or the Dish, for that matter? That’s a straw man. And if that’s so vital, why hasn’t Bigelow named names and called Cheney and Bush the war criminals they are. That would help a great deal. Her movie proves it, after all.
I don’t think the movie backs torture, although I have vowed to see it again soon. But I do think Steve Coll’s piece in the NYRB is the best thing I’ve yet read on the subject and shook me to the core. So much so that I reserve the right to change my mind a little if his critique holds up on my second viewing. Read the whole thing.