From One Nightmare to Another

I woke up at 5am this morning. I'm not sure how long I was tossing around in bed before that. My sleeping schedule is erratic to say the least. So, I rolled out of bed at 5am and decided to finish watching Zero Dark Thirty, or the Glorification of America's Brave Men and Women Fighting Terror. The snuff scenes had put me to sleep during my first viewing attempt, so I was hoping that the second viewing attempt would also put me to sleep.

Instead, I sat through the whole thing. To be honest, I had already read many reviews about the film -- something I almost never do -- most of them casting the film as an attempt to glorify the War on Terror and justify America's human rights abuses. As I watched the movie, I found myself disagreeing with most of the reviews.

Without going into detail about the fact that the only man who has been prosecuted and gone to prison is the guy who's spoken about torture, I simply could not believe that most reviewers consider Zero Dark Thirty to be torture-apologist, American propaganda. Quite the contrary, I found that the lead male character resembled a typical psychopath: worried about the fate of little animals just minutes before starting a torture session.

The lead female character struck me as a brainwashed career opportunist who only seemed happy and content after boarding a cargo plane all by herself and being told by the pilot that she must be important to have such a privilege. Further, the character is shown coldly pressing for violations of international law and pre-meditated murder based simply on the probability that someone could be an Al-Qaeda operative. The powers that the movie depicts the lead female character as possessing are reminiscent of the KGB's extrajudicial imperatives: no one citizen should have as much covert power.

Indeed, I asked some of my Dutch friends how they felt after watching the movie: "I now have a worse opinion of the US," was the general type of answer I got. The movie only serves to reinforce and defend something that to the average person in a civilized democracy seems appalling. Zero Dark Thirty might be a movie that influences the opinions of someone incapable of sympathizing with "the enemy," but the average Dutch person I speak to is shocked that the US tortured as it did and that such barbaric acts are celebrated and justified in a movie drafted with assistance from Pentagon associated-forces.

Just days ago, an Italian court convicted in absentia 3 CIA agents of kidnapping a man in Milan who was later renditioned to Egypt and tortured. This makes the second European court in under two months that found the CIA guilty of violating international law. After watching the movie, did I feel better at the fact that governments around me are slowly convicting my homeland of crimes usually reserved for third world dictatorships?

There are too many threads in Zero Dark Thirty and many years are haphazardly compressed for chronology's sake to truly convince the viewer that torture was necessary because of urgent national security needs. Though the charming lead female character remains ageless throughout her travails and certainly will appeal to many, the movie is likely to be more useful as anti-American Jihadist propaganda. In one dry scene, two female characters discuss their sex lives, almost as if to convince us that they are loving, liberated women. Kathryn Bigelow should be prosecuted for aiding America's enemies and portraying feminist progress as succeeding in the same capacity for brutality that has traditionally been attributed to males.

I believe that if an American citizen were waterboarded by an unpopular government simply based on suspicion of wrong-doing by a "high-level administration official," there would be no one to defend him or her. We are all more at risk now; If a foreign government decides to use enhanced interrogation methods on one of us for a possibly indefinite period of time, which moral American voice will come out and unhypocritically demand that those foreign officials be held accountable?

Obama will not even entertain the idea of following international law, and a result American citizens are more likely to be targeted for mistreatment. Brazil, for example, is a country that enjoys laws of reciprocity. American citizens are required to pay $100 dollars for a visa and must be fingerprinted upon entry to the South American nation, simply because the US requires the same of Brazilian nationals.

Perhaps not a Brazilian official, but a Russian, will introduce a law called: "The Enhanced Interrogation Reciprocity Act." I certainly would want to spend many cold months in a Brazilian or Russian prison suffering sleep deprivation and enduring stress positions simply for suspicion of connection to an international crime cartel: it's necessary to preserve everyone else's freedoms.