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Taxi to the Dark Side

Posted on Feb 27, 2008

By Amy Goodman

Related: Click here to watch Truthdig’s interview with Alex Gibney.

  On the Sunday following Sept. 11, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney told the truth. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he said regarding plans to pursue the perpetrators of that attack: “We have to work the dark side, if you will. We’re going to spend time in the shadows.” The grim, deadly consequences of his promise have, in the intervening six years, become the shame of our nation and have outraged millions around the world. President George Bush and Cheney, many argue, have overseen a massive global campaign of kidnapping, illegal detentions, harsh interrogations, torture and kangaroo courts where the accused face the death penalty, confronted by secret evidence obtained by torture, without legal representation.

  Cheney’s shadows saw a moment of sunlight recently, as Alex Gibney won the Academy Award for the Best Documentary Feature for his film “Taxi to the Dark Side.” The film traces the final days of a young Afghan man, Dilawar (many Afghans use just one name), who was arrested in 2001 by the U.S. military and brought to the hellish prison at Bagram Air Base. Five days later, Dilawar was dead, beaten and tortured to death by the United States military. Gibney obtained remarkable eyewitness accounts of Dilawar’s demise from the very low-level soldiers who beat him to death. We see the simple village that was his lifelong home and hear from people there how Dilawar had volunteered to drive the taxi, which was an important source of income for the village.

  Dilawar had never spent the night away from home. His first sleepover was spent with arms shackled overhead, subjected to sleep and water deprivation, receiving regular beatings, including harsh knee kicks to the legs that would render his legs “pulpified.” He had been fingered as a participant in a rocket attack on the Americans, by some Afghans who were later proved to be the attackers themselves. Gibney uses the tragic story of Dilawar to open up a searing and compelling indictment of U.S. torture policy from Bush and Cheney, through Donald Rumsfeld and the author of the infamous “torture memo,” now-University of California Berkeley law professor John Yoo.

  The Oscar ceremony was bereft of serious mention of the war, until Gibney rose to accept his award. He said: “Thank you very much, Academy. Here’s to all doc filmmakers. And, truth is, I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I’d make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, that simply wasn’t possible. This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us: Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a Navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let’s hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light. Thank you very much.”


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  “Taxi to the Dark Side” can be seen in movie theaters, and the Oscar will surely help open it up to more audiences. Gibney got a surprise, though, from the Discovery Channel, the television network that had bought the TV rights to the film. He told me: “Well, it turns out that the Discovery Channel isn’t so interested in discovery. I was told a little bit before my Academy Award nomination that they had no intention of airing the film, that new management had come in and they were about to go through a public offering, so it was probably too controversial for that. They didn’t want to cause any waves. It turns out Discovery turns out to be the see-no-evil/hear-no-evil channel.”

  The Discovery Channel is owned by John Malone, the conservative mogul who owns Liberty Media, one of the largest media corporations on the planet. Malone is famous for his complex business deals that involve spinning off media properties with stock offerings that net him millions. He also has just gotten approval to swap his extensive stock holdings in News Corp., Rupert Murdoch’s empire, for control of Murdoch’s DirecTV satellite television system. When Discovery told Gibney they would not be airing “Taxi to the Dark Side,” Malone and Murdoch were awaiting approval for the DirecTV deal from the Bush administration’s Federal Communications Commission. (It was approved on Monday, the day after the Oscars.)

  HBO managed to buy the television rights to “Taxi to the Dark Side,” so the film will find its way to those households that subscribe to premium TV channels. As Discovery wrote to a critical member of the public, “In its first pay-TV window, HBO will debut the film in September 2008. We are proud that ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’ will make its basic cable debut in 2009 on Investigation Discovery.” So Discovery will show “Taxi” on one of its smaller side channels, after the election, after its business with the Bush administration is wrapped up.

  In the meantime, films like “Taxi to the Dark Side” and Phil Donahue’s excellent Iraq war documentary, “Body of War,” have to fight for distribution. Let’s hope that Gibney’s Oscar will help open the theaters and the TV airwaves to these truly consciousness-raising films to turn this country away from the dark side and back to the light.

  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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By Jaki, March 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment

Good answer, Gramma.  We are probably in the same age range. I’ve been an activist for over 40 years.  What I see in terms of “evolution” of individuals does not seem to apply to the military and The Elite who control The State. These forces seem to me to be devolving, using increasingly ugly, sadistic and deadly weapons (like white phosphorus, depleted uranium, nukes, saturation bombing, land mines, cluster bombs, targeting civilians and the resources that sustain their lives) with no concern for whom they obliterate. 

This is one of the points I was trying to make.  We have allowed our political leaders to sanction SADISM.  I can’t find a better label.  It is sadism—the willful infliction of pain on another for personal satisfaction (maintaining one’s power or lifestyle).  The Elite select out The Poor to fight their battles for them in order to do just that—maintain power, control, and materialistic excess.

