FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Michael Moore’s Repellent Defense of “Zero Dark Thirty”

Wow!

Michael Moore sure can make up a lot of dialogue for scenes he thinks happened off screen, in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

He freely invents quotes for President Obama, writing words no one else has ever quoted Obama as saying.  Here’s Moore’s Obama, scolding the CIA:

“Go find bin Laden – and don’t use torture. Torture is morally wrong. Torture is the coward’s way. C’mon – we’re smart, we’re the USA … Use your brains (like I do) and, goddammit, get to work!”

Were you writing fiction, Mike, or were you basing your script “on first hand accounts of actual events.”  (The claim of Bigelow and Mark Boal in “Zero.”)  In any case, your made-up dialogue belongs on Saturday Night Live, not in a serious defense of Bigelow and Boal.

Actually, I’d like to believe a scene like the one you wrote did take place, Mike, but it’s more like wishful thinking on your part. After all, what exactly has Obama done to bring these torturing incompetents to justice?

Torture abolitionists aren’t arguing whether or not “Zero Dark Thirty” portrays torture as “effective” (it does, though Bigelow and Boal consistently fudge the point).  We know it’s morally wrong and a crime.  BUT, like it or not, Mike, there are many Americans who are morally uncomfortable with torture, but they accept it as a necessary, “effective,” tool in the “War on Terror.”  If those people learn that torture doesn’t work, they might, eventually, come to condemn it.

Torture abolitionists don’t need you to tell them that arguments about the “effectiveness” of torture can be a trap.  Yes, such arguments can distract us from the real point — Torture is a moral abomination AND a crime.  Torture abolitionists have been making that point for a long time,  since way before Fox’s “24” went on the air (2001), and made Kiefer Sutherland America’s poster boy for torture.

What are the real reasons torture abolitionists are criticizing “Zero Dark Thirty”?

Because the heroine of the film (Jessica Chastain as Maya) and Maya’s mentor Dan, commit a grievous crime — torture — and they are never, ever, condemned for their crimes, and they are never brought to justice. (Please, Michael, don’t say they’re innocent because Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Woo defined many forms of torture as, well, NOT torture.)

Instead of being indicted, these torturers are presented as heroes, as brave and dedicated “detectives.”  No one gives Maya or Dan the kind of scolding, which you envision Obama giving, off-screen.  Chastain’s Maya, is presented as especially admirable, a feminist action hero.  She not only gets her man; she also muscles CIA male chauvinists out of the way, as she pushes ahead on “The Greatest Manhunt in History.”  And we’re supposed to empathize and cheer her on.

But along the way on her quest, she learns the fine art of torture, from Dan.  And she learns fast.  When she’s left alone with their first victim, Ammar, he begs her for help.  Having learned to stop flinching at Dan’s cruelty, she coldly replies, “You can help yourself by being truthful.”

Later, Chastain gets to supervise the torture of her own detainee, Faraj.  She has him punched out, as she shouts, “You’re not being fulsome in your replies!”  Then she has Faraj waterboarded.

We’ve already seen these “enhanced techniques” used on Ammar.  But Chastain’s Maya employs a new one:

She orders a liquid — a thick, brown liquid — to be poured into a funnel which has been forced into Faraj’s mouth and rammed partway down his throat.  Some of this brown liquid will spill from the sides of Faraj’s mouth; some will go into his lungs, the rest, into his stomach.

Sadly, for Maya, Faraj refuses to give up any critical information.  She complains to her mentor about Faraj’s resistance, adding, “And that’s using every measure we have.”  Dan replies, “Either he’s gonna keep withholding, or he’s gonna die from the pressure you’re putting on him.”  Maya then looks hopefully at Dan and says, “Hey, you wanna take a run at him?”  Dan declines, so Chastain has to resume putting “pressure” on Faraj by herself.

We don’t see Chastain torturing Faraj on-screen any more, but, in later dialogue, we learn that her “pressure” has finally killed him.  Her station colleague, Jessica, sees that Maya is frustrated in her quest.  Jessica tries to snap her out of it:  “So Faraj went south on you. It happens.”  With that comment, we learn that Chastain/Maya’s frustration isn’t about Faraj STILL withholding (How many more times did she pour that thick brown liquid down his throat?).  She’s upset because her detainee, still withholding, “went south” on her.  Do you get it, Michael?  Your heroine murdered another human being, in the course of torturing him.  And she is never called to account.

Torture is not a feminist act, and it’s way out of line to imply that Chastain — this gorgeous, murdering CIA thug — is a feminist hero.

Out of line and disappointing.  In “Capitalism, a Love Story,” you interviewed a priest who was based in your home town of Flint.  Memorable scene.  I’d like to know how he would interpret this film’s moral stance on torture.

Because, Mike, torture isn’t a Left-Right thing.  It’s a Good-Evil thing.

Dave Clennon is a long-time actor and political agitator, probably best known for portraying the advertising mogul Miles Drentell on ABC’s  thirtysomething.  His performance as Miles earned him an Emmy nomination.  His more recent projects include Syriana, Grey’s Anatomy and Weeds.  He won an Emmy for his performance in an episode of HBO’s Dream On.  Long-time fans of John Carpenter’s classic The Thing treasure his delivery of the line — after seeing a mind-blowing human-to-monster transformation — “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding.” 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail