Taxi To The Dark Side


Alex Gibney's new documentary on the legalization and authorization of torture by the Bush administration debuts this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival. See the trailer here. It's a well-crafted piece of work and a devastating exposure of the denial that still runs rampant in some quarters about what has actually been done in the name of the American people these past few years. Longtime readers of this blog know all too well many of the details - but this film does what a parasitic blog cannot, and what even all the innovative reporting on the subject has not yet been able to do. It puts it all together. It represents a moment in this war when we can actually stop and look back from rising ground, and see how far we have come from the civilized norms of warfare that the United States represented in the last century. Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld tore off that civilized veneer and repudiated that long and honorable history. From the details of approved interrogation techniques replicated by scapegoats at Abu Ghraib to the self-conscious attempts to dissemble and deceive about the Rubicon we've crossed to the simple facts of the percentage of captives at Gitmo who were actually seized by U.S. forces - a small fraction of the total - you see conscious, orchestrated sadism at work. It's a film that enrages and shocks. But it has all been in front of our noses.

I watched the whole thing intently and quietly to the end. But its final coda contains a small clip of Gibney's late father, a longtime military interrogator, and his views on what has been done to his honorable profession by the Bush White House. Alone, it made me weep. It struck a chord that still resonates: of one thing mainly, and one thing still unavoidably. Shame. Almost unspeakable shame.

(Full disclosure: Alex Gibney's brother, James, is my colleague at the Atlantic and was once a colleague at The New Republic. Photo: a detainee cell at Abu Ghraib under president George W. Bush, commander-in-chief.)