The nation does not want to confront this.  The nation does not seem to want to call our leaders out
on the issue of sadism because it is a psychological perversity, a sickness, and that would be very hard to take—our leaders are SICKOS.  They need to be removed from power.  We must impeach those who have committed the worst crimes against humanity, starting with Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, George Bush.  They and others must also be prosecuted in an International Court.

This is not an insignificant matter.  To let it go would be to foster it in the future.  Is this the kind of country we want to be?  The model we wish to be for the world?

While I support your idea of each of us, moment at a time, deciding, moving toward “the light” as opposed to “the dark side,” I also believe strongly in collective action and wonder why masses have not risen up and stormed the Capitol demanding impeachment and the cessation of SADISM in our military and our intelligence agencies (and prisons, I might add).

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By GrammaConcept, March 5, 2008 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

“What is this world coming to?  Appears not very much conscious evolution going on, Gramma.  Quite the contrary…”

Yes Dear, it does appear that way….And yet…one step, one breath, one thought, one effort, one decision, one at a time….maybe, just maybe, there is more conscious evolution going on than there appears to be…

Whatever the appearances, ultimately each human being is challenged within each moment as to which direction to travel, which stream to join… thought, word or deed…..
You, I think, are not ‘becoming innured’ to sadism”...that’s one more…nor am I…there’s another one…..this is upbuilding from within….‘rust never sleeps’...why should we?...“make hay while the sun shines”....Every opportunity to work upward is a gift to be nurtured while we can…This work is the work at hand…through any act of service we earn our keep….
I have shed many tears over the vast suffering, my own included…and I promise, I do not mean here to over simplify…. Despair, however, has finally ceased to be an option…..It doesn’t help…Please continue to kindle the warm flame in your heart…..We strive on…....

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By Jaki, March 4, 2008 at 2:15 pm Link to this comment

There is no doubt that all the rhetoric about this “illegal war” rings true, intellectually, to most of us.  We say & write it over and over and the talk now has become so pervasive it has little impact anymore.
It seems we rarely, however, dwell on (or show real concern about) the day-to-day horrors, in stark and vivid terms, that Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians, Africans, and other people around the world face as a result of the SADISTIC (and imperialistic) actions of our government, and the INACTION of We The Comfy People.

This morning on DN! (and last night on the local & national news) we hear about a U.S. soldier who threw an innocent puppy off a cliff in the Iraq desert, purely an act of sadism.  Was it called that?  Will he be punished?  What if someone did that in your town?

Numerous previous news reports tell us about U.S. “troops” (which might well include Blackwater), who break down the doors of innocent families in the middle of the night, and when they find no “terrorists” go on rampages shooting the family dogs & livestock they need for survival (if not the family itself).  More sadism.

Constant reports of casualties include “many children and women,” with bloody photos of bodies lined up, faces of babies frozen.  Sadism.

We (and the military) know that torture does not bring any meaningful or reliable information that makes us “more secure.”  It is just another avenue for the expression of psychopathic sadism.

Cut off food supply routes, take down their power sources, destroy their water, bomb the hospitals.

But war is hell and we support our troops.  Collateral damage. Accidents happen. They hate us for our freedom.

101 killed in Baghdad today while shopping; 10 homes destroyed in bombing raids; 40 children dead when school “accidentally” hit by US missile, on and on it goes.  Ho hum.  Just so long as it is NIMBY. 

Are we unable to stop and really think about how we would feel if this were happening in our country?—tanks rumbling through our neighborhoods, our homes invaded and destroyed, our pets killed, our children dismembered in the streets, our people (you and me) rounded up and painfully tortured to within an inch of death, all in the name of “liberation” and all in violation of International Law (but with no consequences). 

Any chance we can take this to heart?  It’s called empathy.  But it has to be felt, not intellectualized.  That might be painful.  One might be compelled to act.

We are becoming inured to sadism; blind, deaf, & mute. 

What is this world coming to?  Appears not very much conscious evolution going on, Gramma.  Quite the contrary.

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By Me, March 3, 2008 at 9:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is not worth sacrificing 1 Iraqui life…

... and there is no peace without justice.
War crimes have to be admitted

... and punished.

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By Jhelm, March 1, 2008 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

He made the film but allows it to not be shown or mangaged by those who would not show it.  How hypocritical is that.

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By Marshall, March 1, 2008 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment you have any actual evidence that Discovery’s decision was tied to the pending DirecTV approval, or are you just making idle conversation?

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By Leefeller, March 1, 2008 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

Been finding the same thing, the mass media has the people brain washed.  Friday I was saying the President lied to us about going into Iraq and the argument was well he can only go by what his intelligence people told him. Cover ups do not count, may have something to do with Hillary very softly resending her vote, or she wishes it would not pass.  Great logic.

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By ocjim, March 1, 2008 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

Truth from the devil’s mouth.

