The Horror. . .The Horror: Torture Up Close and Pondering the Blowback


I hosted a screening the other night of Alex Gibney’s powerful chronicle of America’s torture policy and activities, Taxi to the Dark Side.
Afterward, I asked some of those who appeared in the film some questions. In this clip, which is not high quality film production and dark, but still important to see, I ask former military interrogator Damien Corsetti about what he saw and participated in at Abu Ghraib and Bagram detention centers. I then asked former FBI Special Agent and interrogator Jack Cloonan why after seeing the interrogation scene in Iraq and Afghanistan the FBI pulled out. His response which reflects on ‘future blowback’ from the Abu Ghraib abuses and photos is important and chilling.

— Steve Clemons


13 comments on “The Horror. . .The Horror: Torture Up Close and Pondering the Blowback

  1. Kathleen says:

    Gavin… I agree with everything you said, except that it is futile to try to understand why…I think this is the only way to really learn how to stop the practice.
    In any case, I think those candidates who are not pinning a cross to their sleeve on the campaign trail should challenge the so-called christians on doing unto others as they would have done unto them, not just with torture, but everything. If you’re kind and generous and concerned about the poor and disadvantaged, you’re a bleeding heart liberal, that horrible thing to be to a so-called christian conservative.
    My message to so-called chistian candidates is keep your dime and spare me your self serving holier than thou bullshit.
    Live up or shut up.


  2. john somer says:

    Were you asleep in your course on history of religions ? Muslim ethics is strongly influenced by Judaism and “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is also valid there and remember, there is no statue of limitations for revenge in either religion. Just look at what Israeelis and palestinians are doing to each other. No need for an FBI agent to explain that to me……


  3. Steve Clemons says:

    Carroll — “Taxi to the Dark Side” has not yet been released. It’s in its pre-release stage, competing in some festivals, and it’s been short-listed for the academy awards this year.
    It will be released on January 11th in theatres around the nation. I just did an event for the film early and had about 200 people see it D.C.
    best, Steve


  4. Gavin Butler says:

    I don’t know if I ever make my point all that clearly, but I’ll restate it again. Running some hypothetical about a number of minutes/hours/days before an ‘inevitable’ attack as a trade-off for the use of torture is totally misguided. The most important question is, “What are you prepared to have done to your own sons and daughters, friends or countryman?” Only then can you define and implement a set of rules around the treatment of enemies in your custody. All of this has already been done, borne out of conflicts and treatment much more appalling than what we see today. Those rules have just been ignored. Specualting why, is nothing more than futile navel-gazing. The lesson, not yet learned, but forecast through your video is a highly likely outcome. Obviously the lessons of the past can not do the trick and we have more torture to inflict upon one another before it becomes real enough to act upon.


  5. Jackifus says:

    The link to the film “Taxi to the Dark Side” works …
    An fyi to the company though – there’s no title to the page … it reads “Untitled” …
    There’s no “contact us” page – so I couldn’t let them know there …
    In the interest of getting that message out to them, I post the note here.


  6. Kathleen says:

    flummox.. It’s the issue of keeping church and state separate, yet running as a religious candidate…, where does one draw the proverbial line?
    With a monarchy, one rules by divine right so a church/state relationship exists, as when the Inquisition happened.
    If a candidates claims to be a “christian”, it is reasonable for voters to expect him to be opposed to pre-emptive strikes or doing unto anyone, that which he would not want done unto him ie. torture.


  7. Carroll says:

    I have searched all over to see if this film is availble to buy yet and can find nothing.
    If anyone notices it anywhere please post info to this blog.


  8. Carroll says:

    The first I heard, and the first picture of the torture in Iraq I saw was the one of the hood draped man forced to balance on a small block with electrical wires attached to him.
    I thought then…Americans will riot in protest over this depravity….but they didn’t.
    So I joined the US terrier party…even though I have to abbreviate it now. BWTTGASO


  9. flummox says:

    The inquisition occured in a monarchy… we’re supposed to be different, but apparently not.
    I misunderstood the point of your question, which seemed disguised as an rhetorical idea. So it’s in fact the political organization and hierarchy that is the point of concern and not the underlying spiritual philosophy of those involved? Or, are you expanding your original point to account for the entanglements and side-effects of politics and Christianity? Just wondering…


  10. Kathleen says:

    The inquisition occured in a monarchy… we’re supposed to be different, but apparently not.
    Meanwhile, back in the Circus Presidentus, Dennis K. just won the Progressive Dems’ poll. to vote in the Indpendent’s primary poll, go to and support a candidate who really does object to torture.
    December 5, 2007
    Read “Kucinich Tops Progressive Democrats Poll” by John Nichols on The Nation blog.
    Not surprisingly in a field of eight contenders, no candidate came close to gaining a majority of the total vote in PDA’s recently completed presidential straw poll. But two candidates–Dennis Kucinich (41%) and John Edwards (26%)–combined for more than 2/3 of the total vote. Over 15,000 PDA activists voted in the presidential straw poll. Full results here.
    After Kucinich and Edwards, only one other candidate-Barak Obama (13%)-made it into double digits. All the rest were in single digits: Hillary Clinton (9%), Bill Richardson (5%), Joe Biden (3%), Chris Dodd (1%), Mike Gravel (less than 1%). In contradiction to media reporting on the primary race, PDA’s results parallel those of DFA, Daily KOS, the Texas Democratic Party and others whose polls show very weak support for Clinton among the Democratic base.
    PDA was founded largely by activists from the Kucinich ’04 campaign (with support also from Dean activists). The Congressman’s showing indicates that Progressive Democrats are still in sync with the Kucinich agenda: Out of Iraq; no attack on Iran, single-payer healthcare, fair trade, etc. Sen. Edward’s showing suggests that his increasingly progressive message on poverty, trade and confronting corporate power has caught the attention of many PDA activists.
    “The straw poll results are instructive,” said PDA National Director Tim Carpenter. “PDA has a proud history of working with Dennis Kucinich on his Congressional initiatives, including the impeachment of Vice President Cheney–we recently co-sponsored an impeachment town hall with him in New Hampshire. PDA activists have long backed Kucinich–while a growing number are taking an active interest in Edwards.”
    PDA, for whom election protection is a key issue, made that a priority of this survey, adding extra layers of security to their online voting process in order to strengthen the integrity of the poll.


  11. Kathleen says:

    The Inquisition occured in a monarchy.. we’re supposed to be different, but apparently not.


  12. flummox says:

    I cannot understand how one can square the willingness to torture with being a “christian”. The two mind sets are antithetical. I’m guessing this conundrum was worked out during the Inquisition.


  13. Kathleen says:

    I cannot understand how one can square the willingness to torture with being a “christian”. The two mind sets are antithetical.
    To be a “christian” one must not cast the first stone, must turn the other cheek and love one’s enemies.
    Listening to Repugnican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, reassure voters about his religion not interfering with or influencing his decisions and hearing his position on waterboarding, am I to conclude that he won’t let his religion prevent him from torturing, since he claims to a “christian”????


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