The left’s kneejerk and ignorant response to Zero Dark Thirty revealed an oddly naive aesthetic provincialism. As Glenn Kenny joked, “The why-isn’t-this-movie-behaving-as-I-would-like-it-to whine is the most reliable of philistine giveaways.” “Based on a true story,” as anyone knows, is not the same as “a true story”; showing something that happened is not the same as endorsing its occurrence; judging an artistic product without having seen the art in question used to be frowned upon.
It was telling that Zero Dark Thirty encountered such an unexpected. You will find few arguing that Django Unchained is illegitimate art because Mandingo fights didn’t occur. Yet Zero Dark Thirty is treated differently, because opponents of the Bush administration take it as a violation of one of their sacred decrees.
That decree is as follows: not only are harsh interrogations or “enhanced interrogation techniques” evil and immoral and wrong, they also lead to no intelligence or bad intelligence. According to such logic there are no tradeoffs to be made between treatment of detainees and security, and those who support waterboarding do so because they derive sick pleasure from the practice.
This is foolishness. As Mark Bowden reports throughout his book on the killing of bin Laden, The Finish, harsh interrogations were unleashed repeatedly on a number of sources, and resulted in actionable intelligence…