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"Torturing Democracy" Connects the Dots

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October 20, 2008

I’m not saying that obsessively watching episodes of Mad Men is a waste of your intellectual powers, but there are a few things on TV worth watching besides Joan Holloway and Torturing Democracy is one of them.

The documentary traces the evolution of the policies that took the United States from being an advocate for human rights to a nation that uses torture to interrogate prisoners. The award-winning producer Sherry Jones connects the dots using documents obtained by the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.

The 90-minute film is a step-by-step explanation of how Vice President Dick Cheney and five legal allies who dubbed themselves “The War Council” (David Addington, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Tim Flannigan, and Jim Haynes) twisted executive power and how that led the CIA and DOD to revive the torture methods used against our own soldiers during the Korean War. And all the while, President Bush and other officials were advised that their actions could make them subject to war crime charges.

There are interviews with Shafiq Rasul, Moazzam Begg, and other former Guantanamo detainees. The most arresting voice from within the bastions of power might be Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who describes his experience being waterboarded during his military training. When he’s asked whether he thinks waterboarding is torture he replies, “There is no question in my mind – there’s no question in any reasonable human being, that this is torture. I’m ashamed that we’re even having this discussion.”

The movie is full of exclusive first-ever interviews. Jones uses a plethora of documents and information to craft a clear picture of where, how, and why things went terribly wrong. It’s a must see.

The website — — has a list of public television stations that will be airing Torturing Democracy all month. They also have a wonderful timeline, supplemental documents, and a discussion guide. (And if you’re Hulu addicted and too cheap to pay for cable like me, you can watch the whole program online.)

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