Taxi to the Dark Side
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  • TRAGIC
    I am amazed this film survived U.S., British and Israeli intelligence censorship. Evidently when pressure is applied to politicians they will give up their morals rather than give up their political careers. It's not uncommon for blame to flow downhill. Having served in the armed forces I am not amazed at what happened. Blind revenge seems to be the driving force for people's inhumanity to man and after 10,000 years of continuous religious war mankind has still not learned that this kind of thinking does not lead to world peace....more info
  • Difficult to Watch, Important Polemical Documentary Critical of Torture Used by American Soldiers
    Having seen "Taxi to the Dark Side" nearly three weeks ago at a private screening in midtown Manhattan, my mind is still reeling from the harsh, brutal images of torture committed by United States soldiers against suspected terrorists and irregulars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This may be the most important documentary film on the "War on Terror", and while it is a liberal polemic film, it does an effective job of arguing its case by showing its graphic images, instead of having someone like filmmaker Michael Moore seen onscreen ranting and raving. The central saga which runs through the nearly two-hour long film is the last taxi ride of a young Afghan taxi driver, Dilawar, an innocent bystander who was picked up by American troops, tortured, and died from his severe injuries at the American detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan.

    "Taxi to the Dark Side" deserves the ample recognition it has earned, and may be remembered as a superb documentary film in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame". But it isn't perfect for the following reasons. First it accepts as gospel truth, the fact that most of those being held by American soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba are as innocent as Dilawar was. Second it lacks more insightful analysis from the likes of noted military defense attorney Eugene Fidell, who represented my cousin, former U. S. Army chaplain James Yee (Much to my amazement, Yee's filmed testimony was not included at all in the final cut of this film.). Will "Taxi to the Dark Side" change the opinions of many? Hopefully it will force those who've seen it to ask serious, probing questions about inhumane treatment of prisoners by some American soldiers, and perhaps persuade them to convince the Federal political leadership in Washington, D. C. to act more aggressively to avert similar instances of prisoner mistreatment in the future....more info
  • One-sided, poorly researched hatchet job
    Don't listen to the praise that the "professional" film critics heap on this poorly researched "documentary" that is a purely one-sided presentation of its opinions. Film critics get their jobs, after all, because they're incompetent journalists or screenwriters. Documentary filmmakers get their jobs because they wouldn't survive in broadcast journalism or Hollywood. No effort is made by director Alex Gibney to present any opposing viewpoint (and filming a New York Times reporter typing on a laptop does not count as original research). The movie's targets in the Bush administration and the Department of Defense are demonized without being offered the opportunity to defend themselves--but a hack documentary filmmaker wouldn't know that. The military first conducted investigations into the alleged torture committed on Afghan and Iraqi prisoners, long before any reporter caught wind of it, and started prosecutions. Enough with the back-patting among these filmmakers! Oh, and by the way, the Obama administration will continue these same practices in stepping up its "good war" in Afghanistan and Pakistan....more info
  • What about individual responsibility?
    This is a fascinating documentary that shows how the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration allowed the torture and murder of detainees to happen (and they should be held accountable for this), but I found it disturbing how the makers of this documentary portrayed the military personnel who were actually responsible for the death of Dilawar (and were held accountable) so sympathetically. Yes, the rules of Bagram were not clear and the personnel were not properly trained, but beating a person to "a pulp" (the way the coroner described Dilawar's death) is beating a person to a pulp. No matter what the context, each individual knows right from wrong and is responsible for his or her individual actions....more info
  • Outstanding Documentary About The Methods Of Torture Being Used By The U.S. Military
    With this extraordinary film director Alex Gibney makes a convincing and well researched case against the acts of torture, abuse and humiliation committed by the U.S. military against political prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

    A major sub-plot is the story of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who ended up dying from injuries suffered while he was held in Bagram, a former Soviet prison coverted into a U.S. detention center for suspected terroists. However, the film explains how Dilawar was actually an innocent man turned in by an actual terroist seeking to throw investigators off his trail. One expert explains how only about 1% of the detainees are actual terroists and that the vast majority were not even arrested by the U.S. military. But rather were turned in by Pakastani and Afghani bounty hunters seeking financial compensation.

    The numerous forms of abuse inflicted on these foreign detainees is depicted in gruesome detail. The methods of torture included not only water boarding but various means of sexual humiliation such as having women's panties placed on their heads, forced masturbation and female military officers caressing them while whispering "your mother is a whore" into their ears. The ultimate goal was inflicting a complete mental, physical and emotional breakdown on the prisoners. Other tactics used were sleep depravation achieved by handcuffing detainees to the ceiling for days at a time and the sort of brutal physical assaults that led to the death of the innocent Dilawar.

