UNTHINKABLE

Hermann Göring

UNTHINKABLE

I recently watched one of those movies that went straight to disc as they say. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unthinkable

Only this straight-to-DVD flick featured real stars including Samuel L. Jackson and Carrie-Ann Moss.

Jackson is part of a secret team of government interrogators that will use all means necessary to break down a suspected terrorist in order to uncover some immediate danger to the public.

Moss is with some FBI unit involved in interrogation.

Now it has always been my opinion that torture is as American as apple pie.

There is rarely a movie that issues these days without scenes involving torture or at least the threat of torture.

Reservoir Dogs contains one of the scariest examples of torture that I have ever witnessed and the torturer was not even attempting to extract information from the victim. If you recall the victim was a cop.

Jackson takes torture as a government- sanctioned device to new heights.

The Muslim terrorist is strapped to a chair with his arms, hands and fingers extended.

This jihadist had made a video claiming that he had manufactured three nuclear bombs, placing them in three different urban centers.

They were set to go off within days following the taping.

Some twenty million lives are at stake.

So Samuel L. has his work cut out for him and he is never one to shrink from heavy responsibility.

He begins the interrogation by cutting off a finger.

He continues by pulling out finger nails.

The Muslim is attached to an electrical device and he receives the equivalent force of a lightning bolt.

The discipline of the victim is incredibly Zen. It comes out that he has planned even his own torture.

The torture cannot work against such a force of will.

The jihadist’s wife is brought into the interrogation room and sliced open with a knife.

Finally, two children are brought into view and the animal breaks down and discloses the three separate locations of the weapons.

This brings into the light of day an issue; the issue of life and death.

Tragedy is an art form. The hero of any tragedy is faced with choices that are abominable. And the hero of any tragedy is damned if he does and damned if he does not.

True tragedy is not a roof falling on the heads of worshippers in a collapsing church.  The truly tragic figure would be the fellow who planted the bomb that caused the collapse.

Or the contractor who cut corners when the roof was originally constructed in order to make more money.

Jackson is therefore a tragic character in the truer sense of the dramatic hero.

This all reminded me of Harry S. Truman.

Bomb two cities into oblivion. Destroy the lives of tens of thousands of people; mostly innocent people. And do all of this mayhem in order to prove a point and end a war and proclaim America as THE only true world power.

And Harry never had to get his hands dirty!!

I have no doubt that if the Ruskies had made this decision our school texts would read much differently than they do today.

In the film, which I believe never made it into theaters because of political concerns, Jackson’s character demonstrates how far torture can be taken.

He seriously considers torturing and killing the children right in front of the terrorist.

The give and take between the FBI agent and the torturer makes for some pretty good dialogue.

We become no better than the terrorists, Moss’ character would note.

The lives of 20 million people are at issue here, Samuel L. would respond.

Torture does not lead to trustworthy information, she notes.

Then why have humans used torture as a tool to extract truth for ten thousand years, he retorts.

The utilitarian argument wins the day.

Wiki tells me that the extended version of this film posits that there are four bombs instead of three and a huge portion of some undisclosed urban center will be destroyed along with hundreds of thousands of people. (This is alluded to in the film I saw but the question looms following the suicide of the jihadist.)

There were other features in the dialogue which brought to mind the book by Ron Suskind entitled   The_One_Percent_Doctrine

The lead member of the interrogation team in the movie kept noting that the threats made by the jihadist in the video must be taken seriously, even if there was only a one percent chance that he had not been making the entire drama up.

Cheney was the ‘creator’ of the One Percent Doctrine in the book.

Today, after musing about this film for some time, I came across this article at Harpers:

In 1994, when I chaired the Security Council Commission to Investigate War Crimes in the former Yugoslavia, I reported at a press conference on the mass rape policy as part of ethnic cleansing. A journalist asked if the estimated figure of 20,000 was good news insofar as prior journalistic reports put the number of estimated rape victims at 50,000. My answer was that one is too many, especially when it is part of an “institutionalized policy.” It is a fundamental moral question, and we must reject any relativism and comparisons with other regimes as a way of determining the criminality of the conduct in question.

Having said that, the numbers are quite staggering. It is not only the 820 or so Guantánamo detainees, and those that were outsourced through the euphemistically called “extraordinary rendition,” but also the estimated 150,000 persons who have gone through physical mistreatment and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 9 years. To exempt those in the Bush Administration who are criminally responsible only on the basis that there aren’t too many people who have been tortured, or because among them are some who would cause us harm if they could, is immoral and illegal. Our Constitution makes us a government of laws and not of opportunistic or selective choice of what laws to obey or not.

2. The Spanish Audiencia Nacional issued an interim decision last year concluding that the “intellectual authors” of the Bush torture program should be the focus of criminal investigations. It defined that group to include Alberto Gonzales, Douglas Feith, William J. Haynes II, Jay Bybee, John Yoo and David Addington. From a prosecutorial perspective, is it correct to focus the case on the lawyers, and particularly those who issued advice inside the Justice Department?

