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HALL OF FAMEon June 29, 2008
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.
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on March 22, 2008
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.
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on September 29, 2008
"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 Guantánamo.

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 à 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.
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on September 25, 2008
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.
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HALL OF FAMEon June 29, 2008
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.
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VINE VOICEon December 4, 2015
Since 9/11 the Right Wing has espoused the need to torture suspected terrorists. Politicians have downplayed this by using such "safe" language as "enhanced interrogations." Nearly 500 years have separated us from the Middle Ages. In all that time, as a species it appears we have not advanced so very far after all.

The present story is of an Afghan taxi driver who died while within U.S. military custody. However, his story is but the "introduction" to what the United States has routinely done since shortly > 9/11. The documentary goes beyond simply asking whether torture is ethical or not, but rather its efficacy. Surprisingly (to some?) the answer is that it's not so effective after all. Colin Powell cited the testimony of a malefactor before the United Nations, trying to tie together Saddam with Al Qieda. As it turns out there was no such nexus: the fellow simply wanted to have his waterboarding stopped.

This is a disturbing documentary that is not for the meek. It shows how all investigations were designed to nail enlisted members of the military in cases of torture whilst letting the officers in charge of them off the hook. Members of the military who participated in torture activities are interviewed and the details they reveal are prone to entice any patriot to ask: "What the heck are we doing?"

Ultimately, whether we choose to torture people or not is not about the terrorists. Rather, it is about US. Will mankind ever get beyond this barbaric practice? For the record, I'm not advocating sending suspected terrorists to Club Med and I'm all for the death penalty for those who commit crimes against humanity. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney & Don Rumsfeld muddied the waters on whether we have a moral high ground any longer - that's the problem.
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on May 31, 2015
Excellent documentary. Thought provoking and comprehensive treatment of a complicated set of issues. I teach high school social studies in New York. For my students, the US interrogation policies after 9/11 are difficult to understand. This video has proven to be the single best source for helping them to make sense of it. Every source has limitations and biases. However, this documentary does a good job in framing the issues and presenting the argument that the US response was overzealous, counterproductive, and illegal. When paired with alternate points of view it helps students form their own conclusions.
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on January 11, 2015
Very topical to todays news with the recent release of the torture report. It makes one realize that we knew that this was happening within our military establishment at least 7 or 8 years ago. It also emphasizes what happens when you put US military in situations where they have no cultural understanding and then give them vague, morally reprehensible orders. This is very powerful stuff and it's too bad those upper echelon, responsible for these outrages haven't been brought to justice
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on April 25, 2013
I learned so much more from this than I did listening to the news these past many years, I am embarrassed for my fellow military members who contributed. Even though I know that as much and worse has been done to our own men in war prison.
Not for the faint of heart
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on December 20, 2008
Even though I heard it was great and it won the "Best Documentary" Oscar, I put off viewing TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE. I'm not sure why I procrastinated, but seeing I am only the fifteenth person to review it here, perhaps others are dragging their feet, too. Even my public library already demoted the TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE D.V.D. to its no-charge borrow section while older titles - many of them garbage - are still in the rental area.

But seconds into TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE, its compelling story of the Bush administration rejection of the Geneva Convention drew my attention like a soldier pointing a gun at you as you approach a checkpoint. While it centers on the murder of an Afghan taxi driver by American troops at a Bagram, Afghanistan military base, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE covers the fares innocent people have paid at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and secret prisons in the so-called war on terror.

The poor use terrorism to wage war. The wealthy use war to terrorize. What a war on terror is supposed to be, I don't know, but as TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE documents, neither does George W. Bush. Just as Bush's approaches to invading Iraq and responding to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated no organization, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE shows the same non-oversight of prisoner interrogation in the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Director Alex Gibney, in an interview on DEMOCRACY NOW!, said American soldiers who tortured prisoners to death "had no training, and they were forced to do things that ultimately they're deeply haunted by. It's not something that they ever signed up for. And so, you see how that process worked. As one person says in the film, they were engulfed in what was called a fog of ambiguity, tremendous pressure to get intelligence but almost no training and no guidelines."

TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE reports that none other than the United States military declared no fewer than 37 of these deaths of suspects to be homicides. One is too many.

See TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE.
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