    Of course, it was the low ranking soldiers who ended up facing punishment when these acts of illegal abuse were discovered. But the film makes it very clear that they were simply following orders handed down from the highest levels of the Bush administration. Particularly at fault were chicken hawks Cheney and Rumsfield. In fact, it was Cheney himself who gave this doc its title when he referred to how the U.S. must go over to the "dark side" in its military and intelligence methods.

    The film concludes with a powerful statement from the director's father Frank Gibney. He describes how, as an military interrogator in World War II and the Korean War, he and other officers were required to follow a strict code of conduct that respected the human rights of prisoners. But with this new "dark side' policy the U.S. miltary is instead following the tactics of the Communists, Fascists and even the Spanish Inquistion. They are not only ignoring the rules laid down by the Geneva Convention, but even the U.S. Constitution itself - which guarantees all prisoners the right to counsel and a speedy trial. These "dark side" tactics are not those of the United States of America that I love and believe in. Instead they are those of politicians lacking a moral compass which all Americans of conscience, liberal and conservative, should be ashamed of. ...more info
  • Leaning In the Right Direction
    I rather enjoy this style of documentary.
    In my experience documentaries have two faces;
    an opinionated narrator with an obvious agenda who either alienates you or pushes you into their mindset, or
    an educational narrator who may lean in one direction yet is more concerned with understanding and empathy.

    This documentary educates the viewer on the various forms of "interrogation" we have developed over the years in a precise and methodical manner. The underlying story of a young taxi driver serves as a link. A link to a living, breathing individual who faced these techniques and died after only two days of interrogation. This film brought 4 words together for me - Interrogation becomes Torture becomes Terrorism becomes War -

    And here is how:
    American forces capture and interrogate people suspected of being a threat to national security, 9% of which are brought into interrogation by U.S. forces. These interrogators are indirectly pressured to find information so their company/troop will appear to be getting results. The detainees are held for months or more and undergo forms of interrogation that can only be described as humiliating, demeaning, disgusting... torture. When the detainees are eventually released their experience of America is one of disgust, and in a predominantly deeply religious country, unholy. This act produces hatred which in turn fuels terrorism which fuels war. I may not know a better way of handling the situation, but I know this method is a step in the wrong direction and the director illustrates that beautifully. Buy this movie, it brings out your empathetic side and forces you to think about what our country is doing in our name....more info
  • Shining a light in "dark" places
    This was an excellent documentary. The film covered the United States' recent torture of civilian population in the Afghanistan and Iraq areas as well as the Guantanamo Bay detainees. Be warned, this documentary has some very graphic material, such as images of men being forces to masturbate and other types of psychological torture.
    I found the movie to be pretty consistent with what I have read, it is really the polar opposite of such feel good stories such as "Three Cups of Tea." If you want to be informed about the side of American politics and military that they DON'T want you to see then watch this movie. It also may lends some understanding as to why the people of the Middle East hate Americans so much. ...more info
  • Ultimately, Taxi doesn't work
    The problem with "Taxi To The Dark Side" is that it ultimately condones torture(interrogation techniques), so long as it's by the book and that which is not traditionally seen as torture - before Bush. That of course is not its intended effect. But when it spends a good deal of time on the difference between physical torture and psychological torture, to what end, the viewer can't be sure, it basically diffuses the issue - torture is torture. As one of the "Winter Soldiers," a young guard at Abu Ghraib, said in his recent testimony (viewed on Alternet), "If being confined in a suffocating cell 24/7 isn't torture, I don't know what is." Additionally, "Taxi" spins its wheels addressing the irrelevant argument that torture "doesn't work." Does that mean if we could count on it "working" it would be acceptable? To even consider that is torturous logic....more info
  • Required Viewing for Every American
    Quite simply the most important documentary made in recent years.

    Here is the true shame of the Bush administration -- the complete disregard for the Geneva Conventions in the prosecution of the "war on terror".

    Most shocking of all is the revelation that one of the key pieces of "intelligence" on which Colin Powell based his rationale for the Iraq War was false, the claim of a prisoner tortured into confessing what his captors wanted to hear.

    Powell states that the day he pitched the war at the United Nations, relying on this grossly deficient intelligence, was one of the most "embarrassing" of his life.

    Embarrassing? More appropriate words might be "tragic", "disastrous", or "unconscionable".

    Worse, the Bush administration policy of employing torture, kangaroo courts, and the suspension of habeus corpus -- in defiance of the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions -- came right from the top.

