As promised, Seth Mela and I watched Zero Dark Thirty this afternoon.
NEWS BLOG (WSAU) First of all, it’s not torture. For once, the political class manufactured a phrase that’s accurate. It is indeed ‘enhanced interrogation’. And the bottom line is you need to watch those scenes and decide for yourself.
Zero Dark Thirty presents us with terrorists – bad people – who know information about evil that is being plotted against us. Our CIA interrogators have to get it out of them.
How? A suspect has a large towel placed over his head and a pitcher of water is poured over him – so called ‘waterboarding-lite’. A suspect is shoved into a cabinet about the size of a coffin and is left there in cramped darkness. One is deprived of sleep. Another is subjected to continuous loud music. How effective these methods are is up for debate. Indeed suspects don’t remember specific details when they haven’t slept for four days. Someone might say anything when they’re under duress.
I’m left with two thoughts after seeing Zero Dark Thirty:
First, while I don’t find enhanced interrogation objectionable in theory, I do in practice. I could never do those things to another human being – even if they are terrorists. Admittedly, that makes me morally ambiguous. Like in A Few Good Men, I rise and fall under a blanket of security provided by others and I’m not entirely comfortable with how they go about their business.
Secondly, there are casualties of war within our intelligence community just like there are among combat soldiers. In Zero Dark Thirty some are victims of terror attacks; others are targeted by death squads. And when the lead character, Maya, tells her superior that she’s been tracking Osama Ben Laden for twelve years – and has done nothing else – you sense that she’s all used up when her objective is finally realized. Go back to civilian life? Not likely. Remain constantly on high-alert for the CIA? Impossible. Just like a soldier, our agents pay a high price to serve our country