Torture film big hit in US

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

14 January 2013


Zero Dark Thirty, the new release directed by Kathryn Bigelow about the hunt for and targeted assassination of US Public Enemy No 1 – Osama bin Laden – was the top box office draw in the US and Canada this weekend.

According to a BBC report today 14 January 2013, the film took an estimated $ 24 million (nearly £15 million) in its first three days on general release.

As we reported in a tailscript to our post Guantanamera on 11 January 2013, previews suggested that the film empathizes with US military interrogators who used “enhanced interrogation techniques” in an attempt to prise information out of Muslim prisoners.

Today’s BBC report, noting that the film is fact-based, prefers the alternative euphemism “aggressive interrogation methods”.

However, this has been no barrier to the film’s early runaway success in North America.

Last week it was nominated for five Academy Awards.

On Sunday 13 January 2013, at the Golden Globes, its leading lady, Jessica Chastain, was crowned best drama actress.



Here at Antigone1984 we prefer to call a spade a spade, not a shovel. Whether the squeamish call it “enhanced interrogation techniques” or “aggressive interrogation methods”, what we are talking about here is torture plain and simple. It’s part of the traditional western values that we so like to boast about. Like the end justifying the means and so on.

Coincidentally, a point made in an article by Gary Younge in the London Guardian today 14 January 2013, throws some light on the appeal of such a film to Americans:

“According to Christopher Gelpi, a political science professor at Duke University [in North Carolina] who specialises in attitudes to foreign policy, the most important single factor shaping Americans’ opinions about any war is whether they think America will win. Solipsistic, opportunistic and essentially amoral, the tipping point is not human rights abuses, civilian casualties or even the deaths of American servicemen. It’s simply expectations of success. ‘The American public is partly casualty-phobic but it is primarily defeat-phobic,’ says Gelpi.”


We are reminded of the remarks of George W. Bush, US President from 2001 to 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan on 11 September 2001 with the loss of nearly 3000 lives: we are going to get those responsible, he announced, “dead or alive”.

Bush launched a war in central Asia to do just that but failed to bring home the scalp of Osama bin Laden. That trophy was garnered by his successor  Barack Hussein Obama, US President since 2009 : an isolated, ailing and defenceless Osama bin Laden (1957-2011) was shot dead at point-blank range by a team of US Navy Seals at Abbottabad in Pakistan on 2 May 2011, his body subsequently being dumped unceremoniously at sea.

No one in their right mind could approve the slaughter of nearly 3000 innocent people in New York on 11 September 2001. However, according to the rule of law, to which all western societies profess adherence, a person suspected of a crime, however heinous, must be apprehended with the minimum of force and brought before a court of law to answer to evidence-based charges brought against them. Even the Nazi High Command – responsible for far more extensive slaughter than was ever imputed to Osama bin Laden – was accorded the right to a trial in a court of law at Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946.

In the case of Osama bin Laden, however, the procedure was short-circuited. The American President, on behalf of the American people, wanted revenge, not justice. It was the Wild West redux: shoot first and ask questions afterwards. Cowpoke vengeance. High noon in Abbottabad.

From the point of view of the American public, if we are to accept the assessment above by Christopher Gelpi, the assassination of bin Laden hit all the buttons. Basically, they got their man.

It can surely be no coincidence that a film glorifying this episode is being released just now to boost American patriotic morale in an attempt to divert attention from the fact that America and its satellites in the western occupation force are now beginning their long-awaited retreat from the killing fields of Afghanistan where a war lasting more than a decade – longer than the Trojan War – is dragging to a defeatist close with Afghanistan as medieval a society still as it was when they invaded on 7 October 2001 and the Taliban, against whom the war was launched, on the cusp of a victorious come-back. 



 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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