    Here is Cheney snarling that these methods were necessary in the war on terror. Here is Bush trying to sell the need for "harsh" interrogation techniques as late as 2006. Here are presidential counsel John Yoo and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales trying to redefine "torture" as an acceptable component in prosecuting a war.

    The whole lot of them should be made to experience 40 hours of sleep deprivation, or forced standing, or waterboarding -- to see for themselves why these forms of coercion bring us down to the level of any terrorists walking the planet.

    FOR SHAME! FOR SHAME!

    Let us hope that Barack Obama can help lead us back from this precipice of damnation to the brighter path Americans have chosen in previous generations.

    The DVD also includes special features not included in the theatrical release of the film. Most notable of these is an interview with former President Jimmy Carter, who calls the Bush torture policies a disgrace as well as a sharp break with traditional American values.

    The director's father also makes an appearance. He was an intelligence officer during WWII and the Korean War, and he rightly compares the Bush thugs to Hitler's goons back in Nazi Germany.

    "Taxi to the Dark Side" is a film EVERY American needs to see, whatever your political leaning.

    (P.S. another reviewer here has claimed this film condones torture. Huh? Was this person paying an iota of attention? "Taxi" condemns torture in no uncertain terms, you may be sure...)...more info
  • the horror
    "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one."
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    Well that quote came to mind as I watched this depressing 2007 Academy Award Winner directed by Alex Gibney (ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM -also excellent). This time Gibney explores America's journey into darkness that is the so-called "war on terror" (BTW people, when you hear the words "war on" before anything you can bet it is a total disaster.). I was reminded of Nietzsche's warning and then of other lines from that great source of dark and enigmatic quotations..."Man is the cruelest animal." "Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." But back to the first quote, I think the men that got us into this situation already were nihilistic, souless beasts and so hardly did much changing. What we should realize is that *they changed America.* I am well aware of America's "mistakes" and sins of the past but things are different now... and many of us feel it. On top of that -and more importantly- sadly many, all too many, of the people they chased after weren't monsters at all, but just people. Regular people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Take the story of "a young rural Afghan cabdriver", named Dilawar. Turned out he was falsely accused of helping to plan an attack on American troops. Dilawar was tortured for about two days and died. He is presented here as "the first fatal victim of Vice President Dick Cheney's devotion to 'working the dark side'--torturing, humiliating, and otherwise abusing prisoners in the 'Global War on Terror.'" We are told his story by the very soldiers that killed Dilwar, themselves shown to both tools and victims of the implementation of the Bush policy. And we hear from two New York Times investigative reporters who do a fine job of exposing this darker side of American power -- a darker side the New York Times I cannot help but remember helped in their ways to bring us to.-- Ohhh I hope you are aware of that?! You didn't forget did you? That drum beat for war was pounding so very loudly at the NYT. The name Judith Miller ring a bell? Well, she's just *one* of 'em. The whole mainstream media let us down and let us NEVER FORGET it. The film also details what methods are used in torturing prisoners: you won't ever let a right-winger or Rush Limbaugh "Dittohead" trivialize torture and Abu Graibh and the prsion camp at Guant¨¢namo.

    Buy this or at least rent it and get others to see it too. While it is depressing it is fascinating to anyone with any interest in foreign policy and concern for our country and it's future. It is NOT to be dismissed as a mere anti-Republican, anti-Bush diatribe ¨¤ la Michael Moore. This is an objective, sober documentary about a subject every American absolutely regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum should be in touch with and have intimate knowledge of. It is our business what our government does in our name and the blood is not only on their hands.

    ...more info
  • prosecutable war crimes
    On December 5, 2002, an Afghan taxi driver named Diliwar was taken to America's prison at the Bagram Air Force Base. Five days later he was dead. At first the military said that he had died of "natural causes," but in a later inquiry the coroner testified that his lower body had been "pulpified." On his death certificate issued by the military the box marked "homicide" was checked. Taxi to the Dark Side won an Academy Award as best documentary for portraying detainee abuse and torture at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo. There are at least 83,000 detainees in US custody; over 108 of them have died, at least 37 by homicide. The film combines interviews with the military police who interrogated Diliwar, genuine heroes in this sordid story like Alberto Mora (General Counsel to the Navy 2001-2006), grotesque still photos that shock the conscience, justifications of the abuse by John Yoo, and commentary by investigative reporters and attorneys. If you think that this film exaggerates, or if you still believe that American torture consisted of some isolated incidents by a "few bad apples," and was not official public policy engineered by our top officials, then read the books by Philippe Sands, Torture Team; Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values (New York: Palgrave, 2008), and Jane Mayer, The Dark Side; The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals (New York: Doubleday, 2008)....more info
  • WOW!
    Everyone should see this documentary! we were horrified to think the United States would resort to such tactics--and it all came from the highest level of our government.Bush administration----Shame on you!
    your punishment should be to recieve the same treatment that you said was not "torture"

