Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taxi to the Dark Side

The War on Terror is a war without precedent.  There are no hostile borders, no enemy countries, no heads of state to target.  The enemy is difficult to identify, and the organizations and alliances are decentralized, varied, and dispersed.  The U.S. has managed to disrupt some of the organizations, take out some of the leaders, but they persist.  Possible abuses of prisoners in the War on Terror have been well-publicized.  Only the hardest hawk would view, for instance, images from Abu Ghraib without at least some level of revulsion.  On the other hand, only the most dedicated dove would not recognize the need to imprison and interrogate suspected terrorists.

Taxi to the Dark Side focusses on the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military.  The title refers to the capture of 4 Afghani men who were implicated in a missle attack on a military base.  They were arrested at a checkpoint by Afghan militia members working on behalf of the U.S.  The problem is that it was later discovered that the militants were working with the actual attackers and turned in these four men to detract attention from the perpetrators and to curry favor with the Americans.  Turns out that a high percentage of detainees at Guantanamo have been arrested in similar circumstances.

The driver of the taxi died in prison due to injuries sustained while being tortured by Americans.  That is an ugly truth, and the film presents ample evidence both of the taxi driver's innocence and the culpability of his detainees.  It traces the policy of torture from the White House to Guantanamo to Afghanistan to Abu Ghraib.  It leaves little question that the policy of torture was taken to excess, and that the information gathered was, at least in some cases, unreliable, if not completely false.

But the film goes too far.  It does not give examples of prisoners who have been tortured and given good intelligence that has been used to thwart attacks.  It does not reference reports that some prisoners released from Guantanamo have returned to their former haunts and have taken part in deadly terrorist attacks.  As well done as Taxi to the Dark Side is, and as well as it makes its arguments, it only gives half the story, and without the other half, is demoted to muckraking propoganda. 

Bottom line, 1 1/2 stars.

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