By Rich Lowry
The Hendricks County Flyer
Fri Feb 01, 2013, 04:26 PM EST
In "Zero Dark Thirty," CIA characters warn of congressmen coming after them for running the agency's interrogation program. As it happens, they could have said the same thing about making a movie about the agency's interrogation program.
Washington is aghast at Kathryn Bigelow's fantastically compelling new film. "Zero Dark Thirty" isn't really about interrogation, although you could be forgiven for thinking so given all the debate over its scenes devoted to the agency's harsh questioning of detainees after Sept. 11.
Sens. John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, and Carl Levin have panned the movie as inaccurate for suggesting that enhanced interrogation, or what its critics call "torture," helped find Osama bin Laden. Fine. They can slam it all they want. They can give it zero stars on their websites. They can write harsh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. They can urge friends to go see "Silver Linings Playbook" instead.
Where they have shamefully - and pathetically - overstepped their bounds is in using their positions to badger the CIA over its cooperation with the filmmakers. In December, the trio wrote the acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell, two heavy-breathing letters about the movie, demanding in one of them to learn everything the agency told Bigelow and her team. It's as if Bigelow were an agent of a foreign power.
The casual viewer of "Zero Dark Thirty" will find it hard to see what Langley could have possibly revealed that is worth investigating. It is, at the end of the day, another Hollywood movie, even if an exceptionally good one. Did the agency's hierarchy tell Bigelow that the hunt for bin Laden was led almost exclusively by a willowy, gorgeous redhead (the protagonist Maya, played by Jessica Chastain)? That the events leading to bin Laden were easily compressed into a straight-line narrative, punctuated by conveniently cinematic dialogue?
The writer of the screenplay, Mark Boal, compares the letters to the investigations of the 1940s. That is overwrought, but if any other Hollywood production were under bipartisan attack, charges of McCarthyism would be flying thick and fast. If Bigelow were targeted by high elected officials for anything other than making a movie supposedly sympathetic to torture, the Academy would be honoring her as a martyr to the First Amendment.
Bigelow upset the senators and other purveyors of polite opinion by trampling on Washington pieties about interrogation. "Zero Dark Thirty" depicts detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation as providing information - sometimes through their deceptions - that helped the CIA zero in on the man acting as bin Laden's courier.
Boal told Time magazine: "If the general impression you get from this movie is that torture played a role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, that's because that's true. That's a fact. It doesn't mean they had to torture people or that torture is necessary or torture is morally right."
As his comment suggests, the movie is hardly an advertisement for harsh interrogation. It depicts the CIA program as more frankly violent and uncontrolled than it was, confusing it with the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Detainees weren't beaten up. Interrogators didn't waterboard them on the spot for unsatisfactory answers. Even if in reality the CIA program was more antiseptic and bureaucratic than depicted, the movie leaves no doubt that breaking a man is a brutal business.
That's not enough for the amateur film critics of the world's greatest deliberative body, though. They want to believe that we could have waged a shadowy war against terrorist operatives in the deadly urgent circumstances immediately after Sept. 11 without ever making difficult moral choices. For whatever reason, they are fine with flying trained killers to a compound in Pakistan in the dead of night to shoot the place up and bring bin Laden back in a sack. But they can't bear the thought that any of bin Laden's associates suffered coercive interrogations.
In this case - in perhaps a first - it is Hollywood that has the greater appreciation for complexity and moral realism.
(c) 2013 by King Features Syndicate
I am writing this letter to thank and to acknowledge the great and swift job that the Wayne Township Fire Department did, as well as the ambulance, in responding to a medical emergency in our household on May 15.
May 23, 2013
It is worth mentioning that more Americans were killed by the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11, than were killed by the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon.
I hate dog movies. In dog movies, the good, loyal, lovable dog always dies at the end and I end up sitting there in the dark with big tears streaming down my cheeks.
May 21, 2013
Mr. President, the buck stops with you.
President Truman set that standard, with these very words posted on a sign on his Oval Office desk.
But now, with over a thousand days left in this second Obama administration, we find a Nixonian stench emerging from the “W. House.”
Rarely has the White House briefing room so resembled the main ballroom at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
I’ve not kept it a secret that I find people who dress their dogs in clothes to be, to put it nicely, somewhat more than just eccentric. And many friendly, helpful readers out there have not kept it a secret that they really wish I would not express my views about dogs dressed as humans.
May 17, 2013
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.
The federal government recently announced new regulations for buying fast food.
It sounds like the plot from a dystopian libertarian novel. The word “patriot” and the phrase “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights” triggered heightened scrutiny from the most intrusive agency in the federal government.
The action at the bird feeder has been spectacular lately: Cardinals, finches, songbirds in impressive variety crowding around all day long in search of sustenance. It is truly gratifying …
For my neighbor.
That’s what it’s like at his feeder.
May 14, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
Grilling is a simple way to feed your family well this summer. Start with a lean meat and a healthful marinade and then allow the grill to strip away additional fat for a heart-healthy and waist-friendly final result. Plus, grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in foods, which adds flavor without additional calories and fat.
May 24, 2013
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