    ...more info
  • Be Prepared to Seriously Reconsider Your Complacency
    About the only nice thing you can say about this administration after viewing this film is that you could probably not have made a similar expose about the treatment of prisoners in concentration camps in Nazi Germany during WWII. Still, it's a shame that we have to look to Nazi Germany to find a government that treated its enemies more despicably or a society more complacent about the heinous crimes committed by their government in their name. ...more info
  • Difficult to Watch, Important Polemical Documentary Critical of Torture Used by American Soliders
    Having seen "Taxi to the Dark Side" nearly three weeks ago at a private screening in midtown Manhattan, my mind is still reeling from the harsh, brutal images of torture committed by United States soldiers against suspected terrorists and irregulars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This may be the most important documentary film on the "War on Terror", and while it is a liberal polemic film, it does an effective job of arguing its case by showing its graphic images, instead of having someone like filmmaker Michael Moore seen onscreen ranting and raving. The central saga which runs through the nearly two-hour long film is the last taxi ride of a young Afghan taxi driver, Dilawar, an innocent bystander who was picked up by American troops, tortured, and died from his severe injuries at the American detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan.

    "Taxi to the Dark Side" deserves the ample recognition it has earned, and may be remembered as a superb documentary film in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame". But it isn't perfect for the following reasons. First it accepts as gospel truth, the fact that most of those being held by American soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba are as innocent as Dilawar was. Second it lacks more insightful analysis from the likes of noted military defense attorney Eugene Fidell, who represented my cousin, former U. S. Army chaplain James Yee (Much to my amazement, Yee's filmed testimony was not included at all in the final cut of this film.). Will "Taxi to the Dark Side" change the opinions of many? Hopefully it will force those who've seen it to ask serious, probing questions about inhumane treatment of prisoners by some American soldiers, and perhaps persuade them to convince the Federal political leadership in Washington, D. C. to act more aggressively to avert similar instances of prisoner mistreatment in the future....more info
  • "God Mend Thy Every Flaw"/"Do the Ends Justify the Means?"
    `Taxi to the Dark Side' is an eye-opener. Starting with the case of Dilawar, a taxi driver from Afghanistan, the documentary traces the lives of terrorist suspects imprisoned in Bagram in Afghanistan; Abu Graib in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba. Showing ample evidence of beatings and abuse, the film has several photographs and much testimony with which to work.

    Among the interviewees are some of the suspects who were either court marshaled or imprisoned for their offenses when the scandal became public. Pfc. Damien Corsetti, Sgt. Ken Davies, and Pfc. Willie Brand, among many others, testify about their roles and interrogation methods with the detainees. Effectively, the film makes connections with memos and other evidence to show that there was pressure for these subordinates to take "any means possible" to provide intelligence.

    Before viewing the documentary, the news revealed some of the tactics of allegedly "a few bad apples". The use of mean dogs, long seclusion, handcuffs while shackling, beatings, and waterboarding are some of the methods recounted here. The movie also chronicles the brutal deaths of some of the inmates at these facilities.

    The film also reveals that only about 7% of detainees were captured by U.S. forces, and many Pakistanis and Afghanis were given large money rewards for the capture of alleged terrorists. Between these pressures and some of the words of Former Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and Vice President, Dick Cheney, the documentary makes a compelling case about a "mean, nasty business" where weasel words like what's done in prison is in "the eye of the beholder" were used.

    While I would still like to see a documentary that investigates the beheadings of allies, `Taxi to the Dark Side' presents poignant testimony for matters that went wrong. One of the best testimonies is by writer/director, Alex Gibney's father, Frank B.Gibney, a former navy interrogator, who said in regard to our conduct during war before 9/11, "It was what made America different." Much of the scandal was unveiled by New York Times investigative reporter, Tim Golden, yet some of the most convincing moments come from the life and senate questioning of Senator John McCain, who gives an authoritative presence to an unflinching film with a convincing composite.

    Do the ends justify the means? `Taxi to the Dark Side' makes enough of a case where everyone will be forced to come up with an answer.

    ('Taxi to the Dark Side' is the most recent Best Documentary Oscar winner.)...more info