Skip to comments.America's moral dilemmas exposed in 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Posted on 02/13/2013 2:55:28 PM PST by robowombat
America's moral dilemmas exposed in 'Zero Dark Thirty' What is the true price of the War on Terror? Tuesday, February 12, 2013 By Brendan Malone
The new Kathryn Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty, which explores the manhunt and eventual assassination of Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan in 2011, has been criticised in some quarters as a piece of unthinking American triumphalism that seeks to justify torture and other violence. I don't understand these criticisms. I suggest that the exact opposite is true, in that this movie unflinchingly exposes the reality of what the hunt for bin Laden, and what eventually took place in that Abbottabad compound at zero dark thirty on 2 May 2011 has caused America to become.
The overwhelming message that I took away from this excellent film is that America has lost its way and has now become the very thing that it has sought to eradicate in its war on terror: a vengeful entity driven by the misguided belief that the end justifies the means, and that violence and war will bring order to the world.
Yes, Zero Dark Thirty does feature scenes of torture, but these scenes most definitely do not glamorise such unethical acts; far from it. The opening sequences actually confront America (probably for the first time on such a scale) with the reality of how human beings are treated during the process that is now colloquially referred to as "enhanced interrogation techniques".
These opening scenes of the film are technically crafted in such a way as to elicit viewer sympathy for the detainee, and not those carrying out the torture. What many people watching this film seemed to have missed is the powerful symbolism in the actions of the lead character Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, during those first few scenes.
Maya is quite clearly meant to represent post-9/11 America. She is driven by an overwhelming obsession to see Osama bin Laden hunted down and punished, and this desire is all consuming, to extent of defining who she is. At one point in the film she is asked by the director of the CIA what else she has done apart from working to catch Osama bin Laden since joining the security agency. She stridently replies, "Nothing. I've done nothing else."
During those first few scenes of torture, Maya is initially troubled by what she sees, but then she quickly agrees to go along with these unethical actions because of the impatience that her blind obsession to get revenge for 911 has created within her.
Maya is America, and America is Maya.
Ultimately, this sacrificing of American principles, which begins with violent acts of torture justified in the name of ending terrorism, ends with an even more violent and unethical act the assassination of mostly unknown targets. These include at least one woman during a raid on a compound when it was far from certain that their desired target was even present there in the first place.
And let's not forget that, prior to the raid on the compound in Pakistan, Maya tells the US special forces troops that they are being used because "if bin Laden isn't there, you can sneak away and no one will be the wiser" no one, that is, except for the families of all those people who would have been secretly murdered by the US in an horrific case of mistaken identity.
It is the final raid sequence which sees Bigelow confronting the moviegoer with some of her strongest challenges, albeit with a deft subtlety, as to the ethical nature of what took place in that compound in Pakistan.
Firstly, we have the killing of a woman whose only known "crime" was being present in the same house as an international terrorist and rushing to the body of her husband immediately after he had been gunned down by US troops.
Then we have the point blank shooting of targets who haven't even been properly identified before they are killed, and who seemingly pose no immediate lethal threat to the US soldiers carrying out the mission. To drive home the point that these shootings are not simply acts of self-defense, Bigelow shows us the US soldiers shooting extra rounds into victims, including the woman, already lying dead on the floor.
The man responsible for masterminding the 9/11 attacks has been killed, but at what price, and for what end?
Make no mistake about it: she is subtly confronting America with the fact that this was a mission to kill, a revenge mission, and not an attempt to capture a criminal fugitive. She reinforces this fact when earlier in the film Bigelow has Maya, who represents America remember? tell the US soldiers "you're going to kill [bin Laden] for me".
And then comes the ultimate crescendo of the film, the assassination of Osama bin Laden. According to Bigelow's portrayal of events which she claims is based on first-hand accounts Osama is gunned down while unarmed in his bedroom after opening the door to a US soldier pretending to be an ally and calling out his first name. In this scene, not only does this solider simply shoot the first person who opens the door, seemingly without even having time to ascertain who his target is, but shortly after this Bigelow makes a point of showing us that bin Laden's weapon is still hanging untouched above the head of his bed, and well away from the spot where he was slain.
Zero Dark Thirty ends not with a triumphant and victorious celebration, but with a weeping Maya all alone in a totally empty military cargo plane. And rightly so, for the killing of Osama bin Laden was not an act of justice to be celebrated; no, it was pure revenge killing that was the culmination of previous unethical actions all carried out in the name of the "war on terror".
This was American foreign policy at its consequentialist worst.
Bigelow is careful to avoid being politically partisan in her film. This isn't about the polices of either left or right, but about the American nation as a whole, and what it has allowed itself to become as a result of a blind obsession with seeking vengeance for 911.
When Maya is viewed as being representative of post-9/11 America, the words of the pilot who welcomes her aboard that aircraft at the end of the movie become chillingly profound. When she boards the plane and takes her seat she is greeted with: "You must be pretty important, you've got the whole plane to yourself. Where do you want to go?" She is speechless and does not know how to reply to him.
