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Actor David Clennon Responds to Bigelow's Recent Defense of ZD30

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Ammar, is tortured for many months.  Finally, after 96 hours of sleep-deprivation, he is taken out of his cell, in a black hood and chains, and led to a shaded area outside.  The hood is removed, one of his legs is chained to a table and Dan and Maya offer him food.  They try to employ trickery to get Ammar to give them the identities of the fighters he was travelling with before he was captured.  They tell him that after 96 hours without sleep, he gave them the names of some of his comrades. In his dazed state Ammar can't remember that moment.  Dan and Maya may have planted seeds of self doubt.  But when Maya, following up, asks, "Who's the 'we' in that sentence," Ammar answers, "Me, and some other guys, who were hanging around at that time."  That sarcastic non-answer is Ammar's last act of resistance, because in the next instant, Dan says, calmly, casually, "Y'know I can always go an' eat with some other dude -- hang ya back up to the ceiling."  Ammar pauses for three seconds and then gives Maya and Dan the names of three of his companions.  Trickery by itself -- a "non-coercive" technique -- fails.  The effects of severe torture, AND the unambiguous threat of even  more torture, shatter Ammar's resistance, and he gives up the critical information. 

Torture plays the key role in extracting a key piece of information.  

Bigelow: That doesn't mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden.  It means [torture] is a part of the story we couldn't ignore. War, obviously, isn't pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences.

But that's  exactly what she and Boal do. There are  no moral consequences in "Zero Dark Thirty."  The immoral, criminal acts of Dan and Chastain's Maya never bring any moral consequences.  And their crimes have no legal consequences.

In the next paragraph, Bigelow moves on, waving the red-white-and-blue, to the refuge of patriotism:

In that vein, we should never discount and never forget the thousands of innocent lives lost on 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks. We should never forget the brave work of those professionals in the military and intelligence communities who paid the ultimate price in the effort to combat a grave threat to this nation's safety and security.

The human rights and anti-torture movement is unlikely to "discount" or "forget" the appalling tragedy of 9/11.

Bin Laden wasn't defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they  sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation.

Bigelow's phrasing, " sometimes crossed moral lines" is a chilling euphemism for " sometimes committed criminal acts of extreme cruelty."

The "ordinary Americans" cited by Bigelow may have thought they were giving "all of themselves," in "defense of this nation."  But many of us, who work to end torture and other abuses of human rights, sense that the world is a more dangerous place now, because of the ugly behavior of the real-life models for Jessica Chastain's character and her CIA colleagues.
 
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David Clennon is a long-time actor and political agitator, probably best known for portraying the advertising mogul Miles Drentell on ABC's thirtysomething. His more recent projects include Syriana, Grey's Anatomy and Weeds.  After Jessica Chastain won Zero Dark Thirty's only Golden Globe award, Clennon commented, "Right now, like it or not, she's the face of American torture.  (Like Kiefer Sutherland was, a few years ago.)  If the Academy votes her an Oscar, it's going to look to the world like we still tolerate this vicious, criminal behavior.  It's sad, but sometimes, it's not just a movie.  And it's not just a job."

 

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