No this is not a movie review, actually I hope people will not suuport, by going and see this movie. It is a disgrace that this movie was even nominated for “best picture”. No I am not squeamish about violence, but I am concerned about the message it sends out about glamorising torture and the complete violation of international law. I strongly believe in the implementation of consistent international law.
But then this movie is a perfect barometer to the moral state of the US and the world. The name, 30 minutes past Midnight, is the perfect analogy of the darkness that America morally finds itself in. No I am not an America-basher, I don’t hate America. America has done a lot of good and made the world a better place, at least I believed that. But that was up until about 2 decades ago when the US was starting to lose it’s moral compass. Since then a number of countries in ruin, and no real progress to show for it.
The big problem is very simple and that is that the West has gone mad. If you ever wondered how Germany could have fallen so far during WWII, wonder no more as the same is happening to the West. We expected the German soldiers to stood up for what was right, and contrary to public believe many Germans did and they also paid the ultimate price for it. Now that the boot is on the other foot, do we see large numbers of American soldiers standing up for what is right? No we don’t. Every sacrifice that was made in the past to make this a better world was in vain.
A number of Middle Eastern countries decimated. They had dictators, but except for Afghanistan that was a mess to start with, all the other countries were functional to a large extent. Now its chaos, with torture and killing common place and just turned into a military playground for the Western powers.
I grew up in an era where the Nuremburg trials were still guiding people’s thoughts. Some say the trials were a “victors justice”, others saw them as a moral victory. What the trials clearly did was to lay out what was acceptable conduct and what not. Torture was outlawed, actually it was already outlawed by the Geneva convention (even much earlier). We all knew it was the totalitarian states that torture, the “West” did not torture, after all the West had “truth serum”. In movies we had a henchmen from some totalitarian state, putting the head of a resistance fighter in a bucked of water and hold the person under just long enough not to drown. We looked on that as despicable, not even to mention the beatings. How can a human do such things to another, many thought? That was unfortunately a different era, when people still felt compassion.
Now a couple of decades on we are in an era where people have no objection to torture. The CIA openly boasts about how they torture people. They helped in making this film and describe in clear detail how they go about it. Long gone are days of the cover-up tales of playing “Barmy’s theme” songs to war prisoners and making noises with a drill close to the prisoners head. Apart from a few politicians that object, mainly John McCain, nobody cares. The big demonstrations for civil liberties and anti-war from the 60’s and 70’s are gone, actually all in vain. It’s now all about personal self interests and issues really meant to take people’s mind of what is really important.
On the positive maybe nothing really changed, we have just reached a point of honesty. The US might just be honest about things they were actually doing all the time. After all, the Allies did torture in and after WWII. “Truth serum” was just a big lie; German officers were rounded up and beaten just as the victors perceived they beat people in the war. Torture on the allied side in Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, 1ste and 2de Iraq war were widespread.
However the difference for me is that torture was seen as revolting, not a good thing. Today torture gets glamorised. Vietnam had the largest civilian casualties of all wars since WWII. However even during the Vietnam era, with all its excesses of human and civilian casualties; when some of the atrocities in Vietnam came to light, there were massive public outcry and resistance. Now we are so far in moral darkness, a country can openly admit torture, even boast about it and making a movie. Our societies are so obsessed with their own self; public outcries are for bike lanes and banning bottled water and baby formula; we have to force everybody to breast feed. All issues are about self-interests and telling other individuals how to run their lives.
The photo that mobilised a nation, the one of the Vietnamese girl running away from her burning village, her clothes ripped off by Napalm; if today published as an Afghan or Iraqi girl, nobody will flinch one bit. The media outlets probably won’t even print it, because it won’t create enough interest; nobody will care enough to read the article.
Back to the honesty factor; honesty is good. We have gone from “truth serum” to “enhanced interrogation” where Barny’s theme song was played to detainees and well maybe a drill was held close to a detainees head. O yes and they don’t let the prisoners sleep off course. We had to believe these techniques will just let a hardened enemy fighter spill all his/her secrets. It is absurd that people actually believed that. Now at least we know. Have we just reached a level of some honesty at least? Maybe we have.
