Maybe I’m desensitized. Maybe I’ve seen too many action movies where the good guys do all sorts of things to the bad guys to save the hostage/town/planet. Maybe I was too aware of what happened and how things would end. Or maybe I’m just cold.
What I’m wrestling with was my unblinking and seeming indifferent witness to the torture scenes in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” which had its Washington premiere last night.
The movie by director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal renewed a national discussion about the efficacy of torture in the war on terror in general and in the hunt for Osama bin Laden in particular. As many have noted, “Zero Dark Thirty” strongly suggests that “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as stress positions, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and waterboarding led to the small piece of information that led to a big break in the killing of bin Laden.
Through all those scenes, I let slip no gasp of horror. There was no pang of revulsion. No righteous indignation at what was being done in the name of the United States, at what ran counter to everything we are as a people. I agree with the New York Times’s Frank Bruni who wrote last month, “In the name of our democracy, we have long done and we continue to do some ruthless cost-benefit analyses and some very ugly things.”
Four days after bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad, Pakistan, I wrote about my ambivalence about the moral questions then.
When questions started being asked about the role enhanced interrogation techniques may have played, I found myself thinking, “I don’t care what was done.” When the question about whether he should have been captured instead of killed arose, I found myself not caring that bin Laden took two bullets to the head. What I cared about was that bin Laden was dead. … Knowing that he has met justice fills me with indescribable relief. Sure, it’s vengeful. But I own it. And I hope to never be put in this position again.
Nearly two years later, my sentiments haven’t change.
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