Monday, January 14, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty, which I haven't seen yet, is here reviewed by Paul D. Miller who begins by describing why the film means more to him than it might to many of us:
I served in Afghanistan with the Army in 2002. I served in the CIA as an analyst in the Office of South Asian Analysis from 2003 to 2007. I worked in the White House as Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2007 to 2009. My entire career has been defined by 9/11 and the aftermath.
He was unable to think of the film as an entertainment. Miller, who is a Christian, on some of the moral issues raised by events portrayed in the film:
.... With all the weight of ten years of work in the Army, the CIA, and the White House, I am absolutely certain that there would have been at least one, if not more, successful, large-scale terrorist attacks on the United States without the "gloves-off" measures used in the last decade.

Is that just? Are torture and assassination permissible tools of self-defense? Ultimately, the movie does not provide an answer, and I won't presume to offer a definitive solution in a movie review. On the one hand, the moral foundation of government is to defend its citizens and uphold order. A government that fails in its first duty is not worthy of the name. Paul writes in Romans 13 that the ruler "does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." If the death penalty is justified, and I believe it is, then so is hunting down and executing a war criminal. And if we can kill some, then we certainly rough up others in the pursuit of good information about them.

On the other hand, Paul writes in Romans 12, " 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." And we know that every human being has inherent dignity and worth in the sight of God as a creature made in his image. Maybe there are some things—acts of revenge or humiliation—that governments should not do under any circumstances. Perhaps the very same act—like using an "enhanced interrogation" technique—is an obligatory act of self-defense and a damnable act of revenge at the same time for different people, depending on the state of their hearts. I confess after more than ten years I am less sure about these issues than ever.

Bigelow's film, by refusing to editorialize or tell its audience what to think about these questions, compels us to ask and answer them ourselves. .... [more]