For John, BLUF: Torture is both wrong and also ineffective at revealing the truth.
Playwright Carla Seaquist♠ here writes on the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Ms Seaquist goes on at some length about the film, and for good reason. She feels that the film represents the fact that Hollywood has lost its moral way and has betrayed what it means to be America. The title is "Society Instructs Hollywood on 'Moral Ambiguity' of Torture: Or, What the Zero Dark Thirty Controversy Means". Quoting the Author:
"Moral ambiguity" has become a standard artistic choice today, for filmmakers as well as playwrights and novelists, meaning: Rather than put the thumb on the scales for or against an action depicted, the artist professes to leave the moral judging to the audience. Moral questions being by definition about right and wrong, the artist presuming to treat such questions in an ambiguous manner must then show at least two sides (or more) of the question under review.But, Ms Seaquist asserts, there is not, in this movie, the presentation of two or more sides. There is just the one side—torture works and is acceptable because it works.♥
Here is the Author's condemnation that should hurt all in Hollywood:
It can also be argued that today's Hollywood has lost the moral voice that, once upon a time, it had, when it produced thought-provoking movies like The Lost Weekend, Gentleman's Agreement, High Noon, 12 Angry Men, Paths of Glory, Judgment at Nuremberg, To Kill of Mockingbird, In the Heat of the Night, and recent anti-war films like Platoon. But today, Hollywood goes for buff bodies and "edgy" premises and visceral experience, not so much for dramas of conscience. It's good to remember that, once upon a time, in Casablanca, every refugee biding time in Rick's café wanted to get to America—because America was a moral beacon.It was a moral beacon. It needs to be that moral beacon again. I am more ambiguous than Ms Seaquist regarding the Iraq War, ten years on, but I agree the decision to invade was a bad decision and I believe that our early post-invasion actions left things to be desired. The actions of our Soldiers at Abu Ghraib Prison was objectively wrong and it showed a lack of leadership before the event and a lack of justice after. Torture elsewhere was also wrong.
But, my take-away is that we have to be prepared to make moral choices, as individuals and as institutions. Torture is wrong. Taking bribes is wrong. Carelessly having a child out of wedlock is wrong. On the other hand, we need to leave room for remorse, restitution and forgiveness.
Regards — Cliff
♠ In the interest of full disclosure, I have previously met Ms Seaquist and her husband and I worked together on the Joint Staff.
♥ It is sort of like the former Commonwealth State Senator Dianne Wilkerson declaration after a Constitutional Convention, "The Ends justify the Means". Unacceptable.