Taxi to the Dark Side
Taxi to the Dark Side chronicles the story of a young man from Afghanistan called Dilawar, a taxi driver who was taken into custody and detained in 2002. He died in the American prison in Bagram only months later. Dilawar was innocent and had no part in the incident that he was supposed to have been an accomplice in.
Whilst using the story of Dilawar as the piece that ties this documentary together, the actual point of the Taxi to the Dark Side is much broader.
Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side is an investigative documentary that traces the increase in brutality within American detainee camps following the events of September 11, 2001. It investigates the slide into moral ambiguity as American authorities tacitly encouraged the use of brutal methods in the treatment of detainees. Ultimately it chronicles a shift towards the use of torture as a way to obtain information from those captured.
It is not a film for the faint hearted. It contains graphic images of modern torture methods, including those employed at Abu Ghraib, and equally graphic explanations.
It follows and details the links between Bragram prison in the early days, with Dilawar’s story being a brutal example of the atrocities in play, the famous photos and atrocities that became public from Abu Ghraib in Iraq and through to the famous Guatanamo Bay prison.
Whilst the public has been fed the story that the incidents at Abu Ghraib were just the work of a few sick individuals or “bad apples”, the documentary builds the argument that many of the torture methods used were actually sanctioned from the top and that the psychological warfare used on detainees was part of a determined strategy that began well above those implenting these methods.
The documentary is a chilly expose delving into the inner workings of these prisons. It includes extremely open interviews with soldiers who served within those prisons, including those directly involved in the brutal treatment of Dilawar that led to his death – soldiers that were honoured for their work by their superiors and then sent to Abu Ghraib to continue with the methods they had employed in Afghanistan
One cannot help but come to the belief that officials at the top new what was going on, condoned it, asked for it and then when it became public through Abu Ghraib, washed their hands of it and found some scape goats that they could place the blame on.
What is extremely interesting is that those who were criticised for the pursuit of torture as a legitimate method to be used on detainees are shown responding to their critics and in so doing, only dig their holes deeper.
The documentary raises some big questions about the legitimacy of torture as a method for obtaining information. It is contrasted with other methods used prior to 2001 and shown to be insufficient. It is also shown to be in complete defiance of the Geneva Conventions and the viewer is shown how the U.S administration has sought to pursue activities with no regard for the provisions of said Conventions.
Ultimately the system in place has led to innocent people being detained with no real charges, many being treated brutally and inhumanely and some dieing from the conditions they have been subjected to.
Could it be argued that even in the face of the detaining of people with actual links to organisations such as Al Qaeda, that with the pursuit of such methods, the U.S has lost any moral authority in this area?
Could it be argued that through the use of such methods and the removal of any human rights for the people it chooses to detain, the U.S administration that has pursued these tactics has simply fermented and fed the anger that exists against the U.S?
Could it be argued that if the administration employed these tactics, encouraged them either directly or indirectly and allowed them to take place – detaining people without charge, subjecting them to methods of torture that are designed to induce fear and undermine any detainees sense of confidence, well being and stability, employing physical cruelty, sometimes to the point of death as in the case of Dilawar, who was innocent – then it is no better than the people labelled as terrorists who employ similar tactics? Why is it that when it is state sponsored it does not come with the tag of “terrorism”?
Reviewed by: Frank Ritchie.
Rating: R16 – Content may disturb.
Release Date: October 16th, 2008
Length (Minutes): 106
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Studio: SBS Series
Director: Gibney, Alex
Media Format: DVD
Supported Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1