A prosecutorial decision in Spain based on universal jurisdiction of the U.N. Anti-Torture Convention must necessarily focus on the makers of the criminal policy as opposed to individual perpetrators. This type of prosecutorial policy is followed by the International Criminal Court as well as other international tribunals because it is impossible for these tribunals to prosecute all perpetrators of international crimes. That is different from what has to occur in states where crimes have taken place. United States criminal laws and military laws do not provide for this type of discretionary and selective prosecution. The Attorney General, U.S. Attorneys, and the military justice system cannot focus exclusively on senior policy-makers while ignoring other lower-level perpetrators. There is, nevertheless, some prosecutorial discretion

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2011/02/hbc-90007961

So American officials can put on a show in Nuremburg or in the former Yugoslavia almost fifty years later.

And we can sit in our easy chairs pontificating about good and evil.

Dennis Farina in a Law & Order episode shoves a suspects head in a toilet and places his hand gun in the wet felon’s mouth in order to extract some information concerning the location of a kidnapped girl.

I always love Farina anyway and the scene made me laugh. Hahahaha

I just had the idea that Farina in fact extracted the location using a toilet and a gun but would not have fared so well if he had attempted to use a sandwich and a beer.

We attempted to follow certain guidelines as far as our POW camps during the big war hoping that the enemy would follow these guidelines with regard to its POW camps. International pacts concerning this issue have borne good fruits.

Herman Goring complained that the festivities of Nuremberg involved the winner further punishing the loser and that morality had nothing to do with any of it.

With the exception of a few executions, the defendants were  released within a few years of their conviction.

They say: Do not judge lest ye be judged.

I know that if I was in some Afghanistan hell-hole and I was interrogating a suspect concerning the location of my military brothers and sisters; I would not be using a sandwich and a beer as my tools of extraction.

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12 thoughts on “UNTHINKABLE

    1. Outsourcing torture. Somebody used that phrase recently and here it was in an essay by this mediator.

      I knew something about the Turkish prisons. But 150,000 tortured in our war zones?

  1. MSNY

    You know, I am embarrassed to say that I was watching V a few weeks ago and there was a disturbing scene in which the Humans (the good guys) tortured a V (the bad guys) to gain information.

    The only way to gain information was to skin her alive – a very painful and ultimately deadly procedure. But not only did they torture her, they resigned themselves to the fact that she would die as a result. So, they gave her an option; Talk and be given a sedative so that she could die quickly and peacefully, or resist and be given a stimulant so that she would more fully feel the pain before she died and be more inclined to talk.

    Ok. Just a crappy TV show, right?

    My problem is; have we become so accepting of the concept of torture that not only do we accept it as a legitimate tool for interrogation, but we have also accepted that murdering someone for information is ok?

    I’m not advocating having a pizza party in hopes of coaxing information, but since Waterboarding has been reduced to simple ‘enhanced interrogation’ what is the limit?

    1. Every single dramatic show on tv either demonstrates some sort of torture or the threat thereof.

      I mean John Wayne threatened violence every single time he wish to gain something.

      We grew up with this and so the repubs through ‘neocons’ knew which side the American people were on with regard to this issue.

      How does one undo a century of TV and radio propaganda?

      1. MSNY

        Yeah, but there was at least the feigning of a moral dilemma included. There was always someone who would say; “Hey, we’re American’s we don’t torture” or “We’re better than that.” That’s all gone now.

      2. I remember a few seasons ago when the show ’24’ started up and I watched it a few times. It wasn’t long before torture became a theme. I was surprised to see it at the time. I couldn’t recall mainstream programming being that way. In retrospect, that it was on Fox, feels about right.

  2. Excellent post, Dick. I really don’t have anything to add because you, and everyone who’s commented, have basically said it all. Alan’s post as well.

    So…I’ll just take that sandwich and beer, and pray for peace while I enjoy them. Thanks.

  3. Hearts of Darkness by Henry A. Giroux

    Publisher Comments:
    The United States embarked on a war on terror that defended torture as a matter of official policy and furthered an already emergent culture of cruelty. As torture became normalized in the Bush era, it not only corrupted American ideals and political culture, it also passed over to the dark side in sanctioning the unimaginable and unspeakable: the torture of children.The book documents cases of child torture by American military personnel, several of which are little known to Americans from the media.Although the rise of the torture state has been a subject of intense controversy, this is the first book to examine how state violence under the auspices of the war on terror infected not only political discourse but also a cultural consciousness that enabled the systemic abuse of children. Giroux raises serious challenges the Obama administration must address in light of this shameful period in American history if it wants to reverse such policies and make a claim for restoring democratic culture. But this challenge is not only one for the upper reaches of government. He also raises questions about the collusion of the media, educators, the criminal justice system and other groups and institutions that have allowed the conditions to emerge that have made the unspeakable act of torturing children a matter of state policy–and what can be done to avoid such acts from ever being repeated.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9781594518263

    1. cmaukonen

      A media that genuflects to the administration, which ever one it maybe, for added exposure and a better bottom line is no better than one that is controlled by the government. It in fact is worse as it gives the illusion of impartiality while still paying homage to it.

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