Abu Ghraib was described as a complete once off. The guards there punished and all good. I am not sure if they were punished for torture or for taking photos, but lets leave it at that. The corpses that arrived at Abu Ghraib from somewhere else, well that was just from somewhere else and never talked about again.
Today we know better, there were corpses all over the place. At any one time more than 20000 Iraqis were detained without trial, dragged from their houses in the middle of the night. It was the age old tactic of eliminating men of fighting age and intimidating the society. Torture was rife and with even a special torture centre set up in Guantanamo Bay. The thing with torture, apart from very dubious information and a lot of innocent people caught up in it is that every now and then somebody goes to far and a person is killed. Hence the bodies that keep arriving at Abu Ghraib from “somewhere else”.
Many detainees got caught up in the system on very obscure evidence. A child-soldier that thrown a hand grenade, many others not even combatants but just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The system was justified to catch the hardened international terrorist for which normal legislation is inadequate. These guys were supposed to slip through all the legal loopholes and can mastermind terrorism on a global scale. However many (maybe most) that ended up in the US torture system were clearly local foot soldiers, rural Afghans, people with completely no international terrorism capability, people the Geneva Convention set out to protect. In some cases a simple phone call would have proven innocence, common sense even, but something that could have taken 10 minutes to clear dragged on for months even years, that is months and years in a torture jail. The incompetence is exceptional.
But nobody cares. A new iPhone release gets considerable more attention than the fact that President Obama did not close Guantanamo Bay as he promised 4 years ago. It was a direct campaign promise that was broken, but nobody held him accountable. Obama got a Nobel peace price in anticipation of the “change” he was about to bring to the war torn world. Four years later nobody even remembers they wanted change.
For the last four years US politicians were bickering about the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison camp. At a point it housed over 700 people, today it is probably more of a symbol of an era the US would like to forget, however still dozens of people are locked up there without trial. Dozens locked up, of which only a handful are international terrorists. The once eye-sore for the “moral” leader of the 1st world is now forgotten. The country that preaches to China about Tibet and jail African war criminals, always pointing a finger at Russia; this country cannot close it’s own torture centre. Nazi soldiers are still being prosecuted to this day, but the US has not come to acknowledge Vietnam, they refuse to extradite their own war criminals to Italy and Germany to stand trial for kidnapping and torture under the rendition program.
Many have fought hard to remove injustices in past decades, South Africa is an example. At the same time previous era policemen ask for amnesty, torture and rights violations escalate in countries that were formally so critical. The critique on Apartheid was good; it is just such a pity the countries so critical of South Africa cannot now live up to their own standards.
Dark zero thirty, glamorous poster girl, sunglasses, all the electronic gadgets, black military uniforms with padding and pockets, red LED’s and lasers, stylishly positioned, maybe I am overdoing on the adjectives, but the point is we are all so swept away with this cool image. We look at the torture and its all “justified” by national security, no flinch, all good, so cool. We forgot that we held soldiers from other totalitarian regimes accountable for doing the exact same thing against their enemies.
Many would say the end justifies the means, plus the emotional blackmail; “it’s all about security to make you safer”. Apart from the nauseous feeling every time I hear that, is it even true? After more than a decade of war, is the world a “safer” place. Did the torture uncover much – John McCain say no it did not. They got their information via other means. More alarmingly in a recent UN vote on the “observer state status” for Palestine America stood very alone, with a few allies in Israel and some Pacific Islands, poor Canada, in all 9 against 138. 41 abstained. For a quick gain by ignoring human morals, the US can pay a lot more in loss of credibility and political influence. The human and moral option is not necessary the impractical “goody to shoes” weak option, the price for ignoring what is right can cost a nation considerable more for many years to come. In short no, quick “gains” on the short term do not justify the means.
The quick gain through military aggression, torture and cover up with glamour girls and wrapping it up in a “cool” hyped military package, will fool some, but it will wear thin very quickly and people will most probably look back in absolute distain to this era.
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