As if ZDT (Zero Dark Thirty) was not enough. Wait until you all see Manhunt which I just did at Sundance. It’s a CIA propaganda film justifying torture, targeted killings etc. The agents who were in the film attended the screenings: Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Marty Martin. Martin was in charge of the OBL investigation. All obviously had CIA clearance to talk etc. Martin justifies the “torture techniques.” Martin, of course, ought to be investigated for violating the torture law and jailed if found guilty, along with the next guy below.
Jose Rodriguez, former head of the Counter Terrorism Center, is a primary talking head justifying waterboarding with only a passing statement or two by Ali Soufan, former FBI agent, disagreeing. Of course, there was no mention of the destruction by Rodriguez of the tapes of the waterboardings that he oversaw. It was extremely upsetting to sit and watch Rodriguez on the screen as an oracle and Martin treated as a hero by the audience.
While part of film is the story of the female analysts who worked away on the case, and the killing of CIA agents at Khost, the film goes a long way toward justifying torture—in fact, all the way. One irony of the killings at Khost is that the Jordanian doctor who blew himself up to do it was angered by the Iraq war. That war was begun in part on false “evidence” obtained by the US torturing al-Libi who provided the claimed links between Saddam and al Qaeda.
Among the films many failures and omissions is its editing away of the reasons al Qaeda says it attacked the United States. At least twice Osama is shown giving an interview in which he expresses his anger at the United States–each time he is cut off before giving the reasons for that anger. The film ends with General McChrystal speaking pablum on the way to ultimately stop terrorism: understand Muslin and Arab culture. Should not the audience have been given the opportunity of hearing why al Qaeda says it attacked the United States: presence of the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia, sanctions against Iraq and support for Israel? While nothing justifies the intentional killing of thousands of civilians, perhaps addressing some of the underlying causes might lessen the impetus to commit such acts. Nor does the film address the dangers of blowback. While it opens with the efforts of Osama and others to rid Afghanistan of the Soviets it fails to point out the US aid to those efforts including the arming of Jihadists that ultimately blew back against the U.S.
Shockingly, this travesty of illegality was paid for by HBO and got a coveted spot at Sundance of which of which they are a sponsor.
Putting this film together with ZDT, the Green Zone, Argo etc we seem to have a real rehabilitation of the CIA’s image. That Rodriguez could act as Oracle and Martin as hero shows the high costs of Obama’s failure to prosecute. Anecdotally at least most of that liberal Sundance audience accepted what was done and applauded it. I am afraid this debate in the context of protecting the “homeland” has been lost for now.
The great counter to this experience was seeing Rick Rowley and Jeremy Scahill take on JSOC, targeted killings and drones in Dirty Wars. I thought it was the best documentary at Sundance. It received standing ovations and gave me some hope. Perhaps it was a different audience. People were most upset at the killings of Americans without due process and also at the point Dirty Wars proved again and again: there are reasons America is hated; drones and “targeted” killings that destroy communities are high on that list.