Revolution#118, February 3, 2008
CHECK IT OUT
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The film Taxi to the Dark Side begins with a car driving down a road in rural Afghanistan, stirring up a cloud of dust. This is the road Dilawar drove one day in December 2002. This 22-year-old taxi driver thought he was just taking passengers to town, but he disappeared that day and never came home to his family.
A few months later he was found dead, chained and hanging by his wrists from the grated ceiling in a small cell in the notorious Bagram Prison, his legs reduced to pulp by being kicked and kneed repeatedly by U.S. military guards and interrogators. He was never charged with any crime, and even some of his interrogators said they believed he had no connection with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
The term “dark side” is taken from a remark by Dick Cheney during a Meet the Press interview five days after 9/11: “We also have to work through…the dark side…it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” Taxi to the Dark Side—written, directed, and produced by Alex Gibney—chronicles in chilling and gut-wrenching detail the U.S.’s torture and debasement of detainees in Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo. The film includes rare and never-before-seen images from inside those hellholes. There are interviews with military guards and interrogators who carried out the torture and a former detainee at Bagram and Guantánamo who was tortured—and comments defending torture from former Justice Department official John Yoo (the
author of the infamous “torture memo”), Donald Rumsfeld, and Alberto Gonzales. Throughout, the film draws links between what happened—and is still happening—on the ground and directives issued from on high. One U.S. soldier says, “We were told they [the detainees] were less than dogs” and that they should be treated accordingly.
In comments before a showing of the film in New York City sponsored by the New York Civil Liberties Union, Executive Producer Robert Johnson said that the filmmakers went to some risk filming in secret at Bagram and in Dilawar’s village. Johnson said that they were committed to telling the truth about what was happening. And, looking directly at the audience, he added, “This film is about you.” Afterwards, Johnson explained that when the filmmakers returned from Afghanistan, they were struck by the lack of protest and outcry in the U.S. over the revelations of torture.
Taxi to the Dark Side has been nominated for an Academy Award for best feature-length documentary. Organize your friends, co-workers, classes and everyone you know to go see it. Then think of Dilawar and the detainees—many whose names are yet not known—still at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo, and act to stop “the dark side” from taking still more lives and swallowing the humanity of all of us. For more information about the film, including to find a theater that will be showing it, go online to taxitothedarkside.com.
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