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By Martin Sherman, March 1, 2008 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You described OUR behavoiors, and when you do look at Israel, Darfor, The Democractic Repugnant of the Congo, and the other global insanities, it makes you wonder if there is a drug in the rain. It is becoming an exponential (sp) illness. Global detoxification chemically and politically may be needed.

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By ender, February 28, 2008 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

Repugnicans?  I try to post occasionally on the local newspapers website message board - story board, and morons like earwax have been posting the same crap for six years.  They can’t seem to get what the entire rest of the civilized world understands regarding the lies that led us to attack Iraq, and the war crimes that have been commmitted in our name.  Its like a KKK rally where they hate everybody EXCEPT THAT THEY LOVE ISRAEL WHO CAN DO NO WRONG.

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By GrammaConcept, February 28, 2008 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

You, waxman, Really Do Need To Grow Up.


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By GrammaConcept, February 28, 2008 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

...At war with oneself, there can be no Peace with others…

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By Expat, February 28, 2008 at 9:12 am Link to this comment

^ the day I die.  Thanks.

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By GrammaConcept, February 28, 2008 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

“All I see now is a grabbing and dividing up of the world’s resources and the building of walls and the making of enemies; us and them.  Surely we have become the enemy we fight.”

Well…...I feel quite certain that that is Not what you see when you look in the mirror….
or, when you look into your own heart…..
(the riddle of conscious evolution is displayed here)...
and, if it is what you see, in any form…..well…you probably know by now what I’m gonna say…

...Conscious evolution….

.....Strive On, Friend…..

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By GrammaConcept, February 28, 2008 at 8:48 am Link to this comment


“Be the change you wish to see in the world”

-Mahatma Ghandi

To which I add:


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By GrammaConcept, February 28, 2008 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

You know better!......
Upbuild, friends!

Nobody gets over…...
..As we sow, so shall we reap….
..comes around, goes around….

“Learn how to behave from those who cannot”
-ancient Sufi saying

-Strive On!

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By sdemetri, February 28, 2008 at 8:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Under the rubric of total war, rendition, torture, mercenary armies, detention or concentration camps become legitimate, useful tools to achieve “victory” at all costs. False flag operations should by no means be excluded from this list.

9/11 was an inside job.

The prosecutorial relevance of the molten metals and extreme temperatures found in the dust and steel is a “smoking gun.” As surely as powder residue on a shooter’s hands, and fingerprints on the gun stock, this evidence is prima facie that extreme energy, beyond what an airplane strike, hydrocarbon fires or gravity can supply, was used to catastrophically destroy WTC 1, 2, and 7.

It is possible, under the rubric of total war, perhaps even probable, the brownshirts will not give up power so easily this Nov. and we will be treated to another outrage, as convincing and debilitating as 9/11. We will certainly see, but in THIS “war on terror,” whatever means justify the ends, and even dissenting citizens become enemies… the total war mentality.

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By Expat, February 28, 2008 at 4:22 am Link to this comment

Until we ourselves undergo a radical transformation in our thinking/view of the world; we will never be able to create peace.  What is the reason we find peace so hard to live with?

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By Expat, February 28, 2008 at 3:01 am Link to this comment

^ when an elected official would have resigned and an outraged congress would have wasted no time pushing for impeachment?  Can I remember a time when we stood for something good and descent in this world?  Can I remember a time when people in high offices could and would feel shame for gross transgressions of the public trust; of the world’s trust?  Can I remember a time when war criminals were held accountable and prosecuted? 
Even if my memories are really nothing but illusions; I seem to remember a large part of the world shared those ideals together with us.  With these gone; what do we and the world work on together?  Where did our future of hope go?  All I see now is a grabbing and dividing up of the world’s resources and the building of walls and the making of enemies; us and them.  Surely we have become the enemy we fight.

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By Tom Allen, February 27, 2008 at 11:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Immediately capture and drag Cheney off to prison.  Torture him regularly just short of dying.  Make the torture and pain last as long as possible.  Make him scream.

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By waxman, February 27, 2008 at 10:58 pm Link to this comment


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By GrammaConcept, February 27, 2008 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment

by blood and human suffering…

                  ...God is (still) Love; all war is always hell..

...Peace is the True work of Life, and is the only path worthy of pursuing…

                            ...Strive on, friends…

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By Leefeller, February 27, 2008 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment

Cheney offers experience that hurts, now we have torture accepted and practiced, torture may even be on reality TV next season. Torture was discussed during one Republican luke warm debates, a topic of interest to thoes into BSM. Republican conventions and debates, not reality TV, but someplace in between Twilight zone and Jack ass. 

Rule of Law be damned, Cheney has with his capital E experience made quite a nice bundle for himself, while working very diligently to destroy the Constitution.  We the people are slightly less significant than the gum wads on a New York sidewalk. Experience means a plan, all we have to do is bend over. . 

It could be said Cheney has all the earmarks of a classic case solipsist.  This means in his dark side mind,  we do not exist, now I feel better.

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