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We are above it. Or at least we used to be. - I wanna live 'til I die, no more, no less. -Eddie Izzard

About We are above it. Or at least we used to be.

Previous Entry We are above it. Or at least we used to be. Mar. 12th, 2008 @ 04:12 am Next Entry

The Washington Monthly is dedicating this issue of the magazine to stopping the U.S. policy of torture, in any form. Whether it is "enhanced interrogation", waterboarding as one technique (along with extreme sleep deprivation, exposure to temperature, stress positions, sensory depirvation), extraordinary rendition (shipping off a prisoner to another country we know will torture them despite prima facie promises not to), etc. They sought to have a united opposition to it across the political and non-political spectrum. Democrats, Republicans, neither, cleargy, etc.

Its good, you should take a look.

And I'm reminded by the 1998 film "The Seige" starring Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington. A series of terrorist attacks occur in NYC and eventually the president orders the seemingly reluctant Willis, as a general, to put the city under martial law, specficially Brooklyn where the 2 dozen or so bad guys are hiding. Denzel is the lead FBI agent in charge trying to do this in the more traditional, lawful way. He has mixed successes and after the FBI NYC building itself is destroyed by the bad guys a la Oklahoma City then the president tips towards the army.

I'm specifically reminded of one scene. After they capture some bad guys, Willis shows one to Denzel. They are in an old baseball stadium in Brooklyn where they have hearded thousands of young to middle aged Arab/Middle Eastern men and penned them in cages, trying to find the bad guys among them. None of the bad guys are found that way, mind you.
Well in this scene the bad guy, Tariq Husseini is stripped naked and handcuffed to a chair in a restroom. He has been questioned by the army and a CIA agent who has been around the whole film to help, played by Annette Benning.

Willis and Benning, after getting nowhere begin to talk about using harsher methods of questioning to get what they are asking. Here Denzel's character responds:

Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Are you people insane? What are you talkin' about?
General William Devereaux: The time has come for one man to suffer in order to save hundreds of lives.
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: One Man? What about two, huh? What about six? How about public executions?
General William Devereaux: Feel free to leave whenever you like, Agent Hubbard.
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Come on General, you've lost men, I've lost men, but you - you, you *can't* do this! What, what if they don't even want the sheik, have you considered that? What if what they really want is for us to herd our children into stadiums like we're doing? And put soldiers on the street and have Americans looking over their shoulders? Bend the law, shred the Constitution just a little bit? Because if we torture him, General, we do that and everything we have fought, and bled, and died for is over. And they've won. They've already won!
General William Devereaux: Escort him out.

And later after Denzel and Annette have actually stopped the last bad guy, who was their informant the whole time, Denzel's character goes with the FBI to the army headquarters to say that its over. Willis doesn't quite believe them and is reluctant to give them anything, any credit, etc. Denzel is also there to arrest Willis. He actually has a signed warrant from a judge and everything. Its because of the torture. Because doing such things is illegal. Here's that dialogue:

Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: [to General Devereaux] You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a fair trial. You have the right not to be tortured, not to be murdered, rights that you took away from Tariq Husseini. You have those rights because of the men who came before you who wore that uniform. Because of the men and women who are standing here right now waiting for you to give them the order to fire. Give them the order, General.
General William Deveroux: Do you think that I would hesitate to kill you, or every Federal Agent in this room, if I thought it was in the best interest of my country?
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: No, no, no, you wouldn't hesitate, I know that. But they might.
[motions to soldiers in room]
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: [pause]
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Give the order. Make murderers out of these young kids, give the order.
[Deveroux is silent]
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Give 'em the order, General!
General William Deveroux: [Over his shoulder] Stand down, Sergeant.

I still like this movie for these scenes. But I never could have thought that it would essentially come true. Thats what terrorism is about. Making your opponent fear you so much that they overreact, constrict themselves, hurt themselves, waste valuable resources. Like WIllis said, if you do this, you're doing what they want. Then they've won. They've already won.
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