Review of Taxi to the Dark Side directed by Alex Gibney
This film won the Oscar for best documentary. It's another great film about the abuses of power in the Bush presidency. This film's merit comes mostly from the message of the story. In summary, that message is that any nation that undertakes torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners undermines the integrity of that nation and puts its people and military under the threat of retaliation.
While the theme of the movie is about our government's use of torture as a matter of policy, the storyline that is used to illustrate this policy concerns an Afghan taxi driver by the name of Dilawar. Dilawar was turned over to the U.S military by an Afghan warlord who claimed that Dilawar and three of his passengers were responsible for a rocket attack against a U.S. military base. Three days later, after beatings and other mistreatment by interrogators, he died. His death was ruled a homicide. The worst part about it is that he was innocent. The warlord who turned him in was the person responsible for the rocket attacks.
This film touches on many of the same themes as other books and films that I have covered on this blog: No End in Sight, Frontline's Bush's War, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, and Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg, who appears in this film. They all tell a similar story.
Here are a few facts that the film brings out: There have been over a hundred deaths of prisoners while in the custody of U.S. forces. Ninety-three per cent of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Cuba were handed over to the U.S. forces by Afghan and Pakistan citizens (for a reward) and not captured by the U.S. military. Those people being held in Guantanamo are being held without charge, without a timetable for their case to be reviewed, without the ability to see the evidence against them, and for the most part without any opportunity to put up a meaningful defense. Fortunately, there are some reasonable lawyers who have volunteered their time to help them despite the President's attempts to circumvent the law. Sure, there are a few bad people being held at Guantanamo. But the evidence points to there being more innocent people being held than guilty people. Just look at how many people have been brought to trial in the past seven years. The answer: one (I'll have more on that case in a later review.)
Intelligence derived through torture has no merit. One of the reasons given to justify the war in Iraq was information derived through torture that Saddam's forces received training in chemical and biological weapons. That information was later proved to be false.
The DVD has a couple of interviews with the director as well as an insightful audio commentary.