Taxi to the Dark Side

Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. Alex Gibney
viewed: 03/11/08 at Opera Plaza Cinemas

Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary just a few weeks ago, I’d been reading about Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side in a number of good sources, including The New York Times and The New Yorker, that this was indeed a compelling film.  And compelling it is.

This is another of a recent spate of documentaries that criticize the Bush administration, as it is still in office, over innumerable offences and crimes.  It’s often hard to tell what is perhaps the most brutal and disgusting thing to have arisen from their administration, especially with the breadth of the content of these films.  Taxi to the Dark Side focuses on the authorized use of torture, actively flaunting the the Geneva Convention, by the Bush administration in regards to terrorists (or suspected terrorists) since September 11, 2001.

The story focuses on a specific murder, which the killing was classified by a military autopsy, of a young Afghani taxi driver who was captured by a militia and turned into Bagram prison, which turned out to be a training ground for military prisons, particuarly Abu Grhaib.  Prisoners and hung by their wrists in forced standing positions for 20 hours a day, kicked, waterboarded, humiliated…all in the interest of “interrogation”.

Gibney points out the the soldiers on the field are given little guidance or training, and acted very much on orders that came down from the very top.  Of course, it is those soldiers who are ultimately courtmartialed and punished for these crimes, while the senior officers and officials keep climbing the ladders of their offices.  Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney John Yoo are all severely complicit in the actions of these people.

Yoo is an interestingly evil character, a consumate lawyer, who helped pen the missives and orders in ways that via vagueries and legalese, comprise nothing clear, nothing that one could simply and easily pin on them as “torture”.  It is the way that language is used and abused to escape clarity, hiding behind documents whose intent is to hide intent.  Yoo is the scribe of evil.

The taxi driver, Dilawar, is murdered by his capturers, the U.S. government.  His legs are pulverized.  He was also innocent.

The film goes into Guantanamo, the Kafkaesque holdings of prisoners, whose tortures were developed in these aforementioned prisons, who have no access to legal counsel and are held with vague, if never stated crimes.  There is a statistic quoted that as few as 5% of the detainees have ever been tied directly to terrorist activities.

Of course, this is the greatest of hypocrisies.  Not only does it show that the U.S. goverment is medieval in their practices, but the argument of protecting “freedom” is being defined by absolutely tearing it away from other people.  What the Bush administration has enacted is the opposite of American ideals.  They are true terrorists, and after this film, I would hope that the U.N. would seek the administration out for war crimes.

It’s the kind of thing that makes you wish there was a hell.  And those who have enacted these tortures should be punished perhaps under their own auspices.

It’s sickening, really.

As a film, I still consider No End in Sight (2007) a better constructed documentary.  But the focal point of torture,…is disgusting.  And deeply, deeply disturbing.  And as for John McCain, who suffered torture in a Vietnam POW camp, who endorses the government’s use of waterboarding…that is a huge chink out of the armor of his integrity.

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