Sunday, July 27, 2008

Taxi to the Dark Side

A young Afghan who drives his village's taxi, goes on a trip to the local town to look for fares and earn a living. He takes 3 men on a trip on which he is captured by some Afghan fighters who hand him over to the American forces with the story that he is the get away driver for some people who have been firing rockets at a small American base. He is taken to Bagram where he is tortured for information he doesn't have, when he moaned and screamed with pain he was beaten until his legs were so pulped that doctors say that had he lived the legs would have had to have been amputated. A blood clot killed him. The US Army pathologist ticked the homicide box on the death certificate. The US commander stated that "we" have no knowledge of possible homicides at the Bagram base. No-one was prosecuted until media reports on the US use of torture and subsequent deaths become too loud to ignore and there is a search for a scapegoat. Like the subsequent Abu Ghraib courts martial, it is the military police rather than the military intelligence, the other ranks rather than the officers who get found guilty. The interrogation team from Bagram was transferred to Abu Ghraib.

It turns out that the people who kidnapped Dilawar were the same people who fired the rockets at the US base. In fact, most of the men held by the Americans in the "war on terror" were turned over or sold to the US rather than directly captured by them. The "worst of the worst" are transferred to Guantanamo Bay. But even there only 7% were picked up by the American on the battle fields or elsewhere. Despite the lack of supporting evidence the assumption prevails that they must be guilty, dangerous and have useful secrets that they are withholding.

This documentary is constructed as a series chapters on different aspects detention and torture and goes beyond the initial focus on the killing on Dilawar at Bagram to the holding and torturing of men the US government is loath to classify as prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay, the changing definitions of torture in the US administration and the history of CIA research into torture techniques. Many of the most illuminating interviews are with military policemen and interrogators who were prosecuted for what they did at Bagram. Of current interest is Senator John McCain's flip-flop from being a strong opponent of torture to voting for a law that prevents any members of the current administration being prosecuted for war crimes, when the Administration threatens to derail his presidential campaign.

This straight forward and fact filled documentary is a must see.

Ian's rating 5/5

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