Yes, Maya is America, and just like America the killing of Osama bin Laden has not brought any closure, peace or true fulfilment. Instead, it has left her all alone in the world and uncertain of exactly what direction she should take next.
The man responsible for masterminding the 9/11 attacks has been killed, but at what price, and for what end?
Was the killing of Osama bin Laden really an act of self-defense, or was it an unethical act carried out by a nation that has lost its way in a mire of 'the end justifies the means' rationalizations since September 9, 2001?
Has it actually even ended the threat of al Qaeda, as Maya, during the film, promises us that it will? Or has it simply set in motion a series of events that will lead to a resurgence in anti-Western sentiment and violence?
Brendan Malone writes for MercatorNet, from where this article was adapted with permission. MercatorNet is an innovative internet magazine analysing current affairs and key international news and trends which touch its readers' daily lives.
Islamic fundamentalism seeks to send Christians back to the catacombs Tuesday, February 12, 2013 By Clemente Ferrer
http://www.speroforum.com/a/SKNWFEPRZO28/73638-Islamic-fundamentalism-seeks-to-send-Christians-back-to-the-catacombs The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) basilica in Istanbul is the largest and only best of Byzantine architecture. Its construction was ordered by Emperor Justinian and came about between 532 and 537 AD. According to the annals of history, Justinian said of the basilica upon its completion, Solomon, I have outdone you", making a direct connection to the Temple of Jerusalem ruined by the Romans less than 50 years after the birth of Christ.
The huge dome bears a rich symbolism that embodies both Paradise and Creation, while the nave writes an accurate description of the Earth. The architectural lineage of the building comes directly from the Holy Land, where the martyria shelter the sites associated with the Passion of Jesus Christ and martyrs for the Christian faith. Other basilicas with the same affinities, built in Constantinople during the reign of Justinian, were built to honor the memory of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Saint Irene, and the Apostles of Jesus.
Famous for its monumental dome and recognized as the epitome of Byzantine architecture, the Hagia Sophia changed the history of architecture. It was the largest Christian church, or any building, in the world for nearly one thousand years.
From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, the basilica was used as the cathedral of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, except during a period between the 1204 and 1261 when it served as the cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople.
It was in 1453 that Constantinople was over-run by the Muslim Turks and became known as Istanbul. For nearly 500 years, it served as a mosque, having been seized by the Ottoman Turks. Muslim architects added Islamic elements such as minarets and the mithrab. The stunning and rich mosaics on the interior of the church, illustrating the life of Christ and the saints were erased with plaster. However, following the overthrow of Ottoman rule by the dictator Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it was converted into a museum in 1935.
Turkey's parliament is now considering, as a first step, a proposal for the Hagia Sophia to revert to its status as a mosque. This is according to Adnan Ertem, the chief of Turkeys Directorate of Religious Foundations. The final decision was made by the Minister of Culture.
The demand comes following a decree by the Islamist government of Turkey to convert a church in Nicea, also called Hagia Sophia, into a mosque. Now known in Turkish as İznik, it was at Nicea where two of the great ecumenical councils of the Church were held, in 325 and 787 AD. Last summer, an idea was hatched to do the same with another Christian basilica of the same name in Trebizond, in the province of Trabzon Ili.
In the 1960s, the basilica church in Iznik was converted into a museum, as was the much grander basilica in Istanbul. The interior of the basilica is adorned with frescoes depicting scenes from the New and Old Testaments, which are an undisputed pinnacle of Byzantine art. The frescoes, which were covered with plaster, were discovered and restored when it was transformed into a museum and thus became a tourist attraction.
Radical Islamists are seeking to make Christian basilicas and temples of great historical importance into mosques, plastering over their essential Christian character. And it is these same Muslim fundamentalists who are thus aiming to banish Christians and Christian culture to the catacombs.
Spero columnist Clemente Ferrer is President of the European Institute of Marketing.
For various murky reasons the US is today fighting some Jihadists while assisting others in reconstructing the Califate in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and large swaths of Iraq. In the coming collision with a revived Jihadist Califate many things much harsher than what is depicted in this film will be required to break the will of the Jihadis. The deaths of Muslim non-combatants will be very numerous. So be it.
Self-defense or vengeance?
Some of both. But, let me add another reason....a warning
to others that the passage of time and place of hiding will
not protect you from American justice.
As to torture, I accept the idea that torture for the purpose
of gathering legitimate needed information is different than
torturing out of hate and pure meaness. As far as I am
concerned those who think one is the same as the other
can go piss up a rope.
I learned all i ever needed to know about jihadis from 9/11 and the Nick Berg video. Waterboard away.
Why is the general school of American policy controlled by entertainers, who deserve to be mere minstrels? Our policies, including those for defense, should be based on our Constitution and the morals of our forefathers.
Denazification, cumulative review. Report, 1 April 1947-30 April 1948.
The real question, of course, is whether or not it makes us bad people if we rescind the terrorists’ television privileges or decline to give them freshly washed and ironed sheets every day.
Do we really want to save American lives if that sort of thing is necessary?